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Jorge Masvidal celebrates his win over Ben Askren in their welterweight fight during the UFC 239 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 6, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC)
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Fight By Fight Preview | UFC 272: Covington vs Masvidal

A Welterweight Grudge Match Headlines This Epic Vegas Pay-Per-View. Let's Break It Down.

This card is just bonkers.

After sitting here staring at my screen for 10 minutes, trying to find some cool way of leading into this breakdown of every matchup on Saturday’s UFC 272 fight card, I realized that an event with this many outstanding fights, this many compelling bouts and this many talented competitors didn’t need some quippy intro or me waxing philosophical.

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All that is required is for me to tell you this fight card is bonkers, and if you don’t believe me, check out what’s on tap this weekend at T-Mobile Arena and then try and tell me you’re not excited?

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Colby Covington vs Jorge Masvidal

Everybody loves a good “friends turned foes” story, but it’s even better when they’re two of the top competitors in a talent-rich division, as is the case with Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal.

The duo were ultra-tight as they were each on the come-up — living together, cornering one another, and doing the whole “Us Against Everybody” thing right up until a couple years ago when Covington claimed the interim welterweight title and went all-in on his heel persona. Now, these dudes legitimately despise one another, and while they surely won’t settle their differences on Saturday night, they’re certainly going to beat the heck out of one another, that’s for sure.

Covington enters off a decision loss to Kamaru Usman at UFC 268. It was the second time he’s come up short in his quest to unseat the reigning welterweight champion, and he was even closer to claiming gold, pushing Usman to his limits in the five-round battle.

Regardless of how you feel about the things Covington says when the cameras are rolling and he’s got a microphone in front of him, there is no denying that the 34-year-old is an outstanding competitor — a marauding grinder who has steadily improved his striking and figured out how to weaponize his pace and conditioning in a manner that is second-to-none in the sport.

Masvidal is also coming into this fight off a second loss to “The Nigerian Nightmare.” After going the distance with Usman on short notice at UFC 251, the duo ran it back last spring at UFC 261 and it was the challenger that got “baptized,” as he likes to put it. A minute into the second round, Usman clocked Masvidal with a perfect right hand that sent him twisting to the canvas in a heap, leaving no question as to who the better man was.

Now the former title challengers and friends will finally step into the Octagon with one another with nothing on the line beyond bragging rights, but given the level of animus between these two, that is more than enough.

Each man wants to bury the other, and both are capable of executing that plan in multiple ways. This is one of those fights where the tension will be palpable from the time Masvidal starts making his way to the Octagon on Saturday night and it will continue that way until the final horn sounds or one of them is left beaten on the canvas.

Rafael dos Anjos vs Renato Moicano

A couple weeks ago in Houston, Renato Moicano stood in the center of the Octagon after finishing Alexander Hernandez at UFC 271 and pleaded for a chance to prove himself against ranked contenders in the lightweight division. Three weeks later, the Brazilian is getting his wish as Saturday night in Las Vegas, he’ll step in against former champion Rafael Dos Anjos in the new UFC 272 co-main event. This should be a highly competitive affair between a pair of well-rounded, experienced fighters that share a number of similarities, but also a smattering of key differences as well.

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A week after Islam Makhachev and Arman Tsarukyan earned dominant finishes, the outcome of Saturday’s pairing between the sixth-ranked Dos Anjos and the hungry Moicano will determine which of them will head towards the summer on the fringes of title contention, staring down a potential date with another Top 10 opponent and which of them will be forced to re-evaluate where they stand in the division.

Rafael Dos Anjos | Top Moments
Rafael Dos Anjos | Top Moments

Edson Barboza vs Bryce Mitchell

Edson Barboza and Bryce Mitchell meet in the middle of Saturday’s pay-per-view main card for a clash between Top 15 featherweights looking to build some momentum to start 2022.

Barboza has just four wins in his last 10 fights, yet you’re still not going to find many people that would question the Brazilian’s talents, competitiveness, and place in the 145-pound weight class. After splitting his first two appearances in the division in 2020, he kicked off last year with a third-round stoppage win over the always game Shane Burgos before suffering the same fate himself in a main event clash with Giga Chikadze.

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Mitchell was one of the breakout talents of 2020, earning consecutive victories over Charles Rosa and Andre Fili to push his record to 5-0 inside the Octagon and land a place inside the Top 15. The former Ultimate Fighter contestant hasn’t fought since that Halloween engagement with Fili, but has proven himself to be one of the best grapplers in the division, and this matchup with Barboza should help determine whether he’s ready to enter the championship mix.

