UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington 2 Picks, Predictions

Nov. 2, 2021
by Adam Lykkesteen
UFC Expert

UFC 268 Main Card Picks

Just one week after UFC 267, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is back with a stacked Pay-Per-View (PPV) card, this one taking place in Madison Square Garden from New York City, New York.

UFC 268 is to be headlined by UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman as he will take on his biggest rival, currently ranked No. 1 contender, Colby Covington.

The two have locked horns once prior, in an action-packed scrap where Usman walked away victorious, winning by way of fifth-round TKO. It’ll be interesting to see what improvements both have made since.

Just before that, we have another high-profile rematch on our hands, as two-time UFC Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas defends her title against the same opponent she just captured it from, Weili Zhang.

UFC 268 is filled with fun bouts and big names, notably Alex Pereira, the only man to ever knockout current UFC Middleweight star Israel Adesanya, as he will be making his UFC debut on Saturday.

Multiple-weight champion and MMA veteran Frankie Edgar is expected to take on Marlon Vera, and Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler will have at it just before the co-main event, in a fight many are expecting to finish inside the first round.

These are my picks for UFC 268.

Kamaru Usman has gone 4-0 in UFC title defenses and three of the wins have come inside distance by KO or TKO. (AP)

UFC 268 Money-Line Picks

  • Kamaru Usman
  • RoseNamajunas
  • Justin Gaethje
  • Billy Quarantillo
  • Bobby Green
  • Alex Pereira

UFC 268 Exact Outcome & Prop Picks

  • Rose Namajunas to win by decision
  • Justin Gaethje inside the distance
  • Edgar vs. Vera - Fight goes the distance
  • Alex Pereira inside the distance
  • Bobby Green via decision

Odds & Bouts Subject to Change - per BetMGM

UFC 268 Video Best Bets

UFC 268 Betting Resources

  • Date: Saturday, November 6, 2021
  • TV-Time: ESPN/ESPN+ 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN PPV 9:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Madison Square Garden
  • Location: New York, United States
  • Odds Analysis: UFC 268 Betting Odds Analysis

UFC 268 Preview & Analysis

UFC 268 Welterweight Championship
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington Prediction

Kamaru Usman is well on his way to becoming the 170-pound greatest-of-all-time. Should he defend his title this weekend, which he is heavily favored to do, he will have five title defenses under the UFC mantle, something very few champions have been able to do. If he defeats Covington yet again he will be tied with Valentina Shevchenko for the fifth most title defenses in UFC history. That’s big.

Covington is not a walkover however, and after bouncing back from his loss to Usman at UFC 245 with a five-round destruction of former champion Tyron Woodley, he showed me that he has the grit and determination to stay in the top 5. Sort of like a Robert Whittaker.

Obviously we will be looking at the first fight for clues as to what will happen in the rematch. Despite both men being phenomenal grapplers, we got a five round striking battle which ultimately favored Kamaru Usman. The wrestling of both cancelled each other out.

With Usman’s first victory over Covington in mind, along with his newly-found KO ability, I see this as a check-mate matchup in favor of Usman.

We know that Usman can go the full 25 without gassing out, and Covington just doesn’t have that knockout ability. In his entire career, Covington has won four fights by way of knockout. Two of those have come by way of submission due to his opponent being injured. The guy just doesn’t have finishing ability. 6 of his 11 UFC wins have been via decision.

Usman has the reach advantage, and more importantly, the power advantage. If these two stand in the pocket and trade, both landing at the same time, Covington will fold while Usman will remain standing. We saw it play out not too long ago.

Usman vs. Covington 1

For paths to victory, Covington has to win on the ‘cards. For Usman, he can cruise to a decision win scoring a few knockdowns here and there, or he could get the finish inside the distance once again. I can actually see him getting a submission too, if Covington decides to shoot right into a guillotine at some point in the fight.

All in all, Covington is most likely forced to strike with Usman here, and the power just isn’t in his favor. I won’t go that far as to call Covington pillow-fists, but it’s not far from it.

Remember that the new scoring system is all about damage. Usman can fall behind on the strike totals and still win with fewer power punches. We just saw something similar play out between Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen.

Also don’t forget I like to put Usman in that Jon Jones category of betting -- never ever fade a guy on a 14-fight win streak in the UFC.

Usman-Covington 2 Best Bet: Kamaru Usman ML -300

UFC 268 Strawweight Championship
Rose Namajunas vs. Weili Zhang Prediction

In the UFC 268 co-main we have the second fighter to be coached by Trevor Whitman on the same card.

Rose Namajunas initially captured the title in dominant fashion against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk back in 2017. Her ascend towards GWOAT status seemed inevitable, until a slam-KO loss against Jessica Andrade brought her climb towards stardom to a halt.

Rose avenged her loss in 2020, and then captured the title from the reigning champion Zhang Weili who had beaten Andrade in the meantime.

Weili is a similar opponent to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, particularly when it comes to volume. Luckily for Rose, she’s had three fights volume strikers (two against Joanna and one against Zhang) to prepare her for this type of opponent.

I believe Rose is well-versed in stifling the offensive barrage that Weili will unleash in the later rounds, with her own power striking and superior footwork. And yes, I do see this fight going longer than the first. Just like with the second Jedrzejczyk match, Rose adopts a more patient style when rematching opponents. She also did this against Andrade.

All of Rose’s rematches have gone the distance, and all of their respective preceding bouts have ended inside the distance. That’s quite interesting.

Namajunas vs. Zhang 1

Weili is a super tough competitor, but I think she lacks the well-rounded game that Namajunas possesses. I will admit that I’m rooting for Namajunas a little bit too, as I hope we can get some stability in what has been a division in turmoil since Joanna lost to Rose the first time. We’ve had three champions in four years at 115-pounds.

Weili’s aggression plays perfectly into the countering style of Rose here. All in all, you can change gyms as much as you want to, and I’m talking about Weili Zhang moving to train with Henry Cejudo here, but it will never fix the fundamental instincts you have in your fighting style. Zhang is an aggressor, and Rose is a counter-puncher.

Going by the tendency we’ve seen in rematches from Rose, I like her to win by decision here.

Namajunas-Weili 2 Best Bet: Namajunas to win by decision

UFC 268 Lightweight Bout
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler Prediction

Justin Gaethje will be looking to bounce back on Saturday after his last loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254. (AP)

Now this is what I call a banger. Rarely have I been so sure that a fight doesn’t go the distance, since Ngannou fought Lewis. We did all end up being wrong on that one though. Let’s hope we don’t get a bout that even remotely reflects that train wreck of a fight this weekend.

Now, Chandler and Gaethje both hit hard, so is it just a matter of who will connect first? Possibly. However, based on what I’ve seen from Chandler he is the one with the lacking toolbox in this fight. The weapons he uses are typically aimed at his opponents head, and almost always either an overhand or a hook.

I hope we get to see Gaethje’s patented leg kicks on display in this fight, because with the right incorporation, this fight can be a walk in the park for Gaethje, if he uses the leg kicks.

Honestly I’m shocked no one is talking more about this aspect of the fight. We’ve already seen Chandler struggling to deal with leg kicks in his first two UFC bouts. Had his fight with Hooker gone past round one, that front leg would’ve been compromised.

Against Oliveira it was the same story. Chandler was actually floored at one point with a sharp calf kick from the current-champion, Charles.

Chandler fights a bit like McGregor has done as of late. He wants to hurt you right away and puts his lead leg right in his opponent’s camp in order to generate the leverage to put you out. However, if you move out of the way and target that lead leg Chandler ends up in trouble.

Both guys love fighting in close range, and Gaethje 2.0 (post-Poirier) covers up well when firing the leg kick. I have faith that Trevor Whitman has acknowledged this factor and has mixed it into the game plan against Chandler.
All in all, Chandler needs a KO right away, Gaethje can work his way towards a finish with accumulated damage on that lead leg. I’ll bet my money on Gaethje.

I’m also not completely writing that Bellator aspect off the chalkboard yet - Chandler hasn’t proven himself in the UFC yet, and is used to fighting lesser opponents.

Gaethje-Chandler Best Bet: Justin Gaethje inside the distance

UFC 268 Featherweight Bout
Shane Burgos vs. Billy Quarantillo Prediction

Shane Burgos, the wrecking machine of the 145-pound division, is back this weekend to take on Billy Quarantillo, fellow brawler and UFC prospect.

This is your fight of the night, folks.

Shane Burgos has fought at MSG in New York City twice and he's walked away from two victories, both inside distance. (AP)

Just going by the metrics, both guys land a combined total of 14.37 strikes per minute, while absorbing 10.44. Upwards of 20 strikes will probably be flying each minute here, meaning a finish could be inevitable. Regardless, don’t go for popcorn during this one.

Burgos is a brawler and gets his work done on the feet. Quarantillo is the same type of fighter, but with an added pinch of composure, technique and grappling. Billy averages 1.66 takedowns per 15 minutes, while Burgos does 0.27.

Since Burgos cuts a lot of weight to reach the 145-pound limit, he usually has a big size advantage over his opponents.

For this outing, he has a nice five-inch reach advantage and a couple of inches in height too.

That said, we have seen Burgos’ weight cutting habits turn on him in the past. He has been knocked out twice and knocked down a total of five times in his last six outings. No one truly knows what effects adding a draining weight cut onto all that trauma has on one’s brain, but it can’t be positive.

