On March 8th, Britain’s Leon Edwards headed into his rematch against Kamaru Usman looking for vindication. ‘Rocky’, as he’s affectionately known by his adoring public, had knocked out the same opponent in August 2022 to secure the UFC World Welterweight Championship. But many thought that the 31-year-old Brit had been somewhat lucky to pick up that victory, knocking his opponent out in the fifth and final round at UFC 278 while trailing on the scorecards. The online betting odds comparisons by oddschecker reflected the MMA community’s sentiments, and made the champion the underdog for his rematch against the Nigerian Nightmare.
But with the rematch taking place in London, England, in a card built around the hometown hero, there was no way Edwards could lose. He was on the hunt for vindication, while Usman – who was the consensus pound-for-pound king prior to his shocking defeat in Salt Lake City – was looking for vengeance. Something had to give at London’s O2 Arena, and one gladiator would walk away empty-handed, while the other would emerge as the undisputed king of the welterweight division.
Just as he did seven months prior, Edwards did enough to get the job done. But how did he do it? Here is a full breakdown of Leon Edwards’ back-to-back victories over Kamaru Usman.
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman 3 – UFC 286 – March 2023
Jamaican-born Brit Leon Edwards has been British martial arts’ shining star for a number of years now. He has picked up notable victories against the likes of Nate Diaz, Rafael Dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone. But it took a long time for him to finally get his title shot. The champion, Kamaru Usman, had been handling business with Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal, while Edwards had to patiently wait for his opportunity.
When his chance came, he wouldn’t take it for granted, and with one swift head kick, he sent the champion into the shadow realm and secured his seat as the greatest 170-pound fighter on the planet. We’ll have more on that particular victory later. But in the meantime, let’s talk about Edwards vs Usman 3, which took place on March 18th inside London’s O2 Arena.
Heading into the contest, Edwards was out to prove that his victory was no fluke. And the reams of training footage showing that Rocky and his team had drilled that head kick over and over would suggest that it indeed was no fluke. But Kamaru Usman and his team felt that there was no way Edwards would be able to pull out the victory. In the prefight press conference, the former champion mocked the champion’s cornerman, who repeatedly told his fighter in Salt Lake City: “You’re letting him bully you, son.” Usman would then say “…and you’re going to get bullied again.”
But on this night, Leon Edwards proved that he was the better fighter. Once the first bell sounded, the champion attacked the challenger with a plethora of hard leg and body kicks, which were visibly making the Usman wince in agony. Usman would shoot for takedowns, but Edwards was staunch in his defense and remained on his feet for the vast majority of the bout.
In the third round, the home favorite had a point deducted for grabbing the fence and thus avoiding being taken down. Many thought that may swing the tide in the favor of the challenger. Thanks to the point deduction, Edward would need to win at least three rounds just to secure a draw. He would do better than that though.
His sharper shooting from the outside and his staunch takedown defense would secure him four rounds on two judges’ scorecards, which would give the challenger just one round. That was enough to secure Leon Edwards a second consecutive victory over Kamaru Usman, this time by majority decision, and secure his status as the greatest welterweight on the planet. And it remains to be seen how his star may rise from here.
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Kamaru Usman vs Leon Edwards 2 – UFC 278 – August 2022
Back in December 2015, Leon Edwards suffered the third defeat of his career when he was handed a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Kamaru Usman. In the years that followed, Usman would usurp Tyron Woodley as the welterweight champion of the world, while Edwards would rack up a monstrous winning streak of his own.
After the Nigerian Nightmare had defeated a murderer’s row of opponents, Edwards would finally get his shot at UFC 278, seven years on from their previous bout. In the years that passed, the British fighter had become a problem in Usman’s division and hadn’t suffered a single defeat since that painful December evening. He knew his and Usman’s paths would cross once more, and that is exactly what happened.
Heading into the contest, Usman was a heavy betting favorite thanks to his scintillating victories over the aforementioned Covington, Usman and Masvidal. Many thought that Edwards’ wrestling would not hold up to that of the champion, however, Rocky put those doubts to bed in the first round when he became the first man to successfully take down the champion, securing him an early lead on the scorecards.
As the fight progressed, however, Usman would take over. While he wouldn’t inflict significant amounts of damage on the challenger, he was the man in control, and as the fight entered the fifth round, everyone know that Edwards would need a miracle to secure the victory. And that miracle came with barely a minute remaining.
Edwards would find a head kick from out of nowhere which connected flush on Usman’s chin, knocking him out cold. The Vivint Arena in Utah erupted and a new welterweight champion of the world had been crowned, and his name was Leon Edwards.
The Birmingham, England native became just the second British World Champion following in the footsteps of Michael Bisping. ‘The Count’ notched his name into the record books six months prior to Leon Edwards’ last professional defeat by defeating Luke Rockhold with a first-round knockout, and that will be played in the same highlight reel as Edwards’ head kick for years to come.