This past weekend, Colby Covington earned arguably his most impressive win to date.
He bested Robbie Lawler over 5 rounds and won each round with relative ease. But it wasn’t without it’s risks.
Covington was very much in the line for a title shot vs. Kamaru Usman but gambled on himself by taking this fight. A mixture of injuries, disagreements with the UFC and general politics kept him away from a title shot. So he felt he had to get one more notch on the belt.
It may have been an unnecessary step towards a title shot in some eyes – however on the other hand, it may have been the best decision he could have made.
Covington’s high profile win has put him back in the forefront of the mixed martial arts world – again for the all the right and wrong reasons. This past weekend, the performance was an overwhelming positive, but it was the trash talk that had mixed reviews.
When you look at someone who talks too much, someone who promotes the hell out of their fights, are they ever unanimously loved? Even unanimously admired, for that matter?
The answer is no. That’s the fight game. If you chose to be a talker, you have to face the backlash when people disagree with your comments. It’s plain and simple.
The more I watched Covington carry himself in and out of the Octagon this weekend – the more similarities I began to see with him and former MMA standout Chael Sonnen.
The Trash Talk
Both Sonnen and Covington are outspoken. There are no doubts about that. Sonnen may be a little more well polished on the microphone, or at least a little more choreographed. But the two no doubt put a lot of time into their promos, their call outs and their interviews.
Sonnen had this inherent ability to wind people up and remain stone faced. Covington possesses a similar character, but will likely fly off the handle a bit quicker. It’s almost as if Covington is a younger, rougher version on the mic.
What made Chael Sonnen a great showman was the effort he put into promoting his fights. You wanted to see him win, or you wanted to see him lose. There are parallels with that and what Colby is doing now, as his polarising nature comes more and more to the forefront.
The Fighting Styles
Sonnen was a wrestling-first, ground and pound type of fighter. He had some hands, but was fairly limited on the feet. Covington is arguably a better striker than Sonnen ; we saw how he was able to hurt Lawler for stretches on the feet over the weekend.
The bones of both their games is wrestling. Both Sonnen and Covington were standout amateur wrestlers in college, and took that experience with them into fighting. Covington has modernised Sonnen’s game.
MMA has changed a lot in that small space of a few years as fighters have to be much more well-rounded to ascend to the top. They both are happy to take their opponent down, rough them up and outlast their foe over several rounds.
What may compare them most – is their love for their country. People can disagree with their political beliefs, but there’s no cover for their America-first characteristics.
Most U.S. fighters don’t drape the star spangled banner over their shoulders in the Octagon, well, because the UFC is deep with U.S. fighters. It’s an American organisation, with fights mostly held in America, and American fighters fighting one and other.
Despite this, they both make a point of honouring their country flag, with Sonnen even describing himself as the ‘American Gangster’. Covington recently visited the U.S. Navy and is a big supporter of U.S. troops. Murica’ first for these two.
The Dance Partners
I think it’s safe to say that Chael Sonnen will never go down as one of the greatest fighters of all-time. But he fought a lot of features in that list. From Anderson Silva, to Jon Jones, to Rashad Evans – he had a bonafide Hall of Fame resume.
Chael made his name from fighting the best opponents, but more importantly the most unique characters. I feel like Covington is crying out for an Anderson Silva to dance with in that respect.
Sonnen had ample opportunities to fight the best of the best, and even if you knew he’d lose, you held a level of intrigue or hope for him. Covington is at the peak of his career now – but even with a loss to Usman, he can continue to be that type of fighter.
There’s no doubt that the similarities outweigh the differences when talking about Colby Covington and Chael Sonnen. Covington could go on to exceed expectations and win a 170 pound title, thus putting away a lot of this conversation to rest.
But in terms of the characters they portray – I haven’t seen anyone come close to Sonnen’s antics as I’ve seen Covington this past weekend, despite the room for growth.