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Rileys Reflections: Musing Over UFC 245 & The Future Of 2020 MMA

Usman VS Covington

Going into the main event of UFC 245, much was made about the vaunted wrestling skills of both champion, Kamaru Usman, and challenger, Colby Covington. However, outside of the desperation shot by Colby in the closing moments of the fight, this was a stand up battle.

It became clear that Usman had the power advantage, but Covington was able to land cleaner shots and even stunned the champion on a number of occasions. Usman was able to land solid combos and eventually broke Colby’s jaw in the third. Colby threw a ton of strikes in this fight and was far more effective than I expected him to be.

I felt that Covington was landing the better shots and had the better striking as a whole, but Usman was able to find holes in Colby’s defense and land his own bombs. I am not entirely convinced that Colby had such effectiveness on the feet simply because Usman felt that he could withstand anything that Covington dished out. Also, knowing that Colby was throwing a high volume of strikes, it would leave the open holes that Usman exploited to land his own shots.

Between rounds Colby seemed to panic when telling his corner that his jaw was broken. I thought that it was going to drag Covington down and it seemed as though it broke him a little mentally, but he went out there in the fourth and fifth and showed ungodly toughness right up until the stoppage. Credit to his corner for shaking Colby out of the funk he seemed to be in after his jaw was broken.

There has been talks of Masvidal being the next challenge for the champion and if that is the case I would expect Usman to lean on his grappling a little more because if he leaves the same openings and gets pieced up by Masvidal it will be game over.

I didn’t think Covington would have as much success as he did in this fight, but he proved that he is a highly skilled athlete and is a threat for anyone in that division. Usman had an amazing chin and finally shut the doubters up about his power. The shots he was landing made me cringe, and that final sequence was brutal. Usman landed hammers on Colby to close out the show and if anyone believes that was a quick stoppage you’re kidding yourself. There was no coming back for Colby after he got dropped.

Max Holloway VS Alexander Volkanovski

I will state this upfront, I love Max Holloway, I call him the adopted son of Canada, but with that said i knew this fight would prove difficult for the longtime champion. Max has struggled against bigger fighters who were able to keep up with his pace.

Volkanovski started off with leg kicks which would pay in spades later in the fight. Max can fight from southpaw or Orthodox, but has the majority of his success comes from the orthodox stance. By chewing up Holloway’s left leg, Alex made Max fight southpaw and thus he struggled to put together the punches and combinations needed to push Volkanovski back.

Alex kept up with Max and was able to return on each exchange. It wasn’t until the last round where Volkanovski started to slow down a little, and Max was starting to put it on him. Max said post fight that he felt Volkanovski fading with each round after, and if that’s the case it wasn’t noticeable to the viewers until the fifth.

It’s these struggles that makes me pause on Holloway moving up to lightweight. While I believe his skill will carry him quite a way, I feel the issues he has with big fighters and being able to push them back will keep him from reaching the higher level in that division.

Nunes VS Germaine De Randamie

The fight started and Nunes looked to be well on her way to another first round stoppage victory with relative ease, but GDR was able to gut out being badly rocked and she escaped some very tight submissions.

GDR was able to land on the feet and at one point had Nunes in a triangle choke, but she wasn’t successful for any prolonged period of time. Nunes spent the remainder of the fight dominating with top control and takedowns.

What should have been more alarming for GDR is the fact that little of her success in this fight was created by her. On the ground Nunes got lazy with positions and ended up in a triangle which looked tight, but Amanda never looked like she was close to tapping. On the feet Nunes would be smiling and plodding forward as though GDR was no threat.

Amanda Nunes is easily the best women’s fighter to ever compete, and there is an argument for the best fight ever, period. I honestly believe this fight just made her that much harder to beat for the ladies going forward. I believe this because she put herself in a very dangerous position with that triangle, and had GDR been a better grappler we could very well be talking about a new champion right now.

The Main Card

Much was made of Aldo’s cut to 135, the pictures and videos leading up to the weigh ins did nothing to stifle those talks. Aldo looked sucked in and it was very reminiscent of James Irvin when he cut to 185.

But once the fight started, Aldo came out like a prime Aldo and spent the majority of the fight hunting down Moraes, landing some solid strikes and he was able to keep Marlon on the back foot for the majority of the fight. Aldo showed amazing poise in exchanges and landed some solid shots straight down the pipe.

Moraes landed a takedown in the first round that sealed that one round for him and was able to throw more volume throughout and it managed to get him the second round for the win. I thought Aldo took this one, but with the scoring system the way it is, these close fights will never have a clear way to score the fight and thus we will get conflicting opinions and scorecards for these fights.

