UFC

UFC 286: Usman out to prove that Edwards' legendary knockout was a one-off

By Sports Desk March 18, 2023

UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards is set for a legacy-defining test on Saturday when he heads into his trilogy fight against Kamaru Usman as the underdog.

Edwards, 31, suffered the last loss of his career against Usman – a unanimous decision back in 2015 as he failed to solve the wrestling-heavy attack from the 'Nigerian Nightmare'.

It took nearly seven years for Edwards to earn the rematch, rattling off nine wins in a row over that span to force his way into a world title fight.

He got his opportunity at UFC 278 in August, and while he showed some clear improvement from their first meeting – including landing a rare takedown against Usman – the champion looked set to extend his perfect run in the UFC to 15-0 through four rounds.

But just minutes away from a decision victory, Edwards did the unthinkable. After repeatedly throwing his left roundhouse kick to the body and legs throughout the opening 22 minutes, Edwards sent the same kick high, catching Usman clean as he instinctively leaned into it and defended his body.

It was a moment that will live forever, with the man aptly nicknamed 'Rocky' coming from the clouds to score a monumental upset and conquer the fighting world.

The passion, pain and frustration from his decade-long journey to the top was evident during his famous post-fight interview, where he stared into the camera yelling, "You all said I couldn't do it – well look at me now".

Nobody can ever take that night away from Edwards, and people will still be talking about it long after both he and Usman have hung up their gloves – but the reality is that his dream run may be in its final hours as the trilogy approaches.

While Edwards has proved he is capable of defeating Usman – something none of his previous opponents can say – it is still hard to imagine how he can win three out of five rounds against the former champion.

The grappling advantage for Usman is significant, and he is likely to lean into that even further after the painful illustration about what can happen if he settles for a kickboxing match.

Even after Edwards fought off the grappling attack from Usman in the first round of their title fight, Usman almost assuredly took rounds two, three and four, and really looked in no danger down the stretch until the fight-ending blow.

Usman is simply better at winning rounds, meaning Edwards likely has to repeat his knockout finish to defend his belt for the first time in front of a packed O2 Arena.

It would be unfair to label the historic head-kick as a fluke, or luck. You do not accidentally set someone up for a perfect finishing shot and land it with such force, at such a desperate situation in the biggest fight of your life.

But the thing about once-in-a-lifetime knockouts is that, by definition, they don't happen twice – and a fighter the calibre of Usman will not make the same mistake again.

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  • Amid a 12-fight unbeaten streak, who’s next for UFC Welterweight king Leon Edwards? Amid a 12-fight unbeaten streak, who’s next for UFC Welterweight king Leon Edwards?

    There is a common saying that you’re not a true champion until you defend your title.

    Well, if that’s the case, Leon "Rocky" Edwards can now officially call himself a UFC champion.

    The 31-year-old Kingston-born British fighter, now 21-3 (1) in MMA, successfully defended his UFC Welterweight title with a majority decision win over Nigerian former Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 at the O2 Arena in London over the weekend.

    It was Edwards’ second straight win over Usman, who, before their last fight, was on a 19-fight win streak. That streak included a unanimous decision victory over Edwards back in 2015.

    With that being said, their chapter appears to be closed with the question now being: who is next for Leon Edwards?

    One good thing about being a UFC champion is that there’s never a shortage of opponents to choose from. In some cases, fighters even get to select who they want to defend their title against, no matter how deserving they truly are of that shot.

    Edwards made his attempt at this when, in his post-fight press conference, he called out veteran Jorge Masvidal (35-16) who Edwards had a viral run-in with back in 2019.

    On that fateful night, interestingly at the same venue where Edwards defended his title, Masvidal, after knocking out British Welterweight Darren Till in the second round of their main event, was giving an interview backstage after the fight.

    Edwards, who was also victorious on the night after securing a split decision win over Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson, made some comments while walking past Masvidal during interview before telling the Miami native to “shut up.”

    Masvidal then made his way over to Edwards and the two got into an altercation, with the former landing several unanswered punches to Edwards, who declined to press charges.

    Two years later, the pair were scheduled to fight, officially this time, at UFC 269 in Las Vegas before Masvidal pulled out and the bout was scrapped.

    Since the incident, their careers have gone on two different paths. Edwards just defended his title and has won four of five fights, with one no contest, while Masvidal is 2-3 in his last five fights, including three straight losses. Two of those came against Usman while his last came against Colby Covington, the man who UFC President Dana White has said is next for Edwards.

    Masvidal is currently ninth in the UFC Welterweight rankings and will need to beat number five-ranked Brazilian Gilbert Burns at UFC 287 next month for the UFC to even consider booking him against Edwards for the Welterweight belt.

    Another contender for Edwards’ next fight is the aforementioned Colby Covington. Covington, 35, is a former Interim UFC Welterweight champion and is currently the number two-ranked Welterweight contender.

