MMA Review: #693: UFC on ESPN: Covington vs. Lawler

-There’s a lot to miss about 2019, particularly in this shitty Covid-19 period, but the rise of Colby Covington up the UFC ranks is not one of them. This show was his first main event, as Donald Trump’s favourite fighter took on former champ Robbie Lawler in a fight everyone was hoping he’d lose, pretty much.

UFC on ESPN: Covington vs. Lawler

Newark, New Jersey

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Dominick Cruz and Kamaru Usman. Usman doesn’t actually call any of the fights though which is a bit weird.

Lightweight Fight: Scott Holtzman vs Dong Hyun Ma

This one sounded exciting on paper as Ma is one of those brawlers who can drag a decent fight out of anyone, despite an up-and-down record, while Holtzman had put on a couple of strong showings in the past himself, particularly a KO of Alan Patrick in 2018.

Round One begins and they circle and throw out some feeler strikes for the opening minute. Decent right hand connects for Holtzman. Another big right drops Ma and he’s in trouble. Holtzman drops some shots over the top onto him and then goes into half-guard, where he looks to set up a Von Flue choke as Ma holds onto a headlock. Into side mount for Holtzman and he’s really pressing for the Von Flue, but can’t get it. A scramble allows him into full mount instead though and now he looks for an arm triangle. Ma gets half-guard back but eats some short elbows, and then fails in an attempt to scramble free. More solid strikes get through for Holtzman and with seconds to go he lets Ma stand and opens up with some nasty punches. Ma’s left eye looks badly swollen. Exchange sees both men land and the round ends in the clinch. 10-9 Holtzman.

Round Two and wow, Ma’s eye is FUCKED. He presses forward to begin but eats some punches as he clearly can’t see correctly. Big left hook lands for Holtzman. Ma fires back and they trade pretty openly with both men landing, but another flush right lands for Holtzman. Ma eats it up and swings wildly before hitting a nice takedown, but Holtzman scrambles up immediately. Ma takes the back standing for a second as they jockey for position inside the clinch, and they break shortly after and go right back to some wild trading. This is a crazy fight. Both men land some BOMBS and a left from Ma drops Holtzman, but he pops up into the clinch. Brutal elbow breaks for Holtzman and the trade continues and holy shit these guys are just throwing shots at each other from the pocket. Crowd are going apeshit. One minute to go and Ma gets tagged by another left, but just keeps on throwing back. Big takedown from Holtzman plants him and he passes to half-guard. Elbows land for Holtzman and the round ends shortly after. 10-9 Holtzman, amazing round though.

Between rounds Ma’s eye swells up HORRIBLY and the doctors have to call the fight off. Awful luck for him as that was turning into one of the best fights of 2019. Both guys just threw caution to the wind and traded off and we were treated to some incredible exchanges. Hell of an opener!

Middleweight Fight: Gerald Meerschaert vs Trevin Giles

Both of these guys were coming off losses and so likely had their backs to the wall, although I’d have said Meerschaert was a bit safer given his penchant for putting on exciting fights. In all honesty, I can’t even remember seeing a Giles fight before if I’m honest!

Fight begins and right away Meerschaert gets rocked badly by a left hand from Giles. He manages to shrug it off though and lands a solid knee to the body before Giles trips him down into half-guard. Side mount from Giles now and he looks to mount, but Meerschaert gets half-guard. Nice sweep from Meerschaert puts him on top in full mount, beautiful stuff! Punches get through for Meerschaert and it doesn’t look like Giles has much off his back. Looks like Meerschaert might be looking to set up an arm triangle. He gives that up to posture and land shots, but Giles quickly spins him over and gets top position. Meerschaert goes into the turtle position for some reason and Giles controls him with a couple of punches before dropping into side mount. Scramble sees Giles look for a possible anaconda choke, but Meerschaert avoids that and ends up on his back as the round ends. Close one to score but probably 10-9 Giles.

Second round and both men land left hands to begin before Meerschaert looks for a takedown. Giles works to defend it and then drops down to look for some elbows, before grabbing a headlock and settling into top position. Crowd start to get a bit pissed off with the slow pace as Giles takes side mount, then full mount. Meerschaert gives his back and then somehow hits a sweep into top position, where he lands a couple of elbows. Good strikes get through for Meerschaert from the top and he seems really comfortable here. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Meerschaert to even things up. Crowd are hating this fight though, probably spoiled by the previous one!

