Saturday, April 13

Colby Covington’s Next UFC Fight Should Be Shavkat Rakhmonov

Highlights

  • Colby Covington wants an easy win and is calling out Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, who is ranked lower in the division.
  • Covington’s true path to the title lies with Shavkat Rakhmonov, an undefeated grappler who poses a real challenge for Covington.
  • A fight between Covington and Rakhmonov would either build Covington’s star power or boost Rakhmonov’s super-stardom, depending on the outcome.



It’s safe to say Colby Covington is one of the UFC’s most polarizing figures. The fifth-ranked welterweight in the division, and a former interim welterweight champion, has fanned the flames of controversy in almost every fight he was slated for. The least of which came when he insulted the dead father of current champion, Leon Edwards, which even UFC president and CEO, Dana White, called a “scum” move in Dec. 2023.


Edwards won that fight at UFC 296, beating Covington from pillar to post in a dominant, emphatic manner. It left fans wondering where Covington would go next after losing his previous two attempts for the welterweight belt against then-champion, Kamaru Usman. Interestingly, as Covington assesses the UFC landscape, he has called out who some would deem as the easy fight. However, there is a better solution that would work for, not just the two fighters involved, but the promotion on the whole.


Colby Covington Wants To Fight Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson

Fans Think Covington Sees Wonderboy As An Easy Win


  • Covington is 17-4 with notable UFC wins over Jorge Masvidal, Rafael dos Anjos, Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler and Demian Maia
  • Thompson is 17-7-1 with UFC triumphs over Masvidal, Kevin Holland, Rory MacDonald, Johny Hendricks and Vicente Luque
  • Thompson also drew a title fight in 2016 and lost the ensuing rematch against Woodley a year later

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The 35-year-old Covington has been off-grid for some time after the Edwards loss. He cited a broken foot in the first round as an injury that hampered him. In typical Covington fashion, he drifted from blaming the judges to the handicap of the foot, to a tirade where he once more felt that anyone who didn’t support his political views (i.e. backing former U.S. president Donald Trump) would try to tarnish his career.


Many media personnel, critics, and even Covington supporters felt he was making excuses. And that things like White chiding the performance and Trump walking out during Covington’s post-fight interview had the fighter hiding out to save face. Well, Covington emerged in a chat with Submission Radio to make it clear he wants to get back to the top of the mountain, with former #1 contender, Thompson, his target.


In the UFC 296 press conference, Covington did poke fun at Thompson, among the many. Now, he says that Thompson threw shade at him in the past, so he deserves to be held accountable. Coincidentally, Thompson (ranked seventh in the division) came off a loss at UFC 296, which has some wondering what the logic is in fighting down the rankings.


It does feel like Covington wants another striker he can bully and out-wrestle, the way he did folks like Jorge Masvidal. Thompson isn’t good at handling wrestlers, so it is no surprise that Covington would be called out for cherry-picking someone like Thompson, who in the past has said he’d prefer to fight straight-up strikers.


It may happen, though, because while it might not do much to move the needle and get Covington closer to the title, Thompson — who is vocal about being in the twilight of his career at age 41 — may see this as a calculated risk to ascending the rankings. But if UFC wants to really make a spectacle out of it and build buzz for a fight fans have been clamoring for, this isn’t the bout to make.

Colby Covington’s Path to the Title Lies With Shavkat Rakhmonov

Rakhmonov Is A True Grappling Test For Covington

Shavkat Rakhmonov holds his finger up after a win


  • Rakhmonov’s overall record stands at 18-0, with every win coming via a finish
  • Rakhmonov boasts UFC scalps such as Thompson, Geoff Neal, Neil Magny and Alex Oliveira

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Covington’s true path to the title lies through the third-ranked Kazakh fighter, Shavkat Rakhmonov. Ironically, Rakhmonov choked out Thompson at UFC 296, staking his claim for a shot. It is widely believed he will wait it out and fight the winner of Edwards and Belal Muhammad (one of the fights rumored for UFC 300).


However, Rakhmonov isn’t one who likes to sit on the sidelines for the sake of it. Covington has made derogatory remarks about him as well, so it’s easy for him to view Covington (who is 3-3 since claiming interim gold in 2018) as a tune-up that deserves to be punished.


Covington would be an apt litmus test for Rakhmonov, who is an elite grappler, too. In his 18 fights undefeated thus far, Rakhmonov has 10 submission victories, often toying with opponents, picking when to wrestle, and sometimes not even doing it for fun. It’s as if he wants to even out the fight and give the other person a chance.


Now is the time for Covington to show he can stymie the rise of this kind of challenger. Covington once Rakhmonov a “nobody,” setting up a situation where he could stop Rakhmonov from trying to take his spot. As for Rakhmonov, a win over Covington adds to his legitimacy and gives him a contender shine in a bout that will be high-traction. Because, like his style or not, people do tune in for Covington’s antics.


This time, though, Covington will be facing someone not into trash talk, which could throw the American’s pre-fight game off. It leaves nothing more but to work it out in the cage — something Covington has struggled to do against the division’s best recently. In the process, this creates the stage for the All-American wrestler to show he is far from being a mid-card name or a gatekeeper.

A Colby Covington Fight Does Shavkat and the UFC An Immense Favor

Colby vs. Shavkat Either Builds a Star Or Breaks One

Shavkat Rakhmonov wears his iconic hat

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Should Covington win, he reminds the MMA world they need to buy into his hype and chaos. This would make him a bigger heel than ever, which will keep drawing viewers. It’ll feed his ego more, motivating Covington to keep working that patriotic gimmick on the media circuit.


Rest assured, with the American elections hyping up, this fight potentially happening in June during International Fight Week would be Covington’s dream come true. If Covington loses, conversely, the UFC builds Rakhmonov and his super-stardom exponentially.


He’s already a media darling, neutral MMA fans have touted him as the next big thing for some time, and even White believes he is a future champion. Simply put, UFC gets a clean-cut international asset to market, while a profane, caustic and at-times liability in Covington is shunted closer towards that door of obscurity.


Ultimately, it’s the perfect case of out with the old, and in with the new, with Rakhmonov earning his title shot the right way. It brings the idea of meritocracy to light again, and reiterates UFC doesn’t need incendiary moments and distasteful rants to win audiences over.

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