The UFC returns to the fabled Madison Square Garden on November 6th for UFC 268 which will be headlined by the rematch between UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington.

Usman and Covington previously fought at UFC 245 in December 2019 with Usman scoring a late stoppage of Covington. Since that fight, Usman has made three more successful title defenses while Covington has fought just once, defeating ex-champion Tyron Woodley in September 2020.

The co-main event also features a rematch between Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang. The two fought for the UFC women’s strawweight title at UFC 261 where Namajunas knocked out Zhang inside the fist round to reclaim the title.

Former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar is also on the main card while an exciting lightweight showdown between top contenders Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler will open the show.

Let’s take a look at the fights in the UFC 268 main card and make our predictions.

“Fighting" Kamaru Usman vs Colby Covington

Kamaru Usman is the current UFC welterweight champion. The Nigerian Nightmare won the belt by defeating Tyron Woodley at UFC 235. Since winning the title, Usman has made four successful title defenses, including one against Covington. Three of Usman’s four title defenses have won via knockout and four out of his last six fights have won him a post-fight bonus.

The 34-year old is a former NCAA Division II national champion wrestler and the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 21 tournament. Usman is currently the no. 1 ranked pound for pound fighter in the UFC and has won 18 consecutive bouts including 14 in the UFC. He has a record of 10-1 with 9 knockouts and one submission victory. Usman is six feet tall with a reach of 76 inches and is an orthodox fighter.

Colby Covington is the number 1 welterweight contender in the UFC. Chaos became the interim UFC welterweight champion when he defeated Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 225 but was later stripped of the belt. Two fights later, he earned the first crack at Kamaru Usman but lost the fight via 5th round TKO. Since the loss, he’s fought just once, defeating former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in September 2019.

Covington is a former NCAA Division I All-American at Oregon State University. He was a Pac-10 champion wrestler and a former NJCAA national champion at Iowa Central Community College. The 33-year old has a record of 16-2 with four knockouts and four submission wins. Covington is 11-2 in 13 UFC bouts with his losses coming against Usman via TKO and Wallrey Alves via submission. He stands 5-11 tall with a 72-inch reach and is an orthodox fighter.

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Covington left American Top Team after losing to Usman and put up his own crew. That team helped him dominate Woodley, or what was left of him, in his only bout since the loss to Usman. Chaos says he’s gotten better with a team that is solely focused on him. That version looked spectacular against Woodley. However, Usman is a different animal.

We may be looking at the best welterweight that ever set foot inside the Octagon, with all due respect to GSP. Usman is a generational talent who has gotten better with every fight he’s taken. The Nigerian Nightmare can do it all and doesn’t seem to have a glaring weakness.

I think Covington can push Usman more than Burns or Masvidal did but I don’t think it will be enough. Given his recent performances and the fact that Covington has fought just once since their last meeting, it’s hard to bet against Usman right now, no matter the price.

Prediction: Kamaru Usman -300

“Fighting" Rose Namajunas vs Weili Zhang

Rose Namajunas is the current and two-time UFC women’s strawweight champion Thug Rose first won the belt by defeating Joana Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 but lost it in her second title defense against Jessica Andrade. At UFC 261 last April, Namajunas reclaimed the title by knocking out Weili Zhang inside round one to become a two-time women’s strawweight champion.

The 29-year old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin is currently the number 3 ranked female pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. She was a finalist at The Ultimate Fighter 20 tournament where she lost to Carla Esparza in the finals in a fight for the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight championship. Namajunas has a record of 10-4 with two knockouts and five submission wins. She is 5-5 tall with a reach of 65 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.

Weili Zhang is the former UFC women’s strawweight champion. She won the belt by defeating Jessica Andrade in August 2019, becoming the first Chinese and Asian fighter to win a UFC title. Zhang successfully defended her title in a Fight of the Year winner against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 but then lost the belt to Namajunas last April.