Third round and Meerschaert presses forward, landing a decent body kick in the opening seconds. Left hand from Giles is met by a glancing head kick from Meerschaert. Takedown attempt from Meerschaert but Giles sprawls and grabs a front headlock. Meerschaert drops to his back and then gets a clinch before tripping him down, landing in half-guard. Guillotine attempt from Meerschaert and they roll around before he switches to a high-elbow variant, twisting the neck in a WEIRD position and Giles passes out and LOOKS DEAD. Holy shit.

Post-fight Meerschaert holds Giles’ legs up to help him come around before Herb Dean waves him away, pretty sick submission to be fair. Replay shows Giles did tap, but Herb Dean understandably missed it. Fight was perfectly acceptable too, no idea why the crowd were booing so badly for it. Decent grappling exchanges and a beautiful submission from Meerschaert.

Lightweight Fight: Nasrat Haqparast vs Joaquim Silva

Haqparast – AKA tiny Kelvin Gastelum – was on a two-fight win streak coming into this one and had looked great, so this was definitely a fight worth watching. His opponent Silva – a TUF Brazil veteran from 2015 – had won his last fight by knockout, but on paper this looked like a good fight for Haqparast.

Round One begins and they circle around before Silva glances on a jumping knee. Nasty leg kick lands for Silva. Haqparast looks like he’s trying to close the distance, but seems to be having some trouble with Silva’s kicking range. Silva is a BIG dude for 155lbs. Flurry from Haqparast backs him up a bit but doesn’t land cleanly. Wild spin kick misses for the Brazilian. Big combo lands for Haqparast but Silva takes it well. Hard leg kick from Silva but he eats a left hand in reply. Combo lands for Haqparast. He’s beginning to time the left hand well now. Less than a minute to go and Haqparast continues to press the action, landing another combination well. Round ends with Silva missing some punches and eating a head kick. Close – and fun – round, probably 10-9 Haqparast.

Round Two and Haqparast really pushes forward, walking through a couple of high kicks to land the left hand. Spin kick misses for Silva. HUGE LEFT HAND suddenly drops Silva out of nowhere and Haqparast pounces and DESTROYS HIM WITH PUNCHES for the stoppage. Jesus that was fast.

Post-fight Silva has no clue what hit him, no surprise either as Haqparast dropped him and gave him zero time to recover. Incredible knockout and an excellent fight, too.

Lightweight Fight: Jim Miller vs Clay Guida

Considering how long these two have been around in the UFC it’s amazing that this wasn’t a rematch, but there you go. Both men looked past their prime coming into the fight to be fair, even if they were coming off wins, but Miller looked slightly less shot so seemed to be the safer pick.

First round begins and the crowd are way into Jersey boy Miller. Guida circles on the outside as both men throw some feints, with Miller landing a low kick. Big right hand from Guida has Miller wobbled, but he walks into a huge right that stuns him in turn, and ends up ducking right into a TIGHT GUILLOTINE. Miller drops to his back to tighten it up, and seconds later Guida is OUT. Wow, second nasty guillotine of the night.

Guida looks DEAD after the stoppage and Dominick Cruz on commentary is outright saying that it’s just a blood choke and he’ll be fine, showing that it was pretty scary for viewers who maybe wouldn’t get that. Didn’t last long but that was a hell of a fight while it was going. And shit, second late stoppage from Herb Dean, bad night for him!

Welterweight Fight: Colby Covington vs Robbie Lawler

Word coming into this one was that the winner would get the first shot at Kamaru Usman later in the year, and so the hope from the UFC was clearly that Colby would pick up the victory to set up the big grudge match. I was pulling for Lawler as I can’t stand Colby’s whole quasi-racist gimmick but as he hadn’t looked too good in his recent fights it was clearly a tricky one for him.

Entrances are hilarious for this one too – Lawler comes out stoically to Johnny Cash’s ‘Ain’t No Grave’ while Colby steals Kurt Angle’s OTT patriotic WWE theme music, complete with the crowd’s YOU SUCK chanting.
Round One begins and Colby comes charging out and looks for the takedown. Lawler stuffs it and throws some big punches, but Colby fires right back and we’ve got a brawl early on. Crowd are MASSIVELY behind Lawler. Clinch from Colby and he goes for the takedown again, but Lawler defends it well. Covington keeps on driving him into the fence, finally getting him down, but Lawler scrambles right back towards the fence. Colby takes the back, but eats an elbow before he drags him back down. Again Lawler pops right back up though. Colby drags him right back down and controls him from behind, staying on him like glue, but he’s got no hooks in. He tries a choke, but Lawler easily avoids that. Colby uses it to keep him down though, hooking one leg for good measure too. Lawler just can’t seem to shake Colby off here. 1:30 to go and Covington keeps on teasing a no-hook choke, almost like a neck crank, just to keep Lawler grounded and controlled. Spin from Robbie finally gets him vertical and the crowd go wild. Couple of leg kicks from Lawler but Covington walks him down and lands a big combination of his own before going for the takedown again. Big single leg dumps him and he goes right back to controlling the neck. Round ends with Covington landing a flurry as Lawler stands. 10-9 Covington.