Burgos has been known as a guy almost impossible to hold down, but Quarantillo is slick with his grappling. He usually sets up the takedowns off of some offense -- that’ll do him well against Burgos.

Even if Quarantillo doesn’t get the takedowns, the attempts will lead to clinching up against the cage, and that can stifle some of that dangerous offense Burgos throws out.

All in all, a very even matchup between two game fighters. As I said earlier, I expect this to be the fight of the night. Fight of the night bonuses are only applied to bouts where the action is competitive, and if we’re going by that notion, the value is on the underdog.

Burgos-Quarantillo Best Bet: Billy Quarantillo

UFC 268 Bantamweight Bout
Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera Prediction

UFC veteran Frankie Edgar gets a tough test in 135-pound contender Marlon Vera.

It’s never a good sign when a fighter at the age of Frankie starts making leaps in weight divisions, and Frankie’s track record is a testament to that. However, I think the UFC might’ve found a guy he can actually beat.

Marlon Vera is a solid fighter with good fundamentals, but he doesn’t have the power to KO Edgar early, and without that, Frankie can get his wrestling going for him.

The age is against Edgar though, as he surrenders 11 years of age to Vera, along with two inches in reach and two inches in height.

Frankie is used to fighting the bigger guys though, so I don’t attribute much to that size disadvantage. If anything Frankie will have the strength advantage.

We saw Jose Aldo of all people backpacking Marlon Vera for a full five-minute round, so why shouldn’t Edgar be able to do the same? After all, wrestling is his bread and butter.

Marlon is also one of those guys who turns into a defensive shell when pressured. It works well in the way that he doesn’t get finished, but it also means that he loses a lot of decisions.

With that said, that 11-year age gap is significant -- I’ll go even further and call it the x-factor. Edgar is on his way out, and Vera is a tough name in the already stacked 135-pound division.

I’m not sure I can pick a winner here, so I’ll go with the decision prop instead. Both guys like to take their time and rarely look for finishes on the feet.

Edgar-Vera Best Bet: Fight goes the distance

UFC 268 Preliminary Card Picks

UFC 268 Middleweight Bout
Alex Pereira vs. Andreas Michailidis Prediction

Perhaps the biggest prospect of the night is Alex Pereira, the former kickboxer with wins over Israel Adesanya, that’s right, win(s), plural. He has beaten the Middleweight champion twice, once by decision and once by brutal KO.
You already know Pereira is a godly-gifted striker, so I won’t bore you with descriptions of his handy work.

Instead I’ll focus on the big question of this fight, and what will likely be the big question of Pereia’s career: can he be taken down?

Andreas Michailidis isn’t exactly a renowned grappler, only landing one and attempting two takedowns in his two UFC bouts.

The biggest advantage for Pereira is the fact that he comes from a kickboxing background, and not just a boxing background. That key difference means that his shins are conditioned to kick your legs off and into the stands.

Kicks and strikes will be coming from every possible angle and they’ll be aimed at various targets of his opponent’s body.

As long as Pereira doesn’t get taken down, this should be a walk in the park.

Pereira-Michailidis Best Bet: Alex Pereira inside the distance

UFC 268 Lightweight Bout
Al Iaquinta vs. Bobby Green Prediction

After losing two fights in a row for the first time in his UFC career, Al Iaquinta would take a two-year hiatus, leaving fans wondering whether we’d seen the last of ‘Raging’ Iaquinta in the octagon. All of that has been put to rest however, as he takes on Bobby Green this weekend in just before the featured preliminary bout of UFC 268.

Bobby Green is a savvy vet with expert striking. His achilles heel is the fact that the judges seem to hate him. Three of his last four losses have come by way of decision, and they’ve all been subject to lots of controversy. Regardless, this should be a fun bout between two good strikers.

If you’re an Iaquinta fan, that two-year hiatus is not a good sign. In his last two fights, he’s gone the distance -- five rounds against Cerrone and three against Hooker. Iaquinta managed to win one single round in those two outings.

It hasn’t gone Green’s way either as of late, and he is also riding a two-fight skid coming into Saturday’s fight, but the activity is the x-factor here. Green’s incredible performance against one of the biggest prospects, Rafael Fiziev, earned him a fight-of-the-night bonus just three months ago. He’s still giving out these great performances against young contenders. Meanwhile Iaquinta has been sitting on the sidelines doing god knows what.

Bobby’s head is 100% in the game, and he has the striking advantage as far as I’m concerned -- grappling too.

At this level, you’re either in or out, there’s no space for fighters second-guessing their career at the top. Iaquinta has been contemplating retirement more than once, and I predict that determination issue will bite him in the behind on Saturday.

