The next major UFC fight show is just around the corner. This time all the action will take place at the famous O2 Arena in England. The fight card is stacked with exciting matchups of well-renowned fighters, but of course, it’s the main bout of the night that demands the most attention.
Our eyes are set to be pleased by a spectacular showdown between two of the welterweight division’s leading forces, the current champion, Leon Edwards, and runner-up, Kamaru Usman. Both fighters have been on a tear in recent years, and this will be their third mutual fight in the Octagon, which will decide (hopefully) which of the two is superior. The encounter is expected to occur shortly after midnight (from Saturday to Sunday), and as we await it, let’s delve into both fighters’ stats, history, and the predicted outcome of this title bout.
Kamaru Usman (20-2-0)
The Nigerian made his official UFC debut in December 2015 against none other than Edwards himself. After defeating his rival by unanimous decision, he then went on to collect seven more in a row, including wins over such notable opponents as Rafael dos Anjos, Demian Maia, and Sean Strickland.
After reaching an impressive eight-fight win streak in the UFC, Usman deservedly earned a shot at the welterweight title in 2019. His victim was Tyron Woodley, whom he thoroughly dominated in all five rounds to ultimately claim the champion’s belt by a unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, and 50-45), becoming the first African champion in UFC history.
Equipped with a mix of deadly striking skills, superior ground control, and impeccable takedown defense, Usman continued his reign in the division, getting better (and scarier!) after each fight. He managed to convincingly defend his belt five consecutive times with wins over Gilbert Burns, twice against Colby Covington, and twice versus Jorge Masvidal, whom he won with an absolutely vicious knockout in their 2021 rematch.
Seven years later, on August 2022, came the rematch against Edwards. Usman had amassed an intimidating 15-fight win streak – just one shy of tying the legendary Anderson Silva. Another victory was seemingly inevitable as he headed into the fight as an overwhelming favorite. Surely enough, he was in control most of the fight. Unfortunately for Usman, as time was expiring in the fifth round, he was surprised with a perfectly timed last-minute head kick, marking the Nigerian’s first loss inside the UFC.
Leon Edwards (20-3-0)
Edwards entered UFC in 2014. Despite suffering a loss in his debut, followed by another upset in his fourth fight (the already mentioned encounter with Usman), he managed to bounce back and has registered an impressive overall fight record during his career.
En route to his title-clinching bout last year, he overcame multiple big-name fighters, including Vicente Luque, Donald Cerrone, Rafael dos Anjos, and Nate Diaz. He’s proven to be a well-rounded fighter with a broad skill set that includes excellent technical striking and grappling abilities, making him a formidable opponent for anyone in the division. Clearly, his resume serves to prove this fact.
And so came the biggest fight of his career: a rematch and a shot at the title against Usman. The already mentioned last-minute KO that shocked the world became the best UFC moment of 2022 and extended the Brit’s win streak to ten (aside from an accidental eye poke against Belal Muhammad that resulted in no contest).
This weekend, the 31-year-old will try and repeat his last year’s miracle. Sure, pulling off a victory from the jaws of defeat with just seconds remaining is a treat for all fans. However, it’s unlikely that Usman would allow the same scenario in the upcoming fight. Right?
What are the odds?
This bout has the potential of a classic striker vs grappler matchup, with Edwards likely looking to keep the fight on the feet while Usman might want to capitalize on his wrestling background, take the fight to the ground, and dominate with his grappling skills.
However, Edwards has shown us most recently that his grappling shouldn’t be underestimated. He became the first fighter to officially record a takedown on Usman, and, as we saw in their rematch, once he had the Nigerian down, he had no problem controlling him. We might see Edwards use more fakes with his strikes. After all, that’s exactly how he claimed the win over his rival the last time. From there, he can even choose whether to try and set up a takedown or pull off another shocking, unpredictable strike.
A second consecutive win by Edwards would solidify his status as the best welterweight in the division. Meanwhile, a win for Usman would seal sweet revenge and cement his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of all time. We can only imagine Usman’s desire and eagerness to get rid of the bitter “title challenger” title and conclude the trilogy fight with the gold back around his waist.
Despite the setback last year, Usman has earned the right to still remain the favorite after years of dominance in the division. He will enter the fight as a heavy favorite with the odds of 1.41, while Edwards is rated at 3.00. However, both fighters are well-rounded and capable of winning, as both have celebrated a victory over the other. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure – this is a fight you won’t want to miss!