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. 



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.

Kamaru Usman claims he is the superior fighter between himself and Leon Edwards as they prepare for their trilogy bout at UFC 286.

The Nigerian suffered just a second career loss against his rival last August at UFC 278, seven years on from winning their first match.

A third encounter is set to take place at London's The O2 on Saturday, with Edwards out to defend the UFC Welterweight Championship he won in Utah.

Despite having lost his crown, Usman suggests he remains the better of the two, and insists both men are aware of his technical superiority.

"He's the champ, and I'll give that to him," Usman told Sky Sports. "But him and I know I will deal with him [on] March 18. I'm better and the world knows it.

"I've never been disrespectful with Leon. If anything, I've been the only guy that has given him respect all throughout his career.

"I'm not going to start [on him] now. He's said a couple [of] things that have offended me, but I'll talk to him about that on Saturday night."

Edwards is just the second British UFC champion, but Usman vows he will have home turf advantage in London among the Nigerian Diaspora.

"My fans, these are my fans," he added. "Everybody keeps saying you're coming to enemy territory, [but] I'm at home. This is London. These are my people here.

"They love me, they tell me all the time they want me to come to London and put on a performance for them.

"I asked for this, I could have waited and done it in Vegas. I love the support. That just goes to show how massive the sport is and how much it's growing.

"I love it, whether they're screaming for me or against me."

Edwards is also claiming homecoming rights however, and is relishing a chance to fight in front of British support just as much as his rival.

"I enjoy the moments," he added. "This is my fifth or sixth main event, so I've been in a main fight before. I understand it's a power fight, but it's the same cage, the same Usman.

"I know it's going to be crazy, but let's not overcomplicate it. It's going to be a packed arena and I get to enjoy it with my family. That's the only difference to me, more friends and family there."

Leon Edwards called out the doubters after shocking the MMA world with a final-round head kick to knock out Kamaru Usman to claim the welterweight title at UFC 278 on Saturday.

Usman seemed destined for victory and a sixth title defence after dominating from the early stages but Edwards' left-foot kick knocked out the 35-year-old Nigerian with less than a minute remaining in the fifth round.

Edwards' kick caught Usman flush, appearing to knock him out on contact and stun the 17,000-strong crowd in Salt Lake City.

Jamaica-born Edwards leapt out of the octagon in celebration as Usman, whom many considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, lay on the ground beaten.

"You all doubted me, said I couldn’t do it," Edwards said. "They all said I couldn’t do it.

"Look at me now. Look at me now. Pound-for-pound one."

The head-kick KO ended Edwards' 15-fight UFC winning streak, falling short of Anderson Silva's UFC record.

The two had faced off previously in December 2015, with Usman triumphant by unanimous decision.

Paulo Costa got the better of Luke Rockhold in an epic, winning by unanimous decision, 30-27 30-27 30-27, to put himself back in title middleweight contention.

Rockhold seemed fatigued after the first round with the Brazilian scoring the first takedown and delivered a barrage of body shots on the ground.

The American had a moment in the second round, landing a roundhouse kick on Costa, but the Brazilian hit back with a big body kick late in the round after a timeout following a low blow.

Despite Costa's dominance, Rockhold gallantly fought on and landed a few shots but the Brazilian would not relent, capitalizing on a sloppy takedown attempt to close it out.

UFC legend Jose Aldo was outclassed by Merab Dvalishvili who claimed a unanimous decision victory, 29-28, 29-28 30-27.

Fast-rising bantamweight contender Dvalishvili was unable to get Aldo on the ground where he wanted him but outworked him for the win.

When Kamaru Usman steps into the cage on Saturday against Leon Edwards, he will be defending not just his UFC welterweight title, but also his status as mixed martial arts' top pound-for-pound talent.

Usman, 35, has never lost in the UFC, compiling a 15-0 run in the welterweight division since winning his season of the popular reality show The Ultimate Fighter.

After nine wins with the promotion, Usman was rewarded with a title shot against Tyron Woodley and manhandled the champion in dominating fashion, and since his first defence against Colby Covington in a competitive win, he is yet to be truly challenged.

Against an elite striker, he defeated Jorge Masvidal twice, including a stunning knockout in their second meeting.

When faced with an elite wrestler in Covington – who has arguably not lost a single round to anybody other than Usman since 2015 – the champion showed incredible toughness to outlast his outspoken opponent for a technical knockout in the first fight, before completely dominating the rematch to close that chapter.

Completing his championship resume is his knockout victory against Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Gilbert Burns, who figured to be too good of a grappler to be manhandled by Usman, so he instead unveiled his new and improved jab to pummel the challenger to a third-round stoppage.

To this point of his championship reign, Usman has fought specialists, and has passed every test with flying colours – so what happens against a supreme jack of all trades like Edwards?

His British opponent is undefeated in the past seven years, with Edwards' last loss coming against the very champion he is looking to dethrone, going down to Usman via unanimous decision in December 2015.

Why should anything be different this time around? Well, while Usman was a 28-year-old imposing physical specimen in 2015, Edwards was a raw 24-year-old less than a year removed from a split-decision loss to journeyman Claudio Silva.

Usman had grown up as a wrestler, competing his entire life in the sport, culminating in a 44-1 record and a division two national championship as a senior in college before deciding to pivot to mixed martial arts.

Edwards grew up in Birmingham, after moving from Jamaica at nine years old, with no real grappling background, and at such an early stage in his career, he was unequipped to handle the smothering physical presence which Usman presented.

Seven years later, Edwards is a completely different fighter, with some of the sharpest kickboxing in the division, as well as a terrific pressure-grappling game.

Among active UFC welterweights, Edwards absorbs the second-fewest strikes per minute at 2.15, trailing only Michael Chiesa (0.79) who has since moved down to lightweight. He also finds himself in the top-10 for total grappling control time and takedowns landed.

It creates an interesting dynamic, as not only has Edwards become someone nearly impossible to control in the grappling side of things, but he is also an expert in point-fighting on the feet, while being extremely durable.

Despite this being his first title fight, Edwards has an average fight time of 15 minutes and 15 seconds – which is notable considering all non-main events only last 15 minutes. It shows he thrives in long, grinding fights, which he is sure to be faced with against Usman.

It poses the question: What is Usman's game plan?

Against another terrific controlling grappler – Covington – Usman was able to rely on his below-average striking and turn it into a kickboxing match since Covington's striking was also so weak.

Usman's striking has improved significantly, but he will not have an advantage in that area against Edwards, and while Usman is seemingly impossible to finish with strikes, Edwards has shown repeatedly that he is more than happy to point-fight his way to a decision.

So what happens if Usman's first few takedown attempts are unsuccessful, and this turns into a rangy kickboxing battle? 

Does he continue to try and grapple and clinch, pushing Edwards against the cage, using his physicality, or does he try to test out his developing striking skills? If he opts for the latter, he could find himself down a round or two against a fighter who will not slow down, and who has been planning for this rematch for seven years.

Knockouts can be addicting, and after three consecutive eye-opening striking performances from Usman, who has been working with world-famous striking coach Trevor Wittman for two years now, his hubris in his standup abilities could prove to be his fatal flaw against an opponent so skilled in avoiding damage on the feet.

Usman is the deserved favourite, the current pound-for-pound king and the most dominant champion in the male divisions.

But to beat such an established minute-winner in what is almost assured to be a 25-minute decision, Usman must avoid his own ego and steer clear of the striking exchanges that have defined his evolution as a champion.

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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