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Masvidal vs Covington: Get ready for the ultimate grudge match

UFC rivals Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington

There is much fakery in modern sport. The rise of social media means anyone can post a disparaging comment about an opponent and create some fake beef (a ‘food’ type, incidentally, that should be avoided at all costs).

But occasionally a genuine grudge match emerges, and the UFC 272 main event in Las Vegas this Saturday night is such an instance. Calling out some random guy on Twitter is no substitute for a previously close relationship that went sour like old milk.

Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington were once training partners at American Top Team, one of MMA’s most renowned training centres. They became close friends on a shared journey to the top of the sport. They sparred, held pads, and attended each other’s fights. And then it all went awry. Covington is a big personality who creates an even bigger persona to sell pay-per-views. He plays the heel role like an old-school pro wrestler, and this helps fatten his fight purses. He called Brazil a “dump” populated by “filthy animals”, all while standing in an octagon in Rio Di Janeiro and surrounded by screaming, hate-filled Brazilians. That’s his schtick, and he does it well.

Masvidal, on the other hand, is the real deal. There is little acting or exaggeration associated with his fight persona. He’s a former street fighter who started out brawling in backyards for pocket change. He once had a bar fight that saw him knock out at least five patrons; no sooner had one guy been laid out cold than another would appear, and Masvidal assumed he might be associated with the last guy, so the new guy was dispatched too, just to be sure.

The beef stems from an inter-gym rivalry, the need to be top dog. There are stories of unpaid coach fees and other indiscretions. Covington left the stable in 2020 to join MMA Masters, and the ill-feeling has predictably grown. It was inevitable that the two men would meet in the ring, and UFC 272 presents the opportunity for a resolution of the long-simmering feud.

So, who will win? On paper Covington is the younger, fresher man, and most UFC betting sites have him listed as a warm favourite. Both men have fought reigning welterweight champ Kamaru Usman twice, and Covington fared much better in those encounters. It could be argued that he won the second bout, but UFC judges are not renowned for their fight IQ and awarded the points to Usman.

Styles make fights. Covington brings a strong wrestling pedigree, while Masvidal is a pure striker who can deliver power from any stand-up position. This was best displayed when Masvidal dismantled MMA veteran Nate Diaz with body kicks, elbows, and heavy punches to claim the one-off BMF title.

But this is a grudge match. The same rules do not apply. Followers of soccer and other team sports will be aware that a derby is not the same as a regular fixture. When Chelsea play Tottenham, it will be a close and fiery contest regardless of ladder positions. There is simply more on the line.

As keen fight fans, lovers of the sweet science, we might be happy to sit and watch the grudge match unfold. We will inevitably have a wager, and the smart play seems to be backing Covington to win via decision and Masvidal to win via knockout. Those appear the most obvious routes to victory and should present the opportunity for a small overlay.

Purists will be happy to watch a high-class contest between former training partners who became sworn foes. In this case the beef is real, and definitely not manufactured in a shady WEF-sponsored laboratory.

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