Although it wasn't the fast-paced fight many expected, Leon Edwards handled business smoothly against Colby Covington in an intense battle.
The UFC 296 main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas showcased the clash between Edwards (22-3 MMA, 14-2 UFC) and Covington (17-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC). After 25 minutes, Edwards secured the welterweight title with unanimous scores of 49-46.
The pre-fight press conference had heightened emotions, setting the stage for Edwards and Covington to settle their differences in the cage. Throughout the opening round, chants for Covington echoed, and Edwards landed a solid left hand, marking the first significant strike of the fight. Covington's initial takedown attempt was easily thwarted.
In the second round, the action picked up with both fighters exchanging strikes. Edwards connected with a clean left, and he continued to press forward with leg kicks, while Covington struggled to mount meaningful combinations.
Covington sought a takedown at the start of Round 3 but slipped on entry. The canvas caused a few issues during the evening. Although Covington secured a takedown later in the round, Edwards swiftly returned to his feet and executed a takedown of his own. The fighters resumed striking, with Edwards' leg kicks causing visible redness and swelling on Covington's right leg.
In the early part of Round 4, Covington tried another takedown, but had to escape a choke attempt by spinning out. Edwards then resumed controlling the fight, using a leg kick and a solid left hand. Despite another takedown attempt by Covington, Edwards defended it well. In a scramble, Covington briefly got Edwards' back but couldn't capitalize on the position.
Heading into the final round, Edwards just needed to stay on track to secure his second title defense, as Covington was behind on the scorecards.
Covington secured an early takedown in the last round, but Edwards quickly got back up and executed a takedown of his own. Edwards even got to Covington's back and attempted a triangle armbar. Although Covington slipped out and took top position, time was not in his favor. All three judges at ringside gave identical scores in favor of Edwards.
In his post-fight interview, Edwards admitted that Covington's comments about his deceased father at the pre-fight press conference had affected him. He acknowledged the need to control his emotions and focus on keeping the UFC gold. Edwards defended his title for the second time after facing former champion Kamaru Usman in consecutive fights. Covington returned to the cage for the first time since March 2022, where he defeated Jorge Masvidal. Unfortunately, he has now lost all three welterweight title opportunities. Covington also mentioned that the long break may have impacted his performance with ring rust.