Zhang is a former Kunlun Fight strawweight champion and Top FC strawweight champion. She lost her MMA debut in China but went on to win her next 21 bouts, including five straight in the UFC before losing to Thug Rose. Zhang has an impressive record of 21-2 with 10 knockouts and seven submission wins. She is a switch-hitter who stands 5-4 tall with a reach of 63 inches.

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Like Covington, Zhang changed camps after losing to Namajunas as she moved to the Fight Ready Gym where she got to work with Henry Cejudo. Working with Triple C should’ve improved Zhang’s wrestling but that isn’t an important factor against Namajunas as it was Thug Rose’s striking technique and timing that ended Zhang’s reign.

Namajunas is an unassuming fighter but behind that seemingly fragile woman is one of the best fighters in the business who is good at finding her opponent’s weaknesses and capitalizing on them, In Zhang’s case, it’s her aggression which leads her to get countered easily like what we saw against Jedrzejczyk.

First losses are tough on some fighters. It can affect confidence and how they perform moving forward. I’m not sure that is the case with Zhang. But when we talk about Namajunas, we’ve seen her fight better and more dominantly in rematches. I’ll go with the proven fighter here.

Prediction: Rose Namajunas -102

“Fighting" Frankie Edgar vs Marlon Vera

Frankie Edgar is the former UFC lightweight champion who was also challenged for the featherweight title three times. The 40-year old from Toms River, New York defeated the legendary B.J. Penn at UFC 112 to win the lightweight title. He would go on to successfully defend the belt three times before losing it to Benson Henderson at UFC 144. He would move down to featherweight and challenge Jose Aldo for the title at UFC 156 but lost. He lost to Aldo again for the interim bantamweight title at UFC 200.

Known as the Answer, Edgar is currently the no. 8 ranked bantamweight in the UFC. He is currently on a slide with four losses in his last six bouts including a 28-second knockout loss to Cory Sandhagen in his most recent bout last February. Edgar has a record of 24-9 with seven knockouts and four wins via submission. He is 5-6 tall with a reach of 68 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.

Marlon Vera is the no. 13 ranked bantamweight in the UFC. The 28-year old from Ecuador joined the UFC in 2014 and started his Octagon career with a 9-4 record. However, Vera is just 2-2 in his last four bouts but is coming off a unanimous decision win over Davey Grant last June 19th in a bout that won Fight of the Night honors.

Chito, who first appeared at The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America tournament, has a record of 17-7 with 6 knockouts and 8 wins by way of submission. He is most known as the fighter who ended Sean O’Malley’s unbeaten streak with a TKO win over Suga at UFC 252. Vera stands 5-8 tall with a 70-inch reach and is a switch-hitter.

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Edgar desperately needs a win here. He is just 2-4 in his last six bouts and is struggling to find his old form in recent years. If he can find his groove though, he’s still one of the best in the business and is a very dangerous fighter who can make life harder for Vera.

Vera is the younger and the hungrier fighter between the two. A win over Edgar would be great for his resume. Chito can hang with the best when it comes to striking and he can take this fight to the ground. If Edgar employs his pressure style, it could backfire against an equally aggressive Vera.

The Answer still has the gas tank to go three full rounds but he might not want to test it against Vera. Edgar will try to finish the fight as early as he can but Vera is durable enough to survive Edgar’s attack. Vera wins a tough bout.

Prediction: Marlon Vera -145

“Fighting" Shane Burgos vs Billy Quarantillo

Shane Burgos is the no. 14 ranked featherweight in the UFC. The 30-year old from Bronx, New York joined the UFC in 2016 and quickly made his mark with an impressive 6-1 start which included wins over the likes of Cub Swanson, Charles Rosa, and Makwan Amirkhani. Burgos heads to this bout with back-to-back losses including a strange knockout defeat to Edson Barboza at UFC 262.

Burgos started his career at XCC, Ring of Combat, and CFFC and posted an unbeaten 7-0 record before he was signed by the UFC. In nine UFC bouts, Burgos has earned four post-fight bonuses including back-to-back Fight of the Night awards in his last two bouts, both ending in losses. His record stands at 13-2 with five knockouts and five submission wins. He is 5-11 tall with a reach of 75 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.

