The scrap between the welterweights lacked any drama, with a dominant Covington stopping Woodley early in the fifth round.
How lopsided was the fight? Covington outlanded Woodley 78-34 in significant strikes and 232-67 in total strikes, according to UFC Stats. On his back, Woodley appeared to attempt a guillotine on Covington in the fifth. But Woodley, who has lost three straight, screamed in agony, citing an apparent rib injury, which forced referee Dan Miragliotta to stop the bout.
Love him or hate him Covington can fight ! @ColbyCovMMA Very hard to see this last stretch of fights for my man @TWooodley. That's like 15 rounds in a row where he hasn't been able to get going. Gotta take a real look at what's next. But great win by Colby!!— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) September 20, 2020
Although the main event failed to meet expectations, performances by several prospects, especially Khamzat Chimaev, were worthy of praise.
After setting a record in July by winning his first two UFC fights in the span of 11 days, Chimaev kept his stock soaring by knocking out veteran middleweight Gerald Meerschaert with a straight right hand just 17 seconds into the fight.
Johnny Walker and Mackenzie Dern also shined at the UFC Apex. Walker rallied in an exciting first round to stop Ryan Spann with elbows and hammer fists at 2:43. Dern, meanwhile, showed her jiu-jitsu expertise by submitting Randa Markos with an armbar at 3:44 in Round 1.
ESPN's MMA experts Phil Murphy, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim break down Saturday night's action.
Tyron Woodley showed up, but Colby Covington proved he was just better.
President Trump congratulates Covington after win
Colby Covington gets President Trump on speakerphone, and the president congratulates him after a hard-fought win vs. Tyron Woodley at UFC Fight Night.
Okamoto: The big question for me going into the main event was whether Tyron Woodley wants to do this anymore. I thought it was a fair question. He showed nothing against Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns in his past two fights. He seemed to accept defeat. He didn't let his hands go. It's not like he all of a sudden forgot how to fight. He still looked explosive. He just looked mentally defeated.
On Saturday, I saw a guy who wanted to win. I saw a guy who wanted to turn back the clock and beat a guy he has had a very long, public feud with. This was not a fun fight for Woodley to lose. This one will likely stay with him. He tried in the first few rounds. He tried to stay off the fence. He was throwing intelligent shots. He was trying to win. But it didn't matter.
The very top of this division is too much for Woodley, and I don't know what he's going to change to turn that around. I don't know what he's going to fix to turn into a potential UFC champion again. Now the question is where he goes from here. What is he willing to do? What matchups is he willing to take? If the UFC wants to use him on main cards against the up-and-comers, use his name to build the next generation, will Woodley be willing to play that role? Will the "spoiler" opportunities keep him in the game? We'll see.
UFC president Dana White said he thinks Woodley should consider retiring.
"I think that [Woodley] should start thinking about hanging it up," White said. "He's had a great career. He's had a great run. He's made money."
While some question whether Woodley wants to keep fighting, there is no question that Covington continues to establish himself as one of the best fighters in the world. He is 11-2 in the UFC, and that .846 win percentage is the third-best in UFC welterweight history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Covington was just the second person to stop Woodley by a KO or TKO, and the first since 2012.
"People love to hate Colby," White said. "No matter what you think of Colby personally, you cannot deny the kid is one of the best fighters on the planet."
Afterward, Covington called out Usman, who stopped him in the fifth round last December, and Jorge Masvidal who is expected to fight Nate Diaz next. White reiterated Burns gets the next shot at Usman's belt, but he said Covington is back in the title conversation.
"Maybe we get [Covington] another fight, or maybe he fights Masvidal, see if Masvidal wants that fight," White said.
Regardless, Covington is a problem for anyone in this division.
What did Donald Cerrone show us on Saturday?
Cerrone, Price trade blows in eventful Round 2
Donald Cerrone and Niko Price trade blows in an action-packed Round 2 in their co-main event at UFC Fight Night.
Wagenheim: "Cowboy" is not finished yet. He didn't get a victory Saturday, but he got the first draw of his 53-fight pro MMA career, so his winless streak extends to five in a row. Over three rugged rounds in the cage with Niko Price, Cerrone showed that his resilience and drive to win are still intact. That's enough to keep alive the career of the man with the most victories in UFC history.
It wasn't looking good for Cerrone early. A notoriously slow starter, he was lit up by Price during stretches in Round 1, and many of the punches and kicks coming his way could have been finishing blows. But despite absorbing two eye pokes, Cerrone was still standing at the end of five minutes. From that point on, he was always in the fight, at times landing the more damaging shots. It was encouraging to see that Cerrone still has that comeback in him.