Iaquinta-Green Best Bet: Bobby Green via decision

UFC 268 Middleweight Bout
Phil Hawes vs. Chris Curtis Prediction

Phil Hawes is a guy I’m big on due to his well-rounded skill set. He takes on MMA veteran, and UFC debutant, Chris Curtis this weekend.

Hawes’ wrestling is one of his biggest advantages when he fights, and it even handed him a tough-fought victory over prospect Nassourdine Imavov who is also fighting on this card. On the feet, he has developed quite a bit over the course of his career, and his presence in the octagon reeks of danger. Don’t get too close, Hawes has fight-ending power.

Curtis is a good power striker, and Hawes has been caught a few times in his career before. However, if this fight sees the second round, I don’t see how Hawes doesn’t ragdoll ‘The Action Man’ who is a striker.

I went back and watched some of Curtis’ bouts in the PFL, and his takedown defense is far from top-notch. If Hawes can time his takedowns appropriately, he can win this fight without too much issue.

Let’s not forget that Hawes has some hands on him too. Curtis has to be careful as well.

I usually make the point that if you’re in your mid-thirties when making your UFC debut, there’s a reason you haven’t been signed earlier. Especially since Curtis has had 34 pro bouts. Hawes is just on another level.

In the PFL, the biggest promotion Curtis has fought in, he amassed a record of 1-3 in the four fights he had there. Now, he’s racked up a few wins in a row coming into this fight, but I just don’t see him being at the level of these UFC guys.

Hawes-Curtis Best Bet: Phil Hawes.

UFC 268 Middleweight Bout
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Nassourdine Imavov Prediction

This is a fun one! Two 185-pound prospects, one current and one former, lock horns on the prelims of UFC 268.

The latter describes Narroudine Imavov who has locked nothing short of impressive in his three bouts under the UFC mantle. With a record of 2-1 for the promotion, with one close split-decision loss against Phil Hawes, Imavov is looking to establish himself as the new dog in the yard.

Shahbazyan’s upward trajectory has hit somewhat of a rough patch, to say the least. His unbeaten streak was snapped back in August of last year by none other than the mythical ‘Blonde Brunson’, who took the youngster down and dominated him until the referee was forced to wave off the bout.

Edmen would run into further problems against divisional veteran Jack Hermansson who handed him his second L in a grueling three-round fight.

Shahbazyan has gone past round two thrice in his career, winning only once via split-decision.

Meanwhile, Imavov is well-versed in going the distance and having gas in the tank leftover to work with. He just gets better as the fight progresses.

In round one, Edmen will always be dangerous, but I can’t help but wonder what state we will see the former prodigy in this weekend. He has recently relocated his training camp to the famed AKA, and now we’re supposed to believe he has been reborn as a fighter. However prior to his last bout against Hermansson, the narrative was the same: Edmen has made big changes in his training camp as is ready to come back. That didn’t really age well.

Shahbazyan is still young and he has plenty of time to improve, but his cardio issues can’t be overstated. Get this guy out of round one and your chances of winning will skyrocket. It’s tough to say what the issue really is, because he isn’t a guy with insane punching power, he just seems to be uncomfortable with going the distance.

Imavov having never been finished with strikes is big.

Look at it like this: Edmen’s first round is always his best, and he has never won a second-round or a third-round unanimously. Can you really expect him to win a decision here -- or does he need to finish a young hungry prospect who has never been finished?

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to the betting line.

Bookies originally opened the line on Imavov at -150 (bet $150 to win $100), and all the action is coming in on the ‘dog, meaning this fight is close to being a ‘pick-em.

Whether it’s due to name value or strength of schedule, Imavov is the far stronger side in this matchup, and I like fading the public whenever I can.

Shahbazyan-Imaov Best Bet: Nassourdine Imavov.

UFC 268 Welterweight Bout
Ian Garry vs. Jordan Williams Prediction

The unbeaten Cage Warriors prospect finally makes it to the UFC. He faces struggling contender Jordan Williams.

As long as Garry keeps this clean, and doesn’t make it harder than it has to be, he should walk right through Williams on Saturday.

Williams, the always undersized Middleweight, has struggled to remain in the win column after landing his contract off a DWCS KO. He is 0-2 in the UFC.

Garry is younger, fresher, hungrier, and pretty much better everywhere the fight can take place. Not to mention Jordan Williams lost to Mickey Gall in the first round, perhaps one of the worst fighters to ever grace the UFC octagon.

I’ll keep this short and focus on some of the more intriguing matchups. I expect Garry to use that expert striking and get Williams out of there early.

If not, he cruises to a unanimous decision, 3x 30-26 incoming.

If you’re looking for that final piece to your parlay, this is it.

Garry-Williams Best Bet: Ian Garry.