    He is 2-2 in his last four fights with both losses coming in title fights against Usman. Covington, 17-3 in MMA, also weighed in as the back-up fighter for Saturday’s title fight between Edwards and Usman, signaling that he may be next in line for a title shot.

    The other two main contenders are Khamzat Chimaev and Belal Muhammad.

    Chimaev, ranked number three, is a Swedish wrecking ball who is currently 12-0 that could be fast-tracked to a title fight despite having only one win against a ranked fighter in the UFC. Him versus Edwards is unlikely as he is currently contemplating a move up to middleweight.

    Muhammad, 22-3 in MMA, could very well have the best argument for a fight with Edwards based on merit. The 34-year-old is ranked number four and is currently on a nine-fight unbeaten streak including eight wins and one no contest.

    Remember the no contest for Edwards? It came against Muhammad when they fought in a UFC Fight Night main event back in March 2021.

    Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye in the second round leaving the latter unable to continue. It was determined that the poke was accidental by the referee, meaning, instead of a Muhammad win by disqualification, it was ruled a no contest. Perhaps those two could run it back with the belt on the line.

    In the end, whether it’s Edwards vs Masvidal, Edwards vs Covington, Edwards vs Chimaev or Edwards vs Muhammad 2, we will all be watching. 

     

     

  • “It was everything and more”- USVI’s Karl Williams happy with UFC debut “It was everything and more”- USVI’s Karl Williams happy with UFC debut

    On September 6, 2022, US Virgin Islands born fighter Karl Williams competed on Week 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series, a platform where fighters do battle to earn a UFC contract.

    The 33-year-old heavyweight was able to secure a unanimous decision win over American Jimmy Lawson and secure a contract with the world’s biggest Mixed Martial Arts promotion.

    On March 11, Williams won his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 221-Yan vs Dvalishvili.

    He was able to dominate 30-year-old Polish fighter Lukasz Brzeski on the way to a unanimous decision win.

    “Have fun and see where it goes,” was the game plan for the fight according to Williams.

    “I wanted to come up with a game plan but I decided to just go out there and have fun. I prepared for everything so I just saw what he gave me and enjoyed,” he added.

    Williams, who now boasts an 8-1 record in professional MMA, was born in the US Virgin Islands and now lives and trains in Atlanta.

    With regards to his UFC debut, Williams says he was in awe.

    “It was everything and more. I’m sitting in front of all these cameras. People aren’t going to see what I’m seeing, but this is amazing. The crowd, the people backstage, everything in the UFC leading up to this was just wonderful.”

    Williams, who has competed at light-heavyweight (205 pounds) in the past, signaled his intentions to remain at heavyweight and return to the octagon as soon as possible.

    “Not at all,” was his response to the media’s questions about a possible return to light heavyweight.

    “The best thing about the UFC is having the performance institute (P.I.). Right after my fight on the Contender Series, I was staying here (in Las Vegas) to corner Chris Barnett and I went to the P.I. for a week and did all these tests. I was 237 thinking I was fat and out of shape. Then, when I went there and did a DEXA scan (scan to test bone density), they told me I had a lot of muscle so it would be hard for me to get down to 205. So, I took the easy way out and said I’ll just stay at heavyweight.”

     

  • Edwards wins Usman trilogy bout to retain UFC welterweight title Edwards wins Usman trilogy bout to retain UFC welterweight title

    Leon Edwards successfully defended the welterweight title as he claimed a majority decision victory in a pulsating rematch with Kamaru Usman at UFC 286.

    Edwards had stunned Usman with a fifth-round knockout win at UFC 278 last August, with Saturday's clash marking their third meeting. Usman won the first in 2015.

    His first title defence at London's O2 Arena was extremely close, but Edwards displayed the greater energy and precision to delight the home crowd and retain the title.

    "He didn't get any takedowns I was landing cleaner shots. I took out his legs," Edwards told BT Sport. "Thanks to Kamaru for being a great competitor.

    "I couldn't get the kick around his head. He had the perfect defence. I was trying to set it up with kicks to the body and legs.

    "I know it was a close fight so I knew I had to land the cleaner shots. He didn't land many clean on me. He just had lots of pressure."

    Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns will face off next month in a bout in Miami that could decide Edwards' next challenger.

    "I might take a little trip to Miami and see what's going on there," added Edwards.

    Usman, meanwhile, was gracious in defeat but indicated he would eventually like another shot at Edwards.

    "I think I did enough to win the fight but I knew it was close," he said.

    "He had a great gameplan. I always said from the start we'd meet again and I'm not done. We will see each other again.

    "I always gave him props for what he's accomplished. He's a brother like myself and great respect. London you've got yourself a great champion."

    Earlier, Justin Gaethje won a thrilling lightweight contest with Rafael Fiziev, leaving the Azerbaijani's face bloodied en route to victory by majority decision.

    Gaethje ended Fiziev's six-fight winning streak and said afterwards: "These guys are young, hungry, that's a dangerous guy right there. But I ain't going to be around much longer. 

    "I'm trying one more run at the title."

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