December in Las Vegas is bound to get hotter! The much-anticipated matchup between Leon Edwards and Colby Covington is officially on the books, as UFC 296 is set to close the year with a bang.
Leon Edwards, the welterweight champion known as “Rocky,” has an astounding record, boasting 20 wins and just 3 losses in MMA, with a 12-2 win-loss ratio in the UFC alone. He is primed to make his second defense of the coveted welterweight title. On the other side of the Octagon will stand Colby “Chaos” Covington, another stalwart with a 17-3 MMA record and 12-3 in the UFC. Their bout will unquestionably headline this monumental event.
However, UFC 296 isn’t just about the welterweights. The co-main event promises to be equally exhilarating. Alexandre Pantoja, the reigning flyweight champion, will defend his title against challenger Brandon Royval. Pantoja brings to the cage an impressive 26-5 MMA record and a 10-3 UFC record. Royval, although the underdog, has a respectable 15-6 MMA and 5-2 UFC record, making this a clash of titans.
The details have been meticulously planned. The iconic T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is prepped to be the battleground on December 16th. Those not fortunate enough to witness the combat live can resort to pay-per-view for the main card. The prelims are expected to be available on ESPN and ESPN+.
Dana White, UFC’s dynamic CEO, did the honors of announcing these championship bouts on social media, sending shockwaves across the MMA community and fans globally. Edwards, who is currently riding the wave as the top contender in the USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie welterweight rankings, is on an impressive streak. He’s emerging from a victorious spell against Kamaru Usman, first snatching the title with a stunning comeback knockout at UFC 278 and then defending it in a gritty majority decision at UFC 286. But now, he’s setting his sights on a new adversary. Although initially skeptical about Covington’s credentials due to his sporadic fights over the past two years, Edwards has since embraced the challenge.
On the flip side, Covington is on a path of redemption. Having faced defeat twice against Usman, the welterweight title has eluded him. But “Chaos” is far from being done. His journey showcases a roller-coaster ride – while he’s faced heartbreaking defeats, his resilience shone through in his fifth-round injury TKO triumph over Tyron Woodley and his unanimous decision victory against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272.
Interestingly, Covington is already eyeing the horizon beyond Edwards. The MMA landscape is evolving, and Covington has taken note. With the recent crowning of Sean Strickland in the Middleweight division, Covington’s ambitions have grown. “That’s the beauty of the UFC, it’s such a pure sport,” Covington remarked in a candid conversation with James Lynch. Reflecting on Israel Adesanya’s surprising loss to Strickland, he opined that Adesanya perhaps took his opponent lightly and suggested complacency had crept in. Covington further declared, “Honestly, it opens up the door for me. I might go up and beat his ass. That guy’s a f—king punk.”
While his words may sound brash, there’s no denying Covington’s fiery spirit and intent. Speaking of his forthcoming clash with Edwards, he proclaimed with confidence, “He’s going to be guessing the whole time, am I taking him down, or am I striking? Now, I’m a black belt under sensei [Daniel] Valverde. He ain’t making it 25 minutes come December 16 in T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada.”
For Edwards, this bout transcends the confines of a mere title defense. It presents an opportunity to solidify his legacy, especially after his exhilarating series with Usman. For Covington, it is a bridge to redemption and an ascent to MMA glory.
As UFC 296 looms, the stakes have never been higher. The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas are ready to host MMA’s final spectacle of 2023. And if there’s one thing for sure, the MMA community is in for a treat.