Top-ranked UFC welterweight contender Colby Covington seems content on waiting for the dust to settle after the upcoming rematch between UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and popular “BMF” superstar Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 on April 24, but a newly announced fight between two of the division’s top contenders could spoil the American’s plans.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto revealed over the weekend that two of the top five contenders at 170 pounds will be facing each other with hopes of moving back up in the rankings.
Okamoto posted, “Two of the nicest (and baddest) dudes in the sport have agreed to throw down at UFC 264 on July 10. Gilbert Burns (@GilbertDurinho) vs. Stephen Thompson (@WonderboyMMA) has been verbally agreed to, per Dana White (@danawhite).”
Two of the nicest (and baddest) dudes in the sport have agreed to throw down at UFC 264 on July 10. Gilbert Burns (@GilbertDurinho) vs. Stephen Thompson (@WonderboyMMA) has been verbally agreed to, per Dana White (@danawhite). pic.twitter.com/Lv5uEsxqRb
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 3, 2021
Both Burns and Thompson later confirmed the bout via social media.
Burns vs. Thompson is likely to serve as the co-main event for the third fight between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. According to both of those superstar lightweights on social media, that fight is now set for July 10.
While MMA fans are sure to be hyped about that massive main event showdown, Burns vs. Thompson is also sure to generate tons of interest from fans across the world.
More importantly, though, the welterweight battle could have a big impact on the future of the 170-pound division.
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Usman Favored Big in Rematch vs. Masvidal
Usman is facing Masvidal again at UFC 261 on April 24, but the dominant champ already defeated Masvidal last year, and the fight wasn’t all that competitive beyond the first round.
While it’s true Masvidal took the first fight on less than a week’s notice at UFC 251, it’s also true that Usman essentially had the same limited amount of time to prepare for his new opponent.
Regardless, the two will meet again to settle the score later this month, and oddsmakers like Usman in a big way.
According to Best Fight Odds, Usman is around -400 to defeat Masvidal, +300, again in the rematch.
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Who Gets Next Shot at UFC Welterweight Gold?
Short of the big upset, which would likely lead to the third fight between Usman and Masvidal, the important question about the future of the welterweight division is this: Who gets the next shot at UFC gold in the welterweight division once Usman and Masvidal are done battling it out?
Both Burns and Thompson have already had their separate shots at UFC gold, but so has Covington. While Covington’s ranking in the division would presumedly give him the next title shot at 170 after Usman vs. Masvidal 2, the plain truth of the matter is that things almost never work out that way in the UFC.
Look for no further evidence, in fact, than Masvidal getting the immediate rematch vs. Usman.
Masvidal is ranked No. 4 in the division, and that means he got the nod over three other fighters (Covington, Burns, and Leon Edwards) who were ranked above him.
Beyond that, Covington has seemingly been holding out for fights against either of his perceived main rivals: Usman or Masvidal.
Usman already defeated Covington by fifth-round stoppage at UFC 245 in December 2019, and Covington rebounded by trouncing former champ Tyron Woodley.
But Woodley has been trounced by everybody as of late. The once-formidable welterweight king hasn’t even won a single round in four straight fights, and the 38-year-old could be on the verge of being cut by the company.
Meanwhile, Burns and Thompson were both skipped over by Covington as potential options, and now they will face each other.
Will Covington Be Left Out of Upcoming Title Picture?
Here’s why Covington could be left out of the picture in terms of getting the next title shot. Whichever fighter wins the Burns vs. Thompson fight could have a better case on paper than Covington to fight for the title.
The same idea could hold true for the matchmakers over in the UFC’s offices.
After all, the UFC might want to reward the winner of that fight for staying busy and active with fights presented to him and conversely punish Covington for taking his wait-and-see approach.
Look, however those these things shake out, welterweight is one of the most stacked divisions in the sport.
Usman vs. Masvidal 2 on April 24 and Burns vs. Thompson on July 10 are important and exciting fights, and they are booked and on the way.
But important to Covington is this simple truth: The winners of those two bouts could face each other next for the title, and that could leave Covington out in the cold.
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