Ufc 296 - edwards vs covington
Photo Credit: UFC

New FSM Preview: UFC 296 – Edwards vs Covington

Franchise Sports Media

UFC 296 set to close the year out with the most stacked fight card of 2023 back home at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as Leon Edwards takes on Colby Covington for the welterweight title!

UFC 296 takes place in Las Vegas on Saturday.

As 2023 comes to a close, Dana White and the UFC intend to end the year with a bang on Saturday night with UFC 296. In traditional UFC fashion, the final card of the year is stacked. From the main event title fights, the star-studded undercard matchups, and some of the biggest personalities in the promotion, UFC 296 has the potential to be one of the biggest and loudest nights at the T-Mobile Arena this year. Headlining the card, welterweight champion Leon “Rocky” Edwards (21-3, 1 NC) will look to drown out the noise and defend his title against the loudest contender in the division, Colby “Chaos” Covington (17-3).

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Main Event – Leon Edwards (-156) vs Colby Covington (+122)

UFC 296 – Leon Edwards vs Colby Covington

UFC 296 - Edwards vs Covington
Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Plenty of hype for this UFC 296 card comes solely from the straight chaos guaranteed in the night’s headlining fight.

Throughout his career in the UFC, Leon Edwards has always been disregarded. Despite being undefeated since 2015, no one gave the Britain native a chance against one of the greatest welterweights of all time, Kamaru Usman. Edwards proved the doubters wrong after defeating Usman with one of the greatest come-from-behind victories in the history of the UFC. After the naysayers claimed “Rocky” had gotten lucky to become the champion, the unexpected Leon Edwards continued to defy the narrative after defending his title with a decision victory over Usman in their trilogy fight.

Every step of the way, Edwards has been forced to earn everything through the fire; Saturday night will be no different as he faces his biggest critic and threat to his title, Colby Covington.

Even though the former interim welterweight champion hasn’t fought a meaningful fight since his victory over Jorge Masvidal in March of 2022, the hype and controversy surrounding Colby Covington has helped him find his way to his third attempt at the title. Though many MMA fans disagree with Covington getting another shot at the belt, it can’t be forgotten that at one point, Covington was the hottest fighter on the UFC roster. During his rise, Covington was known for doing just as his name suggests, bringing chaos every time he entered the octagon.

The final decision in the main event at UFC 296 will grant one of these fighters vindication. Either the reigning champ, Leon Edwards, will once again prove his skeptics wrong and continue to add to his legacy, or the challenger will prove he was the rightful champ all along, as Colby Covington finally secures the title he has chased his whole career.

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Co-Main Event – Alexandre Pantoja (-192) vs Brandon Royval (+148)

UFC 296 Alexandre Pantoja vs Brandon Royval

UFC 296 - Edwards vs Covington
Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

The UFC 296 co-main event will see the newly anointed flyweight champion, Alexandre Pantoja (26-5), attempt to secure his first title defense against a familiar opponent and the fourth-ranked flyweight in the world, Brandon Royval (15-6).

After defeating Brandon Moreno to claim the flyweight title, Pantoja brought new life into a division deprived of variety. The 32-year-old Brazilian native proved to be a threat during a three-fight win streak that was capt off with a victory over one of the best fighters on the UFC roster. Now, in his first fight since becoming champion, Pantoja will face a former opponent who comes in on a three-fight win streak of his own.

Fourth-ranked flyweight Brandon Royval has come a long way since his loss to Pantoja in 2021. The Colorado native fought to make a comeback in his next fight after securing a split-decision victory over Rogerio Bontorin. Royval then started cooking after two back-to-back first-round victories in his next two fights, setting up his first title shot against the last opponent to defeat him in Pantoja.

The familiarity between the two flyweight contenders and the title implications should make for a dramatic and entertaining finish in the co-main event at UFC 296.

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Undercard fight – Shavkat Rakhmonov (-670) vs Stephen Thompson (+430)

UFC 296 Shavekat Rakhmonov vs Stephen Thompson

Photo Credit: MMA Junkie

Along with the title fight in the UFC 296 main event, the welterweight division will be represented on Saturday night by one of the biggest fan-favorite veterans on the UFC roster and his up-and-coming opponent, who comes into UFC 296 with an undefeated record and the potential to take over the entire division in the upcoming year.

Undefeated juggernaut Shavkat Rakhmonov (17-0) has been on a tear since entering the UFC in 2020. The 29-year-old Kazakhstan native has displayed his balanced arsenal during his undefeated career with eight knockout victories and nine submission finishes. After defeating two top contenders in the welterweight division, Neil Magny and Geoff Neal, Rakhmonov will now face his next test in the division against one of the most experienced and admired veterans on the UFC roster, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (17-6-1).