This is a similar pairing to the clash between Dos Anjos and Fiziev, except the styles are swapped, as Barboza is the dynamic striker with crisp boxing and a powerful array of kicks in his arsenal, while Mitchell prefers to handle his business on the ground. Each man could use a dominant effort to cement their place in the pecking order and give them sound footing for a push towards the top of the division in the second half of the year, so accept nothing but the best from each of them once the Octagon door closes this weekend.

Kevin Holland vs Alex Oliveira

Kevin Holland makes the move down to welterweight for the first time in his UFC career, looking to recapture the form that carried him to five victories in 2020. Welcoming him to the division is Brazil’s Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira, who will look to add to the newcomer’s slide while halting one of his own.

The talkative and boisterous Holland entered 2021 with a ton of hype and momentum after closing out a five-win year in 2020 with a first-round knockout win over Jacare Souza. Two fights later, all that buzz was gone, as Holland got out-worked and out-wrestled by Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori in consecutive losses spaced 20 days apart.

He returned to the Octagon in early October in a bout with Kyle Daukaus, where the two clashed heads midway through the first round, resulting in the fight ultimately being declared a no contest. They were expected to run it back a month later, but Holland was forced out of the rematch, and subsequently opted to switch divisions.

Now in his eighth year on the UFC roster, Oliveira enters on a three-fight slide. The 34-year-old was the first UFC welterweight to fall to Shavkat Rakhmonov, losing to the unbeaten “Nomad” at UFC 254, and then caught back-to-back losses in bouts against Randy Brown and Nike Price last year, dropping his record to 11-9 with one no contest in 21 UFC starts.

Will a change in scenery be the remedy to Holland’s recent struggles or will the Brazilian veteran add to his misery while ending his own extended skid?

Serghei Spivac vs Greg Hardy

Saturday’s main card starts in the heavyweight division, as Moldovan “Polar Bear” Serghei Spivac looks to get back into the win column when he takes on Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Greg Hardy.

The 27-year-old Spivac made three appearances in 2021, securing a second-round stoppage win over Jared Vanderaa in February before collecting a unanimous decision victory over Aleksei Oleinik four months later to push his winning streak to three. He landed on the wrong side of the results against Tom Aspinall in September, but remains an intriguing name to watch in the heavyweight division heading into this one.

Order UFC 272: Covington vs Masvidal

Hardy has already fought nine times in his first three years on the UFC roster, but after a quick start and some positive results, things have slowed down and been more of a struggle for the DWCS alum. The 33-year-old had a tidy two-fight winning streak snapped by veteran Marcin Tybura in his third appearance of 2020, and followed that up with a knockout loss to surging contender Tai Tuivasa in his lone appearance last year.

Both men have stood on the brink of breaking into the Top 15 in the past, and one of them will draw closer to accomplishing that feat this weekend. Spivac is the more experienced, more technical fighter, while Hardy remains an explosive athlete still trying to piece things together as a mixed martial artist.

It will be interesting to see which one prevails on Saturday night.

Jalin Turner vs Jamie Mullarkey

Jalin Turner and Jamie Mullarkey meet in a battle of streaking lightweight finishers looking to take a big step forward in 2022 on this weekend’s preliminary card.

Already 2-0 against Australians in the UFC thanks to stoppage wins over Callan Potter and Joshua Culibao, Turner looks for a third triumph against Aussie lightweights and a fourth straight victory overall. “The Tarantula” was dominant in securing a first-round submission win over Uros Medic in his lone appearance last year, and carries a perfect finishing rate into Saturday’s contest.

Mullarkey entered the UFC on a four-fight winning streak, but dropped his first two appearances by decision, the first to Brad Riddell and the second to Fares Ziam a year later. Since then, however, the 27-year-old has bounced back with consecutive highlight reel finishes, knocking out Khama Worthy in under a minute at UFC 260 before collecting a second-round stoppage win over Devonte Smith a little over six months later.

There is no margin for error in the lightweight division and neither of these two has any interest in taking a step backwards now that they’ve finally built some momentum. Expect a tight, competitive affair for as long as it lasts, with a very strong likelihood that it does not go the distance.