Billy Quarantillo is a former King of Cage lightweight champion. The 32-year old from Ransomville, New York competed for various regional promotions and amassed an 11-2 record while winning the Strike Off Fighting Championships featherweight title. Quarantillo joined the UFC in 2019 and has posted a record of 4-1 inside the Octagon. In his last bout, he defeated Gabriel Benitez via TKO last July.

Quarantillo was a competitor at The Ultimate Fighter 22 tournament where he lost in the second round. He also competed at the Contender Series where he scored a TKO win over Kamuela Clark to earn a UFC contract. Quarantillo has a record of 16-3 with 7 knockouts and five submission victories. He is an orthodox fighter who has a reach of 70 inches and stands 5-10 tall.

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Burgos is the sharper boxer between these two and he has the snappier punches. If this becomes a striking war, Burgos will likely land the cleaner blows and he’s durable enough to go all-out for three rounds. But against Quarantillo, he needs to move his head a lot or else his opponent will nail him. Burgos has a solid chin but you don’t want to test it against this opponent

Quarantillo’s main strengths are his conditioning and grappling. But he also is a very excellent kicker who can find the head if it’s a stationary target. From a distance, he’ll likely use low kicks to keep Burgos off balance. When Burgos is forced to retreat, watch out for that head kick.

I think this will be a back-and-forth affair. I won’t be surprised if Burgos takes a close decision. Similarly, an upset isn’t out of the equation. I think this is 50-50 and I’ll take the plus money and the better kickboxer here.

Prediction: Billy Quarantillo +162

“Fighting" Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler

Justin Gaethje is the former interim UFC lightweight champion, who won the title by defeating Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 and ending El Cucuy’s unbeaten run in the lightweight division. Known as the Highlight, Gaethje started his UFC career with a 1-2 record with knockout losses to Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez. But after defeating James Vick, Edson Barboza, and Donald Cerrone in succession, he replaced Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 249. He would challenge Khabib in his next bout and lost via submission at UFC 254.

Gaethje is a former WSOF lightweight champion who made four successful title defenses. He is currently the no. 2 ranked lightweight contender in the UFC and was an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler at the University of Colorado. Gaethje has a record of 22-3 with 19 knockouts and one submission win. He stands 5-11 tall with a 70-inch reach and is an orthodox fighter.

Michael Chandler is a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion. The 35-year old from High Ridge, Missouri amassed an impressive 18-5 record at Bellator MMA before joining the UFC last year. Chandler knocked out lightweight contender Dan Hooker in his UFC debut but was knocked out by Charles Oliveira at UFC 262 when they fought for the vacant UFC lightweight title.

Chandler was also the Bellator Season 4 Lightweight Tournament winner and an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri. He owns notable wins over the likes of Marcin Held, Eddie Alvarez, Akihiro Gono, Patricky Freire, Benson Henderson, and Brent Primus. Chandler owns a record of 22-6 with 10 knockouts and seven submission wins. He is an orthodox fighter with a 71-inch reach and stands 5-8 tall.

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Despite fighting in only his third UC bout, Michael Chandler brings a lot of experience to the table. He is one of the best fighters to ever come out of Bellator. He is an experienced wrestler who is fast, strong, and has knockout power in his punches. Chandler’s last three wins have been by first-round knockout and in his loss to Oliveira, he nearly put Oliveira away before Oliveira tagged him with a big punch of his own.

That said, Gaethje has improved leaps and bounds since his losses to Poirier and Alvarez and he might have the best striking in the division outside of Poirier. Against Ferguson, he showed patience and was able to match El Cucuy’s in the stand-up before putting him away. He is also an NCAA All-American wrestler if ever Chandler tries to take this fight to the ground.

This should be an exciting fight and could go either way. Gaethje seems to have the bigger punch but I like the plus money on a veteran like Chandler.

Prediction: Michael Chandler +174

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