40-year-old Stephen Thompson enters Saturday night with plenty of experience fighting big names in the welterweight division. Throughout his 11-year UFC career, Thompson has faced names like Robert Whitaker, Tyron Woodley, Johny Hendricks, Jorge Masvidal, Gilbert Burns, and Kevin Holland. Despite being known as the “nicest guy in the UFC,” Thompson has been able to hand out beatings to some of the biggest names in the promotion. He has made a career out of his longevity and ability to contend with any opponent that stands across from him in the octagon.

Stephen Thompson will look to prove age is just a number as he enters his 25th professional bout at UFC 296. Across from him, Shavkat Rakhmonov intends to add another win to his impressive career and continue his trajectory toward the top of the welterweight division.

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Undercard fight – Tony Ferguson (+240) vs Paddy Pimblett (-330)

UFC 296 Tony Ferguson vs Paddy Pimblett

UFC 296 - Edwards vs Covington
Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

The second fight on the main card at UFC 296 features two of the most prominent personalities in the UFC facing off to determine the trajectory of their careers.

The hype surrounded Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett (20-3) when he arrived at the UFC in 2021. The Liverpool native instantly jumped into the public eye with his loud, brash personality and ability to blow up in weight between fights. Pimblett had a fast start in the UFC after two straight first-round finishes. Still, the Englishman since has seen a decline in his performances after his final bout went to a decision against Jared Gordon in 2022, where “The Baddy” received a controversial split-decision victory despite many believing he deserved a loss.

With the less-than-stellar performance in his last outing and a year-long layoff, Pimblett will look to redirect the course of his career at UFC 296. His opponent has felt his fair share of decline during this latest chapter of his career, and just like Pimblett, Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (26-9) will look to make a statement in the T-Mobile Arena Saturday night.

Once regarded as the boogyman of the lightweight division, Tony Ferguson just hasn’t been the same since his loss to Justin Gaethje in 2020 for the interim lightweight belt. During his prime, “El Cucuy” held a record of 26 wins and three losses and was considered the biggest threat to the reigning champion at the time, Khabib Nurmagomedov. But ever since his brutal loss to Gaethje on Fight Island during the pandemic, Ferguson has struggled to find a victory. Matched up with a murderer’s row of opponents, Ferguson has gone 0-6 during these last three years against names like Charles Oliveira, Michael Chandler, Nate Diaz, Beneil Dariush, and Bobby Green. His current losing streak has forced many to believe that Ferguson has lost what made him the dangerous fighter he was during his 12-fight win streak.

Both men will have the opportunity to change the narrative surrounding their careers in the fight capital of the world on Saturday night. One will have the chance for a fresh start going into the new year, while the other may be forced to face reality with a loss at UFC 296.

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Opening main card fight – Vicente Luque (+285) vs Ian Garry (-400)

UFC 296 Vicente Luque vs Ian Garry

UFC 296 - Edwards vs Covington
Photo Credit: MMA Junkie

It has been a wild couple of weeks for one of the up-and-coming stars in the welterweight division. Ian Garry (13-0) entered the UFC with an undefeated record and the potential to be the next big MMA star out of Ireland. Being blessed with the approval from the biggest name in the history of the UFC, Conor McGregor, Garry has looked to be on his way toward a similar career as “The Notorious One” after starting his UFC career with 6-straight victories. But, after accusations and controversy began appearing on social media over his relationship with his current wife, the Irishman seems to have become the target of scrutiny from the UFC community, including the other welterweight contenders on the UFC 296 fight card.

Despite the drama outside of the cage, Ian Garry still stands as one of the next big names in the UFC. The 26-year-old is young in his career and is already scratching at the surface of facing the biggest names in his division. A win on Saturday night could silence the noise surrounding Garry and propel him into the top rankings and matchups at welterweight. It will be a challenge to secure that victory, though, as Garry faces the most formidable opponent he has faced since entering the UFC, Vicente Luque (22-9-1).

A UFC veteran with almost a decade of experience fighting for the promotion, the eighth-ranked Vicente Luque has consistently been in the mix with the best fighters in his division. With victories over Rafael Dos Anjos, Tyron Woodley, and Belal Muhammad, Luque has shown to be a dangerous fighter who can get the job done in all facets of the fight game.

The main card for UFC 296 opens with a fight that will have plenty of implications for both fighters. A victory against a top-10-ranked opponent will potentially send the young Ian Garry into the top class of the welterweight division, setting the path for a potential shot at a title fight. At the same time, a victory for Luque will significantly damage the hype train around Ian Garry while proving to Dana White and the UFC matchmakers that he still deserves to be in title conversations going into 2024.

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UFC 296 occurs on Saturday, December 16th, at 5:00 pm PST. Thanks for visiting FranchiseSportsMedia.com for your Las Vegas Sports news today.


-Griffin Kemp – Franchise Sports Media

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