Leon Edwards proved his first win over Kamaru Usman was no fluke after securing a majority decision in their trilogy to cap off UFC 286 on Saturday.
There was no last-minute heroics this time as Edwards put on a strong performance over all five rounds including a huge arsenal of kicks that just continuously gave Usman problems all night long. While Usman definitely had his moments including several takedowns, he just wasn’t able to put enough momentum together to sway the judges in his favor.
When the fight ended, the scores read 48-46, 48-46 and 47-47 with Edwards getting the nod despite once judge scoring the fight as a draw. That secures Edwards’ first title defense and extends his unbeaten streak to 12 fights in a row.
“I was landing cleaner shots, I took out his legs,” Edwards said when asked if he felt did enough to earn the win. “It was hardest fight to this day and I want to thank you for being a great competitor.
“Clearly him and his coaches worked the defense for [the head kicks]. Fair play for him being disciplined all the way through the fight. I knew it was a close fight.”
There was a lot of confidence exuding from Edwards as he looked quick and decisive with his strikes including a nasty body kick that rattled off Usman’s midsection. While Usman was seeking to close the distance, Edwards was doing a great job keeping him away with fast hands and a variety of kicks up the middle.
Edwards was also starting to kick at the legs, which were also causing Usman some headaches while trying to find a way inside. As the welterweights exchanged strikes, Edwards blasted Usman with a huge knee that appeared to wobble the former champion.
Just as quickly as he got hurt, Usman came back and did the same to Edwards with a massive punch followed by a takedown that allowed him to get back into the fight. Still, Edwards was quick to get back to his feet and came right back at him with another combination that clipped Usman on the chin.
As the third round got underway, Usman scored an early takedown but as Edwards was trying to work his way back up again he grabbed the fence in an egregious attempt to prevent “The Nigerian Nightmare” from dragging him back down again. That forced referee Herb Dean to pause the contest and take a point away from Edwards for the obvious foul.
With Usman still trying to bully Edwards backwards towards the cage, “Rocky” looked to chip away at him with leg kicks. Edwards’ kicking game was definitely his best weapon but Usman stayed undeterred as he continued to come back up top with his punches.
With time ticking away in the championship rounds, Usman was constantly trying to return to his wrestling but Edwards was displaying incredible takedown defense throughout. Edwards was also starting to return to his head kick as he looked to duplicate the finish from their rematch this past August.
Even with Usman managing a late takedown, Edwards quickly shrugged him off and kept throwing kicks to ensure he would leave the O2 Arena with the welterweight title still wrapped around his waist.
While it obviously wasn’t the result he wanted, Usman accepted the defeat and he promised to comeback in the future to challenge for the title again.
“I think I did enough to win the fight but I knew it was a close fight,” Usman said. “Great game plan. I’ve always said it from the start, I knew I would see Leon again. I’m not done. I’ll see him again. I’ve always gave him props for everything he’s been able to accomplish. Much respect.
“I’m going to get back with my coaches. I can’t sit for too long. Much respect to the fighters, we put it on the line for you guys each and every time.”
With a second win over Usman, Edwards has now moved past that rivalry as he looks to move forward in the welterweight division. Afterwards, Edwards was asked about what’s next with two-time title challenger Colby Covington sitting in the front row but he wasted no time looking past the always outspoken welterweight and instead turned his attention towards Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287.
“That man sat out for a like a year and a half or two years. He ain’t fought nobody,” Edwards said about Covington. “I might take a little trip to Miami [to UFC 287] and see what those two welterweights are going on with and see what’s going on there.”
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