Marina Rodriguez vs Yan Xiaonan

It’s a clash of strawweight contenders on the UFC 272 prelims as Marina Rodriguez puts her three-fight winning streak on the line against Chinese standout Yan Xiaonan.

After fighting just once in 2020, Rodriguez entered last year eager to fight at least three times and focused on working her way up the divisional ladder, and she did just that. The Brazilian started the year with a second-round stoppage win over Amanda Ribas on Fight Island, then followed it up with consecutive unanimous decision wins over Michelle Waterson and Mackenzie Dern in back-to-back main event assignments.

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Yan arrived in the UFC on a six-fight unbeaten streak and pushed that number to 12 by earning victories in each of her first six trips into the Octagon. Like Rodriguez in 2020, the 32-year-old fought only once in 2021, losing to former champ Carla Esparza, sending her into battle this weekend looking to rebound from her first loss in over a decade.

With Esparza expected to get the next title shot and these two stationed inside the Top 5, most envision Saturday’s pairing between Rodriguez and Yan as a title eliminator of sorts, especially if the Brazilian is triumphant. Regardless of potential stakes, this should be a highly competitive fight between two of the best strawweights in the world, and a bout that helps dictate the direction will take in 2022.

Kennedy Nzechukwu KOs Carlos Ulberg | UFC 259
Kennedy Nzechukwu KOs Carlos Ulberg | UFC 259

Nicolae Negumereanu vs Kennedy Nzechukwu

Light heavyweights with a penchant for leaving the judges out of things land opposite one another this weekend as Nicolae Negumereanu squares off with “The African Savage,” Kennedy Nzechukwu.

Negumereanu underwent back and knee surgery following his debut loss in March 2019, resulting in a two-year absence. He returned to action last spring, collecting a split decision win over DWCS grad Aleksa Camur before getting back to his finishing ways three months later by dispatching Ike Villaneuva in just over a minute.

Nzechukwu also returned following time on the sidelines in 2021, showing he was fully recovered from his ACL repair with a hard-earned, come-from-behind stoppage win over Carlos Ulberg at UFC 259 in March. The Fortis MMA product followed that up with a similar effort against Danilo Marques in June, but landed on the opposite end of a stoppage result in his November pairing with Da-un Jung.

With 18 of their 23 combined fights ending inside the distance, someone is either going to finished or we’ll end up with an early Fight of the Year contender when these two hit the Octagon on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Maryna Moroz vs Mariya Agapova

The main event isn’t the only grudge match between former teammates slated for Saturday’s fight card, as Maryna Moroz and Mariya Agapova also look to settle their differences by punching each other in the face this weekend.

Though she enters on a two-fight winning streak, it has been almost two years since Moroz last stepped into the Octagon, as the 30-year-old “Iron Lady” has been forced to withdraw from a few different bouts since her March 2020 win over Mayra Bueno Silva. Sporting a 4-3 record since her debut, upset win over Joanne Calderwood, Moroz appeared to be settling into life in the flyweight division before being sidelined since the final event prior to the pandemic.

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Agapova returned for the first time in well over a year last October, rebounding from her historic upset loss to Shana Dobson by putting a hurting on Sabina Mazo. Displaying the same slick boxing and confidence that made her a highly regarded prospect when she first reached the UFC, coupled with improved patience and poise, the 24-year-old from Kazakhstan picked apart the Colombian veteran through the first two rounds before dropping her with a beautiful two-punch combo and securing a fight-ending choke early in the third.

Moroz and Agapova don’t like each other, with the feud dating back to their time training at American Top Team. They’ve each had some unkind things to say about the other, but the talking ends this weekend.

Mariya Agapova Rear Naked Chokes Mazo | UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Rodriguez
Mariya Agapova Rear Naked Chokes Mazo | UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Rodriguez

Brian Kelleher vs Umar Nurmagomedov

Fresh off a last-minute bump up to featherweight on the first card of the year, veteran Brian Kelleher returns to take on undefeated prospect Umar Nurmagomedov on Saturday’s prelims in a matchup of bantamweights competing at 145.

“Boom” has taken an “anyone, any time, any division” approach since reaching the UFC in 2017, splitting time between ’35 and ’45 and cobbling together an 8-5 record. After landing on the wrong side of the results in his twice-delayed showdown with Ricky Simon to start last year, the Long Island native has registered consecutive decision wins over Domingo Pilarte and Kevin Croom to enter this one with a solid amount of momentum.

