VIDEO: Kamaru Usman extends unbeaten streak with victory over Covington
Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman retained his title with a unanimous decision win against Colby Covington in their rematch at UFC 268 in New York.
Usman, 34, dropped the challenger twice in quick succession at the end of the second round with a big left hook then a huge right hand.
Covington, 33, rallied in rounds three and four and the pair traded heavy shots in the fifth without either able to land a fight-ending blow.
The judges scored it 48-47 48-47 49-46.
“I am the pound-for-pound best alive right now,” said Usman, who won their first meeting in Las Vegas at UFC 245 in December 2019 via fifth-round TKO.
For the rematch, both fighters arrived in New York with different gameplans and improved skills as they went back and forth throughout the full five-round duration.
After the fight, which has been preceded by verbal angst, Usman paid tribute to his opponent.
He said: “Guys, I just gotta give it up. I know there was a lot of trash talk, there’s a lot of bad blood here, and I’m sure there’s still going to be some after tonight.
“When you share an octagon with someone this tough, you can’t help (but respect them). That respect is going to come.”
Usman’s victory improves his record to 20-1 and extends his winning streak to 19 fights as he cemented his place at the top of the UFC’s pound-for-pound list.
And ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ admitted he had to fight with his head, rather than his heart, to ensure he did enough to defeat an elite opponent.
“I’m gonna tell you what, he’s tough,” he added. “He’s super tough. I wanted to get crazy and get him out of there, but that’s not what is the best do.
“We take our time, we stay calculated, we listen to our coaches and we find the finish.
“Unfortunately, that’s the next best guy in the division. He’s a tough son of a gun, and he wasn’t going to let me find that finish.”
Covington, meanwhile, promised he would return better than ever.
“Love me or hate me, I’m just getting started,” the American said.
“You haven’t seen the best of Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington yet. I’ll be back in the gym on Monday.”