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UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman successfully defended his crown for the first time in spectacular fashion, breaking open a razor-close fight with Colby Covington with a fifth-round stoppage that may not have put an end to their rivalry, but that certainly cemented Usman’s place as the top 170-pounder in the world.

The combatants traded kicks to begin the bout and then started throwing hands, each having success. Usman began landing more effective blows, but Covington would try to answer every landed blow with one of his own, and it was hard to imagine the two would keep this pace up for five rounds. With 90 seconds left, both took turns rocking each other, and as the round ended, neither wrestler looked for a takedown.

Usman’s jab was sharp in round two, and as he switched stances he kept Covington off-balance. In the second minute, Covington was finding his range again, though, and he got Usman’s attention with a couple well-placed shots. A borderline low kick by Covington with two minutes left brought a brief halt to the action, but it was right back to work as soon as referee Marc Goddard waved them back into the battle, and each had their moments before the horn sounded.

Covington’s frantic work rate dipped in the third, and Usman took advantage with not only punches upstairs, but kicks and punches to the body that were paying dividends in a big way. A kick to the head in the final minute got Covington back in business, but an eye poke from the challenger halted any momentum he had, as the Octagonside physician checked out Usman’s eye and gave the champion the all clear.

Between round replays showed a right hand from Usman that apparently broke Covington’s job, but “Chaos” answered the call for round four and landed a couple hard shots that produced an equal response from “The Nigerian Nightmare.” Neither man was willing to give an inch, but with the fight possibly on the line, Usman stepped up big time in the fifth round, dropping Covington twice.

Curled: Exclusive Sports

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