Round Two and Covington really pushes forward again and looks to corral Lawler by the fence. Flurry sets up a takedown for Colby and he uses a front headlock to hold Lawler down before cracking him with an elbow as he stands. Lawler manages to break off, but Covington quickly pressures him back and takes him down again. Again Lawler pops up, but he can’t shake Colby off him. Covington decides to break now and stuns Lawler with a combo before hitting another takedown. This time he goes back to the pseudo-neck crank to keep him grounded. Colby is looking awesome here. They pop up and Covington works Lawler over with a combination as it looks like Lawler might be tired. He’s barely firing back as Colby opens up on him now, preferring to try to roll with the punches to avoid damage. Lawler’s bleeding from the mouth. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Covington again.

Round Three and Lawler presses forward to begin, but it’s Colby who’s still throwing most of the strikes. Takedown follows swiftly and Colby gets his back as they stand. He drags Lawler back down and then keeps him firmly pressed into the fence again. Lawler breaks free and they exchange some punches which gets the crowd going, but Covington drives forward and clinches again. Decent exchange in the clinch sees Lawler land a hard uppercut, but he’s being eaten alive in terms of volume here. More of the same follows as Covington keeps on pouring the volume on, even walking through a big left hand at one point. Lawler’s looking badly marked up now. Round ends with more pressure from Colby. 10-9 Covington.

Round Four and it’s just more of the same as Covington continues to pour on the pressure with his volume. Lawler’s looking a bit gunshy now too due to the sheer pace. Clinch from Colby and both guys land uppercuts before breaking. Covington’s taking some solid shots here but Lawler’s power looks depleted. Single leg fails for Colby but he’s still sapping energy from Lawler. More volume from Colby sets up a takedown with 1:40 to go and he stays right on Lawler when he pops up. Colby continues to work him over from close range and Lawler’s just not firing back enough. Round ends with more of the same. 10-9 Covington.

Round Five and it’s basically more of the same as Covington just keeps on chipping away with volume. Lawler’s trying to fire back more in this round but he just looks out of steam and gunshy to me. Colby’s not even bothering to really look for takedowns or pin him into the cage now as he looks so confident in just pouring on with volume striking. Two minutes to go and Lawler finally starts unloading, but Colby’s smiling at him which shows his power isn’t there. More volume from Covington follows and he lands a beautiful spinning backfist in the final seconds to open a cut over Lawler’s left eye to put a capper on things. 10-9 Colby, 50-45 overall.

Official scores are 50-44, 50-45 and 50-45 all for Colby Covington. Post-fight he celebrates with his defunct interim title belt which is RIDICULOUS and then credits Donald Trump before cracking a REALLY tasteless joke about Matt Hughes, basically ripping on him for suffering a train crash which is awful. And then he calls out Kamaru Usman and of course, that’s another show entirely.

Anyhow back to this fight, Covington is definitely a scumbag but this was a tremendous showing from him as he never gave Lawler a second to breathe and just wore him out in the early rounds to the point that he had nothing to give when the fight went down the stretch. Lawler unfortunately looked a bit old here which is probably understandable, but yeah, Colby looked great. Fight was a bit dull due to the wash, rinse, repeat factor but outside of that, it was still impressive.

-Show ends right after Covington’s victory speech.

Final Thoughts….

Semi-dull main event aside, this was a hell of a show; Ma vs. Holtzman was one of 2019’s most underrated fights, Guida/Miller and Giles/Meerschaert both had insane finishes and Haqparast uncorked a great knockout. It was a bit forgotten at the time due to a weird start time from what I remember and the Colby show overshadowing the rest, but this one’s definitely worth checking out on Fight Pass.

Best Fight: Ma vs. Holtzman
Worst Fight: Covington vs. Lawler

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: