Edwards retains title at UFC 286 in London
Britain’s Leon Edwards defeated Kamaru Usman by majority decision at UFC 286 in London to retain his welterweight title in front of his home fans.
Edwards, 31, was the more dangerous striker throughout as he prevented the majority of Usman’s takedown attempts.
With the win over Usman, 35, Edwards made his first title defense since defeating the Nigerian in August.
The bout at the O2 Arena was billed as the biggest British MMA fight of all time.
Shocking Usman as he avenged his 2015 defeat, win the title in AugustEdwards became the second British UFC champion after Michael Bisping in 2016.
To Edwards’ achievement, the UFC will host a trilogy of fights and the first numbered show in the UK since Bisping defended his middleweight title against Dan Henderson in Manchester in 2016. .
Following his victory, the Jamaican-born Edwards opened the door to a fight with former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington, who was sitting cageside, but had to fight Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns. He also said he might travel to Miami in April to see it.
“That man [Covington] I have been absent for 2 years. I might go to Miami for a bit and see what’s going on there,” Edwards said.
“I knew it was a close fight, so I knew I had to make clean shots. He didn’t get a lot of clean shots on me. Thanks to Kamal for being a great competitor.”
Edwards establishes premier welterweight status
Edwards’ victory over Usman in August marked the end of the division’s dominance. Edwards, who was number 1 in his four-his-pounds at the time, took his 14th straight win in the UFC, winning the title in 2019 and making five successful defenses after that.
Edwards was first sighted that night to great cheers, and the champion was shown arriving in the arena to the Eye of the Tiger theme. This is a song synonymous with Rocky his boxing movie franchise, which inspired Edwards’ nickname.
Anticipation ran high throughout the evening as celebrities, including snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan and actors Jared Leto, Anya Taylor-Joy and Tom Holland, flooded the sold-out arena for the historic event.
Former champion Usman was loudly booed by the pro-Edwards crowd as he cagewalked first and stepped inside the octagon.
In contrast, Edwards, dressed in the iconic black and gold shorts of a UFC champion, yelled “Let’s go” and gave fans a high-five, earning them an enthusiastic following.
The early stages saw Usman using jabs and feint takedowns to get ahead. Edwards then began to use kicks effectively as the round progressed, landing heavy body kicks at the end.
For the next 10 minutes, Usman continued to push forward for takedowns while Edwards evaded and tried to kick him from a distance.
The third round provided a nervous moment for Edwards. Edwards had a point deducted by referee Herb Dean for holding the cage to prevent a takedown by Usman, but he was despised by the crowd.
As the fight approached the fourth round, the Birmingham fighter continued to scrape with leg and body kicks, with fans attempting to inspire Edwards by chanting “Rocky” to nullify Usman’s wrestling.
Usman continued to push forward, but had limited success in grappling. Many times Edwards was able to stand up and fight in the cage.
The two paid tribute by touching their gloves at the start of the fifth round, with Usman continuing to look for takedowns against a visibly tired Edwards, but the Englishman was able to take away a majority. win.
“London, you are a great champion.”
The win extended Edwards’ undefeated record in the UFC to 12 fights, the last of which was against Usman in 2015.
“He didn’t get a takedown. I had a cleaner shot. I took him off his leg,” Edwards said.
“I couldn’t kick him in the head. He was playing perfect defense. I tried to kick him in the body and legs.”
When the bell rang at the end of the fight, Usman held up his hand in believing he had won and maintained this position in the post-fight interview while paying tribute to Edwards.
“I think I did enough to win the game, but I knew it was going to be a close match,” he said.
“He had a great game plan.
“I have always admired him for what he has achieved. He is my brother and I have a lot of respect for him. London, you have a great champion.”
In the co-main event, USA’s Justin Gaethje defeated fellow lightweight Rafael Fiziev by majority vote in an entertaining match.
With both fighters notorious for their dangerous hitting, the bout was billed as a contender for the fight of the night, and it did not disappoint.
After two close-fought rounds, the 34-year-old Gaethje began to find regular chances in the final five minutes, with a series of jabs and uppercuts inflicting visible damage to Azerbaijan Fiziev’s face.
In a post-fight interview, Gaethje hinted that a final bout for the lightweight title, currently held by Islam Makhachev, may be in store before hinting at retirement.