The night of November 6th 2021 may very well go down in history as one of the best fight nights to ever go down. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lit up Madison Square Garden with one of the most exciting fight cards ever and Showtime gave us the gift of another Canelo Alvarez fight as he took on undefeated International Boxing Freedom (IBF) super middleweight champion Caleb Plant. The UFC started the night with a fight of the year contender in their number one contender fight between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler.
The lightweight fight was the first of the night for UFC 268’s main card and the fight set a pace that no other fight possibly could. Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler used all 3 rounds to put on a beautiful display of fast paced, heavy hitting violence. The two threw bombs from the very start with Gaethje landing devastating leg kicks and straights and Chandler landing overhand after overhand, nearly knocking out Gaethje who managed to recover and take the fight into the second round. The second round continued like the first with the two throwing bombs at each other trying to see who would take the first step back, but Gaethje started landing hard shot after shot, compromising Chandler’s leg and eventually landing a hard uppercut that knocked Chandler down. Gaethje took advantage and tried to get an anaconda choke on Chandler, but Chandler, bloodied and spilling over the canvas, managed to get back to his feet but took more damage from Gaethje before the second round ended. The final round to the most captivating fight of the night opened up with more devastating leg kicks by Gaethje to a clearly pained Chandler who continued to eat damaging strikes, but kept on until he got a good looking takedown which Gaethje managed to roll out of. Chandler then seemed to become possessed, putting his hands down and walking into Gaethje’s range, encouraging more strikes. Chandler proceeded to eat inhuman amounts of damage before the last minute where both fighters threw almost no strikes. Gaethje earned the favor of the judge’s, winning by unanimous decision. The fight was an instant classic and one of the most violent in recent memory and deservingly earned the fight of the night bonus which gave 50 thousand dollars to both fighters.
Next up was Billy Quarantillo versus Shane Burgos which on any night without the prior fight would have been fight of the night. The two featherweights went to war going to the end of the three rounds. Burgos suffered devastating leg damage but managed to pull through with his boxing ability and takedown defense to earn his first win in a couple of years over a talented young fighter in Quarantillo. The fight did not win fight of the night, but the two fighters were taken care of in terms of bonuses by Dana White.
The next fight was in the bantamweight division between former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and Marlon Chito Vera. Edgar found success in quick blitzes that found combination after combination landing on a much bigger Vera who started the fight slow. Before Vera found his pace, he was taken down and took a beating on the floor in the first and second rounds. As Vera found his pace utilizing his reach and strikes up the middle, the third round belonged entirely to Vera who dealt damaging strike to Edgar and eventually finished him via a front-kick to the face of Edgar. The comeback performance earned Vera another win and a performance of the night bonus.
The Strawweight title was up for grabs next in the rematch between Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili and what a fight it was! The fight went all 5 rounds and probably could have gone on for longer. The two were much more evenly matched since their first fight had almost equal significant strikes landed and takedowns. But the grappling favored Namajunas as she had double the amount of control time on the ground even with Weili having 3 more takedowns. At the end of the fight the decision was up for grabs for either fighter, but the judges erred on the side of Rose Namajunas who earned a very close split decision victory to keep her belt.
Next up was the main event in which the long-awaited rematch between Colby Covington and the welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. All the trash talk leading up to the fight would come to the test over all 5 rounds. The first couple of rounds saw a slow start from Covington and good striking from Usman which saw him get a devastating check hook right on the chin of Covington which knocked him down in the second round and then another shot which dropped him again less than 4 seconds later. Colby had trouble with the takedown as he was unsuccessful in almost all his takedowns, but caught an amazing second wind which allowed him to dominate the 3rd and 4th rounds despite what some judges scored. The later rounds saw Colby come back and throw strikes that rocked Usman and seemed to nearly knock him out at the end of the 4th . The fight would come to a close in a very equal fifth round where Covington seemed to have most of the upper hand but a failed takedown attempt after landing serious strikes killed any of the momentum he had left. Usman would win by unanimous decision on the scorecards, keeping his belt and adding to his now 5 title defenses. Usman is now free of many challengers, but upcoming welterweight fights this year and early next year will likely set up Usman’s next challenger. As for Colby, he would have to earn his way back to a title shot through racking up two or three more wins in the top rankings, but I have no doubt that those two will likely fight again as Colby proved in the fight that he has no intention of giving up inside or outside the ring.
Switching over to the Canelo Vs Plant boxing match which also took place this weekend, we were gifted another performance by Canelo and an underrated Caleb Plant. The fight went 11 rounds and was a chess match throughout. Caleb plant sported a Philly shell stance reminiscent of Mayweather which Plant picked up training in Mayweather’s gym for many years while Canelo stayed true to his typical high pressure, but defensive counter-punching style. Plant stuck to fighting on the outside of his range and trying to land combinations when presented. Canelo, as Canelo does, fought in a defensive manner to start, gathering information with each round. Plant outnumbered Canelo with jabs throughout the fight but Canelo landed many more power punches and body shots. Canelo was able to wear down an elusive plant by utilizing body shot after body shot to wear down Plant across 11 rounds and keep him in front of him. As the rounds progressed, the body shots forced Plant to lower his sheltered guard and leave him vulnerable to strikes to the head. The plan worked as the 11th round saw Canelo drop a clearly fatigued Plant with an uppercut against the ropes. Plant was able to find his feet but was quickly chased down by Canelo who forced him to the ropes again and finished him with more strikes to the head. The fight was stopped as Plant was clearly done. With this win, Canelo unified the super middleweight division for the first time ever, holding WBA, WBC, WBO, and now IBF titles. As for Caleb Plant, going 11 rounds with an arguably prime Canelo Alvarez is an impressive feat and as a still young 29-year-old fighter, there is no doubt that one loss to one of the best to ever step in the ring will not hold him back.