Leon Edwards RETAINS his title after beating Kamaru Usman by majority decision at UFC 286
Leon Edwards delivered a tactical masterclass over a thrilling five rounds to defend his welterweight title at UFC 286 in London.
Rocky’ claimed a majority decision and the overwhelming tension when the scorecards were read out soon morphed into relief and jubilation inside the packed O2 Arena.
The challenger knew full well he was in hostile territory when he was serenaded by the chant: ‘Head shot, dead’, and Edwards rode the wave of his support in a performance of total concentration.
He stuffed most of Usman’s takedown attempts and landed the more punishing shots in the fight, ending as the fresher man.
He was rewarded for punishing Usman with a barrage of leg kicks, slowing the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’, who marched forward with his usual suffocating style but that march became more of a hobble the longer he was sliced up.
British welterweight Leon Edwards successfully defended his UFC title on Saturday night
Edwards (L) beat Kamaru Usman (R) via majority decision at the O2 Arena in London
Edwards was hoisted onto the shoulders of his team as he celebrated the historic victory
Usman (L) has now lost back-to-back fights for the first time in his professional fighting career
The British fighter came out on top after the five-round war, with the three judges scoring it 48-46, 48-46 and 47-47 in his favour.
Edwards suffered a points deduction during the third round, after holding onto the cage, but still managed to come out on top in the huge clash.
Edwards took the first round after some smooth striking and fierce body-kicks looked to have Usman re-thinking his gameplan.
Usman stepped up the intensity in the second, maintained control of the octagon and evaded the rare forays forward from the champion, even temporarily landing a couple of takedowns.
It seemed as though the third round could be costly for Edwards, with referee Herb Dean deducting a point for him grabbing the fence to prevent being dragged to the mat.
Usman had his hands locked round the champion’s back but Edwards held onto the cage and was rightly punished for it.
The fifth round was the most one-sided of the fight.
Edwards escaped every desperate takedown attempt, slipping clear and landing venomous combinations with regularity.
Still, he and the crowd were unsure who would bring the title home. On balance, the damage inflicted swung it in Edwards’ favour, despite Usman’s pressure and moments of superiority.
Edwards will be glad to see the back of Usman, for now at least. He lives up to his Nightmare moniker and is incredibly tough to beat.
Welterweight is a shark infested division and Dana White confirmed that Colby Covington would be next in line.
Edwards has now beaten Usman on two occasions after initially beating him in August
Usman pushed forwards with regularity but Edwards managed to escape with neat footwork
Edwards hammered Usman’s legs and slowed the advance of the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’
Usman embraced his coach Trevor Wittman at the end of the fifth round of an epic clash
Edwards, it seems, is reluctant to give ‘Chaos’ a title shot given the fact he pretended he didn’t know who ‘Rocky’ was when he repeatedly called him out.
Now the shoe is on the other foot but it seems his hand will be forced by his paymasters.
Covington weighed in as the back-up this week and will be rewarded for his dedication. The controversial American is a pay-per-view draw and no doubt the build-up would be lively.
For now though, Edwards will rightly sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labour. To go back-to-back on Usman, one of the all-time greats, is a remarkable achievement.
This night belonged to UK MMA and the man spearheading the charge.
‘Rocky’ was lifted in the air by his coaches as he came out on top at the O2 Arena
In the co-main event, Justin Gaethje showed the kind of heart that he’s made his trademark with a majority decision win over Rafael Fiziev.
Fiziev started incredibly well, looking sharp and faster than ‘The Highlight’, who was fighting on UK soil for the first time.
The second was tough to call but the final round swung the contest back to the American. He landed a thunderous uppercut and pieced Fiziev apart from the outside, just doing enough to persuade the judges to lean towards him. Elsewhere on the main card, there were wins for Jennifer Maia, Marvin Vettori and Gunnar Nelson, who took home a Performance of the Night bonus for his first round finish of Bryan Barberena.
Source of data and images: dailymail