Grudge match ends in brutal finish


LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kamaru Usman sent a bloodied, bleary Colby Covington spiraling to the ground for the second time. Usman then leaped on him and went to work on Covington’s badly injured face, battering his dazed opponent with hammer fists until the referee mercifully intervened.

Although he had to wait until the final minute, Usman settled his very personal feud with his sharply divisive challenger in perhaps the most satisfying way possible.

“This one is not just for me,” Usman said. “This is for the whole entire world right now.”

Usman brutally stopped Covington with 50 seconds left in their bout at UFC 245 Dec. 14, retaining his UFC welterweight belt with a spectacular finish to their grudge match.

Alexander Volkanovski also took the UFC featherweight title from Max Holloway and became the second Australian champion in the promotion’s history with a tactical unanimous-decision victory, and Amanda Nunes defended her bantam-weight title with a grinding unanimous-decision victory over Germaine De Randamie at T-Mobile Arena.

Usman (16-1) closed out an occasionally slow fight with Covington (15-2) in thrilling fashion, knocking down the challenger twice with right hands and then decisively finishing him on the ground. Although he didn’t break his jaw as he feared, Covington couldn’t withstand the pressure of Usman, who drew strength from the personal animus he took into the cage.

“He talked a lot going into this, so this was a respect thing,” said Usman, who won his 11th straight fight. “I had a responsibility to go in there and teach him a lesson.”

The Nigeria-born, Texas-raised Usman made good on his vow to derail the career of Covington, whose grating personality and eager embrace of Donald Trump have made him a polarizing, widely reviled figure in mixed martial arts.

Covington recently claimed he is only playing a character in the tradition of a classic wrestling heel. UFC President Dana White and a long list of his onetime teammates — including UFC stars Jon Jones, Jorge Masvidal and Tyron Woodley — all say Covington is just a difficult, unlikable person.

Usman was thrilled to beat up a bully.

“Everyone was like, ‘Oh, Colby is in his head!'” Usman said. “‘He’s going to gas out, fight emotional!’ I’m telling you guys right now, the reason I’m the best in the world is because my mind is stronger than everyone in the division.”

Covington and Usman started with two busy rounds of striking in which Covington appeared to be landing more blows, but Covington poked Usman in the eye during the third. Usman responded by bloodying Covington in an impressive third-round flurry, and Covington subsequently told his corner that he thought his jaw was broken — but it wasn’t, according to the UFC’s physicians.

Usman took control from there, gradually finishing Covington in his first defense of the belt he took from Woodley earlier this year.

Covington declined to congratulate Usman.