Just a side note, Rogan and company pointed out the lack of leg kicks from Aldo. I would not be shocked that once Aldo retires it is revealed he has some kind of underlying issue with his body that has caused him to lay off on the leg kicks. With Askren needing a hip replacement, and Bisping pulling an eyeball out of his head, I believe we will see this more and more as time goes on. Fighters adjusting their strategies to compensate for the damage their bodies have gone through.

Faber went in with a young lion in Yan and got caught playing games. Yan was grinning at Faber and Urijah returned the favor, but ate a 1-2 for his troubles. It wasn’t until the next round the finish came, but Faber never recovered from being dropped that first time. Yan will be looking to climb up the rankings, and even called for a title fight. I think a fight with Cejudo at this juncture wouldn’t go too well for Yan.

Yan struggled with Faber at certain points in the fight, and it wasn’t until the finish that he was able to catch Faber. It’s obvious that Yan can turn the tide of any fight with one shot, but if he is going to struggle at times against Urijah, who is still a formidable fighter, it begs the question of what will he do with the upper tier of the division. Yan reminds me of a more refined John Lineker.

The Undercard

Matt Brown picked up a very Matt Brown win. For a guy who looks lanky, his ability to land short range strikes is elite. His short elbows are devastating and if someone wants to hand fight with him it’s just a matter of time before he lands on and closes the show. Saunders spent the majority of the first round switching a triangle back and forth until finally Matt managed to escape.

Saunders never looked comfortable on the feet with Brown, he was reacting to everything Matt threw and once Matt started to land at ease, it was curtains closed. This was a super fun fight.

Mike Perry suffered his first TKO loss in his career at the hands of Geoff Neal. Neal spent the fight looking for that one strike to try and close the show and it landed in the form of a head kick. This fight was pretty much Perry backing off, looking for some way to get in on Neal and land something. The commentary team spoke highly of Neal and his title aspirations and this fight was a step in the right direction.

While I’m talking about one shot knockouts, well one strike combinations specifically. As I’ve started watching fights closer and paying attention I’ve noticed that many fighters throw one strike at a time. It’s only at the top of the divisions that we see fighters put together real combos.

For example, in the Akhmedov/Heinisch fight there was a number of times in which they had each other stunned, but no follow up. Had they put together some strikes in that fight somebody could have went out cold. It’s these lapses in skill that will keep them from reaching the top of the division. It was a good fight, but nothing about either of them screams “future champion”.

Ketlen Vieira went into a fight with Cat Zingano and made it look easy which helped to rank her at number two in the 135lb division. This fight almost felt like a foregone conclusion that we would get Nunes vs Vieira, but Irene Aldana had other plans.

The fight started with both fighters showing great footwork, Vieira was able to keep Irene on the back foot, but didn’t find a home for her shots. Vieira started off with smooth shots and kept her defense tight, but as the fight wore on, Aldana was finding holes and landing. This led to Vieira abandoning her tight combos and she elected to then throw full hooks. This was until Aldana found her chin and put her to sleep.

This is a huge set back for Vieira, as she was poised for a title shot. Now she goes back to the drawing board. This fight has left Nunes without a clear contender. With that said, Nunes says that she wants to defend her 145lb belt, so that will give this division some time to sort itself out.

Face The Music

The wave of hate that Colby has been facing on Twitter has been that of a tsunami, but that’s the game he played. Some of the buttons he pushed are very sensitive and has some very real consequences for some people. I believe the fact he fought two hard rounds with a broken jaw will be overlooked in order to pile on, and, quite frankly, he deserves it.

My only fear would be any mention of Covington, even a basic observation, will be met with a kneejerk reaction to attack. It has already happened with Aaron Bronsteter. He made a basic observation that what Colby did worked, in that he was able to prolong his UFC career and draw emotion out of people. Some were quick to jump all over in as some sort of Covington sympathizer, which missed the mark on what he was saying.

Covington is a lighting rod for garbage views and trashy hot takes from fans, but now that he has lost it has become the same for those who oppose him. They’re quick to jump on another in order to tear another strip off of Covington, even when said person is making a broad assessment of what Colby has done.

Personally I was happy to see Usman win and was proud of the way it happened. It was poetic in that a guy known for running his mouth got it broken. I was hoping a loss like this would put an end to talk of him for a while, but sadly it has only ramped up. I always found his gimmick annoying and fake, and I also found it to be a little dangerous to be playing on nerves that have caused such a rift in the country. Here’s hoping the division moves away from the shitshow that is Colby Covington for a while.

In summary

It was a great card and the right man won the main event. Aldo looked great in his loss and bantamweight looks to have some new blood breaking into the top ten. The waters of the women’s bantamweight just got a little bit muddy, but the queen stands atop the division and is ruling with an iron fist.

A featherweight king has fallen and another has risen. I, for one, hope that Max takes some time off and doesn’t rush into a rematch, but that isn’t how this sport works.

Until next time fight fans….

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