The matchmaking in the UFC continues to boggle the minds of many over the last few months. The recent announcement of Demian Maia vs. Colby Covington at UFC Fight Night 119 is no exception. Covington is an extremely skilled wrestler with NCAA Division 1 credentials. There is no doubt Covington has the skills to make noise in the top 10, but this is another case of a fighter talking his way into a fight he doesn’t deserve.
Demian Maia has looked phenomenal in his fights since moving to the Welterweight Division, with the exception of his last vs. Tyron Woodley. He is currently ranked number 3 with a 4-1 record over his last 5. Those 4 wins are over Jorge Masvidal, Carlos Condit, Matt Brown, and Gunnar Nelson. A very impressive list to say the least. Although Maia underwhelmed in his UFC 214 title challenge, there are still many great match-ups to make for him in the division. Unfortunately a fight with Colby Covington is not one of them.
Covington is also 4-1 over his last 5 fights. His wins are over Dong Hyun Kim, Brian Barberena, Max Griffin, and Jonathan Meunier. Those aren’t bad wins and he dominated his last opponent in Kim, but they are no where near the level of Maia’s victories. His one loss was in late 2015 vs. Warlley Alves. Covington has come a long way since that loss but the manner in which it happened is what concerns me most about this fight. It was a submission by guillotine choke in round 1. Many high level wrestlers find themselves caught in guillotines early on in their career because they are making slight changes in their shot to avoid this. In college wrestling you do not need to worry about being choked out. I am confident Alves would not choke out the 2017 version of Colby Covington, but as we know, Demian Maia has a level of BJJ only a select few in the UFC can come close to.
The fight has huge upside for Covington, if he wins he is likely in the top 5 or close to it. For Maia it has little upside other than getting back into action and picking up a win. Covington skillfully talked his way into the fight, but it is too early in his career. There are many fights to make for both of these guys not only for the fans, but for the progression in their respective careers. Maia, at 39 years of age, needs fights that can potentially get him one last shot at the title. Covington is still young at 29 years of age, just entering his prime. The UFC would better serve everyone to give him a lower level top 10 guy, even if it means waiting for a few things to pan out first. He is a legitimate talent who needs to progress a lot in his striking game, throwing him to the wolves helps no one.
Lastly, this is a match-up nightmare for Covington. He has shown little ability to be a threat on his feet, and taking down Maia is a recipe for disaster. Tyron Woodley is an outstanding wrestler and he didn’t want to try his luck taking Maia down even when his striking wasn’t producing any significant results. This fight could very well end in the first round based on styles. When Maia most likely walks out with a submission victory, it does nothing for the Division landscape or the fighters in general. It sets back a talented young prospect and moves Maia nowhere closer to a title shot. Everyone involved deserved better matchmaking then what they got here with Maia vs. Covington.