The 25-year-old cousin of the former UFC lightweight champion, Nurmagomedov impressed in his promotional debut last January on Fight Island, securing a second-round submission win over Sergey Morozov. Don’t let his last name fool you though: the 13-0 bantamweight prospect is not just a grappler, as he operates from more of a bouncy, karate-based stance and throws a ton of kicks, something you never saw from his cousin, Khabib.

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Can Kelleher keep things moving by handing Nurmagomedov his first career loss or will the undefeated UFC sophomore continue rolling and further establish himself as a person of interest in the 135-pound weight class going forward?

Tim Elliott vs Tagir Ulanbekov

Ranked flyweights looking to kick off 2022 in impressive fashion share the Octagon here as former title challenger Tim Elliott takes on streaking Russian Tagir Ulanbekov.

A fixture in the division for the majority of the last decade, the 35-year-old Elliott has settled into a role as the veteran litmus test in the 125-pound weight class, constantly getting paired off with aspiring competitors looking to work their way up the ladder. Last time out, the James Krause-trained veteran dropped a close decision to Matheus Nicolau, snapping a two-fight winning streak.

Ulanbekov extended his winning streak to four with a victory over Bruno “Bulldog” Silva in his promotional debut back in October 2020 before landing on the happy side of a split decision verdict in his sophomore UFC appearance against Allan Nascimento at UFC 267 a year later. The 30-year-old is 13-1 overall and trains alongside Nurmagomedov and lightweight standout Islam Makhachev while brandishing the same kind of elite potential each of his teammates have displayed.

This will be an outstanding test for the surging Ulanbekov, as Elliott has a wealth of experience and has always been a difficult puzzle to solve inside the Octagon. The flyweight division has never been deeper and more competitive than it is now, and this is another example of just how exciting business in the 125-pound weight class is at the moment.

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Devonte Smith vs Ludovit Klein

Former prospects looking to start rebuilding momentum meet in this short-notice pairing as Devonte Smith takes on Ludovit Klein.

A member of the DWCS Class of ’18, Smith won his first two UFC appearances in blistering fashion, collecting first-round stoppage wins over Julian Erosa and Dong Hyun Ma. A knockout loss to Khama Worthy slowed his momentum, but a return to action and the win column against Justin Jaynes after more than a year on the sidelines got him moving in the right direction again.

Last time out, however, Smith got out-hustled and ultimately stopped by Jamie Mullarkey, sending him into this one looking to avoid a second straight loss and a 1-3 run over his last four fights.

Klein looked terrific in his promotional debut, taking the fight to Shane Young and getting the hardened City Kickboxing representative out of there in 76 seconds. He missed weight for the contest by a considerable margin, prompting Young and his team to question how hard he tried to make the featherweight limit for the short-notice pairing.

He returned to action last May and landed on the wrong side of a unanimous decision verdict in a bout against Michael Trizano and then was submitted by Nate Landwehr in the third round of their clash in October. The 27-year-old Slovak fighter steps up a division while stepping in here for Erick Gonzalez, desperate to halt his two-fight slide before it gets any worse.

Dustin Jacoby vs Michael Oleksiejczuk

Light heavyweights looking to continue their winning ways meet in Saturday’s opener as veteran Dustin Jacoby squares off with Polish prospect Michal Oleksiejczuk.

Nine years after finishing his first cup of coffee in the UFC, Jacoby punched his ticket back to the Octagon with a win over Ty Flores on Season 4 of Dana White’s Contender Series. The Factory X Muay Thai representative earned his first UFC victory on Halloween 2020, and hasn’t looked back since, going 3-0-1 in four starts last year to move to the brink of breaking into the Top 15.

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Oleksiejczuk snapped a two-fight skid in his return to action following a year on the sidelines last March, landing on the happy side of a split decision result opposite Modestas Bukauskas at UFC 260. Seven months later, the 27-year-old showcased his slick hands once again, boxing his way to a first-round stoppage win over Shamil Gamzatov at UFC 267.

There is a great deal of action on tap in the 205-pound weight class over the next couple months, and the winner of this one not only has the chance to potentially work their way into the Top 15, but could also set themselves up for a significant step up in competition with the right kind of performance. Expect slick, technical striking with a high possibility of a finish when these two get the party started this weekend.

UFC 272: Covington vs Masvidal took place on Saturday, March 5, 2022, live from a sold out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. See the Final ResultsOfficial Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.