Cerrone is 37 years old and has seen better days as a fighter. But don't forget that those four straight losses coming into Saturday had been against Anthony Pettis, a former champion, Conor McGregor, a former two-division champion, Justin Gaethje, the current interim champion at lightweight, and Tony Ferguson, a former interim champ. There are not a lot of fighters in the UFC who wouldn't be 0-4 against those guys.
Cerrone might think he still has a championship run in him. That would be a long shot. If you're pining for the old "Cowboy," go watch his clips from 2013 through 2016. That was a successful period for him, with fun-to-watch fights. Nowadays, Cerrone is at a point in his career where a competitive, fun battle with an unranked opponent is all we can expect. I'll take that over having the UFC book him as a stepping-stone for the next generation.
Which weight class will suit Khamzat Chimaev best?
Chimaev needs only one punch to knock out Meerschaert
Khamzat Chimaev needs 17 seconds and one punch to knock out Gerald Meerschaert at UFC Fight Night.
Raimondi: Chimaev's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, said in June, before the UFC signed the top prospect, that Chimaev is like Khabib Nurmagomedov 2.0. Some people rolled their eyes. Nurmagomedov is perhaps the best fighter on the planet. Chimaev didn't even have 10 pro fights. Well, fast-forward three months. Chimaev is the quickest UFC fighter in the modern era to earn his first three wins in the promotion. And he has completely dominated.
One more note: He has done this in two weight classes. Chimaev is 2-0 at middleweight and 1-0 at welterweight. Next up is supposedly Demian Maia at welterweight. But I think his best future could be at middleweight. At 185 pounds, he's faster and more athletic than most others -- and his strength and wrestling seem to translate seamlessly to the heavier division.
Welterweight is also one of the deepest weight classes in the world; middleweight features a shorter trip to the top. On the other hand, Chimaev apparently wants to fight in both divisions. Honestly, at this point, who is going to tell him he can't?
"The guy is special," White said. "I've been in this game my whole life, I've never seen anything like him. He's special, he's different. He wants to fight again.
"When you're a fight fan, a guy like this is the type of guy you love to watch and follow, and hate, whatever it might be. This guy is one of the most special fighters I've ever seen, if not the most special guy that I've ever come across."
Has Johnny Walker figured it out, with less dancing and better fighting?
Walker finishes Spann, meditates afterward
After going down early, Johnny Walker finishes Ryan Spann in Round 1 and proceeds to meditate in the middle of the Octagon.
Murphy: Walker returned to the win column with a TKO after a wild, tumultuous first round Saturday. Although objectively entertaining, it did not reveal much new information regarding Walker's potential to contend for a belt.
Walker has incredible physical skills: size and power that make him a knockout threat to anyone. We saw that again in his finishing Ryan Spann. Walker needed just two elbows and two hammer fists to sleep his opponent while actively defending a takedown against the fence. Takedown defense, though, was an issue for Walker again. Spann went 2-for-2 -- though he paid the price for the latter -- and Walker has allowed a 50% takedown success rate in his past three fights. Spann also scored two knockdowns. Although Walker recovered and showed admirable resilience, questions persist about his striking defense, recklessness and chin. Corey Anderson floored Walker early en route to an upset over the Brazilian at UFC 244 as well.
Walker's stock rises with this win over Spann, certainly, but his scouting report looks unchanged. The tools are there, but the same concerns remain. Also unchanged: Walker's fights are fun to watch. Only slightly less important than being a bona fide contender is being must-see TV. And Johnny Walker is absolutely that.
Is Mackenzie Dern finally on track after weight-cutting issues?
Dern taps Markos late in Round 1
Mackenzie Dern submits Randa Markos with an armbar late in the first round of their bout at UFC Fight Night.
Raimondi: Four years ago, when she debuted as a pro, Dern was thought to be a can't-miss prospect. She was the best pound-for-pound female Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitor in the world at the time and was still in her early 20s. There have been some starts and stops since then. Dern struggled with making strawweight, missing the mark in two of her first three fights. In her second UFC fight in 2018, she missed weight by 7 pounds. Since having her first child last year, Dern seems to have completely corrected the weight issues -- and the performances have continued to get better, too.
Dern once again provided evidence of why she's ahead of everyone else at women's 115 pounds on the ground. Randa Markos is an excellent MMA grappler, but she made a huge mistake following Dern to the mat. Dern, who earned a $50,000 performance bonus on Saturday, is on another level in terms of jiu-jitsu, which makes her a threat against anyone in what has become an extremely intriguing division.