Once again, fight fans are blessed with a big, big day—my kind of day. Today gives us a huge heavyweight showdown in boxing, along with some entertainment across the pond in BKFC and the return of the UFC’s pound-for-pound king. The breakdown is below, with picks in bold.
Usyk V. Joshua
First, we start in Saudi Arabia, for a rematch for the WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles. Oleksandr Usyk will defend his newly-won belts against the man he took them from back in September of last year, Anthony Joshua.
The first fight was a surprise to most (but—crucially—not me). The former cruiserweight, Usyk, went up in weight to challenge one of the heavyweight kingpins. Joshua, who was once seen as the future of the heavyweight division, was thought to be too big and too strong for the smaller Usyk. Many thought Joshua would walk through his challenger and set up the mega fight with Tyson Fury.
Usyk had other ideas, and went on to beat Joshua in fairly comfortable fashion.
It will be interesting to see the adjustments each fighter has made for the rematch. Joshua has the most work to do if he wants to reclaim his spot on the heavyweight throne. Although he is shaped like an action figure, Joshua has some glaring holes in his game. He stands upright and fights very tall, and he doesn’t move well laterally. Teddy Atlas once said, “He fights like a skyscraper, but the only problem is skyscrapers have a lot of windows to break.”
Joshua will have to be better with his movement and try to cut Usyk off as opposed to chasing him, looking to land that big shot. Joshua also needs to be prepared for a 12-round fight. In the first tilt, Joshua looked gassed at the end of the fight and there were a couple rounds at the end where Usyk could have finished the champ if he had just a few more seconds.
Joshua has responded to adversity before. He bounced back against Andy Ruiz after being stopped in their first bout back in 2019.
For the Usyk camp, there have been some rumblings about The Cat putting on some additional size and strength. The only knock on Usyk at heavyweight is that he doesn’t really have the power to turn the lights off with one shot. Maybe Usyk hopes the additional weight will allow him to rough up Joshua and help break the former champ down quicker.
It will also be interesting to see if the issues over in Ukraine have any effect on Usyk and his performance. The champ has been active in the fight for his country and who knows what type of toll it has taken on him.
Tonight’s fight is huge for both men. For Joshua, another loss could potentially close the door on any chance he had for the massive fight with Fury. A win for Usyk could propel him to an opportunity to unify the heavyweight titles and maybe lead to a huge clash with Deontay Wilder. I see this fight going much like the first. I don’t think Joshua can make the proper adjustments needed to beat a guy like Usyk. Joshua will have to land some big shots and look to change the fight with one massive blow, but Usyk is slick, man. In their first fight, his footwork was beautiful, along with the angles and pressure he was able to use to break down the champion. The end of the last round saw Joshua needing help to his stool.
Add Usyk to the parlay.
The next stop on today’s world tour of sanctioned violence is more entertainment-focused. Let’s head to London for some bare-knuckle action at BKFC 27.
If you’re a hardcore fight fan, you have undoubtedly heard of MVP, Michael “Venom” Page. The kickboxer from the UK might be one of the most entertaining fighters in all of mixed martial arts.
A cross-over event of sorts has matched Page, the former Bellator welterweight champion, against former UFC veteran Mike “Platinum” Perry, who is also a natural entertainer (Editor’s note: “You thought you had a friend, boy!”). Perry made his bare-knuckle debut back in February of this year after a long, wild, 15-fight career in the UFC.
Platinum won his debut fight over Julian Lane via unanimous decision. Perry is brash and just the type of character BKFC needs. Page, who is making his bare-knuckle debut, is coming off his first loss in his last seven fights. MVP dropped his welterweight strap via split decision just a few months ago to Logan Storley in May. MVP was looking for an exciting rebound and he found it in BKFC’s Perry. Perry is willing to stand and trade, which is just the type of foe Venom craves.
This fight should be exciting. With a willing opponent such a as Perry and the lack of take downs and grappling, MVP will have the opportunity to showcase his brilliant striking. However long this fight lasts, it will be a must watch the entire time.
This one isn’t carried by the sports books, but Page is my pick.
Lastly, we end the night in Utah for some MMA action at UFC 278, headlined by the pound-for-pound king, Kamaru Usman.
The co-main event will see the return of Luke Rockhold as he takes on the freight train that is Paulo Costa.
Rockhold, who last fought in July of 2019, will look to turn back the clock and make a statement in the division he once ruled. Before his break from fighting, Rockhold had struggled, losing three of his last four bouts, all three by KO. The former middleweight champion says that he has made the correct changes with his camp and in his outlook on fighting. Rockhold sees himself making quick work of Paulo and being back in line for a title shot.
Costa, who has also had his struggles of late, will look to get back on track against Rockhold and move back into the middleweight title picture as well. Costa lost his first chance at the title when he was stopped by current champion Israel Adesanya in September of 2020. Costa took another step back in his last fight, losing a decision to Marvin Vettori, a fight where he also missed weight. Before the recent setbacks, Costa had been on a roll. He had cruised to a 13-0 record with 11 of the 13 wins via knockout.
This is another one of those fights where the styles make the fight. Rockhold should have a clear advantage on the ground, but Costa will have the edge on the feet. Rockhold struggles defensively and has shown to be super chinny of late. I think Paulo will have too many opportunities to catch Rockhold on the feet and that could spell trouble for the former middleweight champion.
Add Costa to the parlay.
The UFC main event will feature another rematch for the welterweight king, Kamaru Usman, who is recycling already-beaten opponents at this point in his title reign.
Usman has literally lapped the contenders at 170 pounds. He has beaten Covington twice, same with Jorge Masvidal—and in spectacular fashion.
Saturday, Usman faces Leon Edwards, who he beat via unanimous decision back in 2015. A win for Usman would be his 20th straight victory, an incredible run. It will also be his sixth straight title defense, which will put him in categories with GSP, Anderson Silva, Mighty Mouse and Jon Jones.
Usman’s dominance has been something to watch. He entered the UFC as primarily a one-dimensional fighter with outstanding wrestling. Over the years, he has perfected his craft. The recent move to Colorado to work on his standup with the great Trevor Whitman has placed Usman in GOAT territory.
Edwards, who has been somewhat of a dark horse in the welterweight division, has quietly reeled off nine straight wins since dropping that decision to Usman. He has looked great of late and has beaten some solid opponents.
Edwards, the talented striker from Birmingham, was neutralized by the champion’s solid ground game in their first contest. Since, Edwards has looked better in that area and has even bested a couple solid grapplers, including Gunner Nelson and former champ Rafael Dos Anjos. Edwards should have the advantage on the feet, but with the improvements Usman has made in his standup, I think the champ has closed that gap considerably. Usman will still have the advantage on the ground, but may be more willing to stand and trade than he was in their first meeting.
Usman has several ways to win this fight, and although Edwards has looked fantastic of late, I don’t see him being a match for the Nigerian Nightmare. Usman will look to finish Edwards, setting up the highly anticipated fight with rising star Khamzat Chimaev.
Add Usman to the parlay.
Parlay pick: Usman win, Costa by KO/TKO, Usyk win, add Emanuel Navarrete to win. +211.