Kamaru Usman retained his welterweight championship by unanimous decision over Colby Covington in the second instalment of their rivalry at UFC 268.

Usman and Covington went head-to-head in a rematch after the former won via a fifth-round TKO at UFC 245 in December 2019.

It was the same result at Madison Square Garden, where champion Usman outlasted Covington for his 15th consecutive victory – the second longest streak in UFC history behind Anderson Silva (16) – in New York on Saturday.

Usman almost finished Covington in the second round with some huge left strikes, though the latter rallied and hurt the titleholder courtesy of a body kick in the fourth.

Ultimately, Usman (20-1) produced enough to remain the dominant force in the welterweight division.

"There was a lot of trash talk, a lot of bad blood," Usman said in the octagon after the fight.

"I'm sure there's going to still be some after tonight. But this guy is a tough son of a b****. He's tough as s***."

"He's tough -- he's super tough," Usman said. "I wanted to get crazy and get him out of there. But that's not what the best do."

Covington (16-3) added: "Love me or hate me, I'm just getting started. You haven't seen the best of Colby 'Chaos' Covington yet."

In the co-main event, Rose Namajunas (11-4) successfully defended her strawweight crown thanks to a split decision against Zhang Weili (21-3).

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez said he is focused on becoming an all-time great as the Mexican star prepares for his unification showdown with Caleb Plant.

Canelo (56-1-2) will put his WBA, WBC and WBO belts on the line against unbeaten IBF champion Plant (21-0) in Saturday's blockbuster clash in Las Vegas.

Ahead of his historic tilt at the undisputed super middleweight crown, Canelo made clear his intentions in the final news conference before the mouth-watering bout.

"That's the goal, to be an all-time great," Canelo said during Wednesday's news conference, with the winner to become the first undisputed super middleweight champion in the four-belt era. "I'm so proud of trying to achieve that.

"I'm never going to stop until I try my best to be one of the all-time greats. Only one thing goes through my mind, and that's winning.

"That's the only thing I'm concerned about. Everything else is beyond me. The only thing I care about is what's going to happen inside the ring on Saturday night."

Canelo added: "The fact that I can make history this weekend along with Formula One driver Sergio Perez, is very motivating for me. My goal is to make this an unbelievable weekend for Mexico."

The midweek meeting was much more civil than September's news conference after the pair were involved in a physical altercation.

"People are going to say what they're going to say. But I get the final say and I can't wait to prove everything in the ring. I can't focus on what other people say about me. If I listened to the doubters, I wouldn't even be here," American boxer Plant said.

"I've been the underdog before. It's a place I like to be. I like people rooting against me. It gives me extra motivation, but when you're fighting Canelo for undisputed status, you don’t need much more motivation than that.

"Make sure you tune in. This isn't just the biggest fight of the year, but you're tuning in to witness history when I get crowned the undisputed super middleweight champion."

Meanwhile, UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is eyeing a sensational boxing clash with Canelo.

Usman – riding a wave of 14 straight victories, the second most in history – flagged the idea ahead of Saturday's UFC 268 in New York, which would be reminiscent of mixed-martial arts star Conor McGregor's boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2017.

McGregor lost to undefeated five-division world champion Mayweather via a 10th-round TKO.

"I think that's something that [would be] the biggest ever in history," Usman said, speaking ahead of Saturday's UFC 268 in New York. "That's what I'm looking to do. That's something that scares me. That's something that gets me up in the morning. That's something that I might risk leaving my daughter for another 12 weeks for.

"He's a master of his craft," Usman said of Canelo. "He's used to these boxers. He's used to the boxing speed and the boxing movements and things like that. We're different. Sometimes different can be good. What's wrong with giving him a different look? Of course, it's a tall tree to climb, but we saw what happened the last time I was the underdog."

Kamaru Usman knocked out Jorge Masvidal before a packed arena Saturday, retaining his welterweight title at UFC 261. 

Usman (19-1-0) dropped Masvidal (35-15-0) with a right hand to the jaw one minute, two seconds into the second round.

The devastating blow landed seconds after the American had faced Usman with his hands lowered, smiling at the Nigerian. 

Usman has won 14 consecutive fights, trailing only Anderson Silva's 16-fight run from 2006 to 2012 in UFC history. 

"I know with my fundamentals I am the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now," Usman said. 

 

Usman's strike prompted an eruption from the crowd of 15,269 in Jacksonville, Florida, capping an evening billed as the first full-capacity indoor event since the coronavirus pandemic took off in March 2020. 

The marquee fight was a rematch from UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi last July, which Usman won by unanimous decision. 

Saturday marked only the second time in his long career that Masvidal has been knocked out, with the previous one occuring in 2008. 

In the co-main event, Rose Namajunas (11-4-0) knocked out Zhang Weili (21-2-0) with a kick to the head at 1:18 in the first round to reclaim the strawweight title -- the first woman to do so in any weight class in UFC history. 

The American originally won the belt in November 2017 but lost it to Jessica Andrade in May 2019. She defeated Andrade in the rematch at UFC 251. 

Andrade (21-9-0) also was on Saturday's card, falling via TKO to Valentina Shevchenko (21-3-0) in the second round. 

Earlier, veteran fighter Chris Weidman's lower right leg appeared to snap on a kick 17 seconds into his bout with Uriah Hall (17-9), ending the match in a TKO. Weidman, 36, was carried out on a stretcher. 

Kamara Usman will defend his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal in front of a full crowd at UFC 261 on April 24.

Not since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 has a UFC card gone ahead without a cap on crowd numbers, but that will change in Jacksonville, Florida next month.

Usman's rematch with Masvidal headlines a stacked line-up at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, where 15,000 fans are set to attend for two other title fights, including women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko's bout with Jessica Andrade and the women's strawweight battle between champion Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas.

VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena previously hosted the first three UFC shows following a two-month hiatus in May due to COVID-19, though they went ahead without fans behind closed doors.

"I have been waiting a year for this day to tell you: We are back," UFC president Dana White said in the video via Twitter on Monday.

Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry tweeted: "@danawhite, @GovRonDeSantis, and I will continue to demonstrate that Florida is poised to safely host signature sporting events watched globally. Welcome back to Jacksonville @ufc. Let's go @danawhite."

Usman (18-1), who defeated Gilbert Burns via a third-round TKO last month, has made history in the UFC.

The Nigerian-born fighter has won 13 consecutive fights – the most in UFC welterweight history.

Usman defeated Masvidal (35-14) by unanimous decision at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi last July, though the latter was a late replacement after Burns had tested positive for coronavirus.

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