The final UFC event of the year takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as Leon Edwards defends his welterweight championship for the second time against Colby Covington in the UFC 296 main event.
Edwards is on a 12-fight unbeaten run, with back-to-back wins over Kamaru Usman in his last outings to win and defend the title while Covington is 2-2 in his last four fights but earned this title shot with a win over Jorge Masvidal back in March 2022 as his last outing.
We'll take a look at the main event and provide you with our best free UFC picks to see if we can earn you some extra cash while watching an incredible fight card.
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UFC 296 information
- Saturday, December 16th 2023
- T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Main card starts at 22:00 ET
- Undisputed Welterweight championship fight (170-pounds weight limit)
- 5 x 5 minute rounds
Leon Edwards vs Colby Covington
A very intriguing clash of styles in the main event is set between two of the best fighters in the 170-pound division over the last half a decade.
Champion Edwards is on a 12-fight unbeaten run including two knockouts, one submission, eight decisions and one no-contest due to an accidental eye poke. The Brit went on a run with wins over Dominic Waters, Albert Turmenov, Vicente Luque, Bryan Barbarena, Peter Sobotta, Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson and Rafael Dos Anjos to put himself firmly in contention for a title shot.
Then came a main event fight with Belal Muhammad but he accidentally poked "Remember the Name" in the eye in a fight he was dominating, which rendered him unable to continue.
He bounced back from that though with a dominant win over Nate Diaz, before winning the title in magnificent style with a head-kick knockout over long-time champion Usman. He then defended the crown in London, England last time out, taking his professional record to 21-3 (1 NC).
Covington on the other hand has been in and around the title picture for a long time, but is yet to hold the undisputed belt during his career despite having two shots at the gold.
"Chaos" went on a six-fight win streak with victories over Jonathan Meunier, Max Griffin, Bryan Barbarena, Dong Hyun Kim, Demian Maia and Rafael Dos Anjos. The win over Dos Anjos was a dominant decision win and earned him the interim title and should've set up a title shot against Tyron Woodley, but he suffered an injury and the shot eluded him.
He returned from injury with a win over the legendary Robbie Lawler which earned him a title shot against Usman, where he suffered a fifth-round knockout defeat in one of the best fights of the year. He then defeated Woodley in dominant fashion, with a rib injury ending the fight early in the fifth round, and that earned him a rematch against Usman for the belt where he was beaten yet again, this time by unanimous decision.
Last time out he smashed long-time rival Masvidal in a grudge match as the main event at UFC 272, which earned him this title fight, taking his professional record to 17-3 with four knockouts, four submissions and nine decision wins.
Route to Victory
This is a real clash of styles with Edwards being one of the most well-rounded fighters in the organization, with his kickboxing skills making him a feared striker while Covington is a relentless pressure fighter with sensational wrestling and cardio skills.
Edwards came up against Usman who had a similar wrestling style and managed to stuff those attempts for the most part, which should stand him in good stead for this game. However Covington's cardio ability stands him out above the rest, and his jab has improved massively over recent fights.
It also can't be ignored that while Usman was one of the best ever, his body was beaten up and Edwards took advantage of his bad knees in particular in the second fight. Covington has no such issues that we're aware of, but he hasn't been very active at all and that could hinder him.
"Rocky" will want to keep the distance between the pair and use his kicks to inflict damage, while Covington will undoubtedly look to smother him and back him against the cage to clinch and get takedowns. The person controlling the centre of the octagon will have a huge advantage in implementing their game plan, and that will undoubtedly determine the winner and champion at the end of the night.
UFC Picks: Edwards to retain the belt @ -125
On paper Covington's style and ability should make him the favorite. His pressure style will not relent over the course of the 25 minutes, and if he gets Edwards down to the mat we've never seen anyone be able to get back to their feet and stay there again.
But the fact that Edwards is the favorite is a credit to his own skills. "Rocky" is a fantastic striker and the fact both fighters are southpaws means that Covington won't have that body kick that he loves open to him as he usually does.
Edwards showed a fantastic ability to stay on his feet against Usman and whenever he did get taken down he was able to get up quickly, and Usman had been as dominant if not moreso in the grappling during his career as Covington has been. On the feet it's a no brainer that Edwards has the edge, and he will no doubt land the more powerful and flush strikes.
If he can get back to his feet when he is taken down, or avoid it at all, then he should retain the belt and that's the pick for this bout.
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