Leon Edwards might simply be the most productive welterweight on the earth. There are few opponents who mix such crisp placing and environment friendly grappling with such enviable ring IQ. The Jamaican-born Briton is in reality the epitome of a combined martial artist, and his skillset would possibly also be unrivaled in eclecticism at 170lbs. The issue is, to turn out himself as the most productive on the earth, Edwards will have to do one thing he has already did not do: beat Kamaru Usman, in the primary tournament of UFC 278 this Saturday.
Edwards, on the other hand, dismisses any perception that he's haunted via his sole defeat within the UFC, one that gave solution to a nine-fight win streak that has after all earned the luckless however affected person 30-year-old a shot on the gold.
“I feel it’s extra only a reminiscence now,” the Birmingham local says of his 2015 loss to the person who now reigns atop the department. “I watched it again a couple of instances. It’ll be two other fights; I feel whoever approaches [the rematch] pondering it’s gonna be the similar precise combat, they’re gonna lose. I’ve actually erased it from my reminiscence, I’m simply stepping into there pondering that is a brand spanking new opponent.”
Edwards began robust in opposition to Usman of their first combat however was once in the long run outpointed, the Briton’s admirable takedown defence and slicker placing fading below the incessant force of the indefatigable “Nigerian Nightmare”. That three-round affair is a part of Usman’s present 19-fight win streak, which accommodates his 2019 name triumph and 6 next name defences.
Usman’s wrestling was once integral within the 35-year-old’s victory over Edwards nearly seven years in the past – as it's been in maximum of his wins since – however the challenger believes he has bridged the distance to the champion’s biggest characteristic.
“I feel his wrestling and what he does is beautiful elementary,” Edwards insists. “He’s not anything like a Khabib [Nurmagomedov] or the rest like that. What he does, he does smartly, however his method and what he makes use of is beautiful elementary. I feel he flourishes on being tricky and being the more potent particular person in there. His final 3 combatants are all actually lightweights, in case you have a look at the construction and the scale of them. I’m one of the vital greatest guys he’s fought, a rangy southpaw, and I’ve were given nice grappling and wrestling. I feel that would be the distinction.”
It's going to wish to be. Usman’s rematch with Edwards would be the Nigerian-American’s 3rd in his final six bouts, with the champion having recorded two a hit name defences in opposition to Colby Covington and two in opposition to Jorge Masvidal – both sides of a victory over buddy and previous teammate Gilbert Burns. Usman stopped Covington within the opponents’ first conflict, completed Masvidal brutally of their 2nd, and stopped Burns of their assembly. Whilst Usman’s wrestling is his most powerful asset, he has added medical, piston-like placing to his sport, with vital energy contributing to his finishes.
Usman’s report and skills have led many to deem him the pound-for-pound easiest fighter on this planet, a crown that Edwards believes he must take with a victory over the welterweight champion. “100 in step with cent,” he says. “They’re protecting this man in excessive regards, like he’s the pound-for-pound easiest, blah blah blah. So, once I cross available in the market and beat him, I need no excuses.
“I'm hoping [I’ll be considered pound-for-pound No 1 with a win against Usman]. They most probably wouldn’t put me there, however I must hope so with the way in which they’re protecting him. After I cross available in the market and beat him, I need them to carry him in the similar regards as they held him prior to the combat.”
Whilst Usman has begun to breach the mainstream, Edwards has lengthy been lost sight of. “It's what it's,” he shrugs. “You cross available in the market and carry out, and also you achieve the enthusiasts’ recognize as you combat. I’m now not actually targeted a lot on [my profile].”
His talents appear plain, but the Briton has struggled to safe match-ups with high-profile combatants. If truth be told, the Covid pandemic introduced concerning the cancellation of a conflict with former champion Tyron Woodley in London, whilst Edwards has welcomed a bout with fearsome, fast-rising big name Khamzat Chimaev, best to peer it fall thru thrice within the final yr.
Edwards’ lengthy stay up for a name shot would possibly were led to, partly, via his reluctance to speak trash to his combatants. “I couldn’t do it,” he admits. “It’s now not my character to head available in the market and get started being a weirdo; it wouldn’t resonate with the enthusiasts. Clearly you’ve were given to speak and promote fights, however I will promote fights simply with reality and my character. I’m appearing guys below me that in case you cross available in the market and carry out and beat the fellow they declare is the highest man, they can't deny you.”
In the end, Edwards’ final win was once his most important thus far, coming in opposition to fan favorite Nate Diaz final June. Edwards pieced up the American at the ft and at the mat for twenty-four mins, prior to being stuck via a proper instantly with a minute left at the clock. A dazed Edwards survived Diaz’s last-gasp flurry, on the other hand, to win on issues.
“This rematch is identical [to the Diaz fight] relating to what number of eyes are on it,” Edwards says. “I’m now not overcomplicating it to make it larger than what it's. Clearly it’s for the arena name, however that is my fourth primary tournament for the UFC. I’m simply stepping into there love it’s every other primary tournament. I am going there to get my revenge and in addition get the belt.”
A win in Salt Lake Town, Utah this Saturday would make Edwards simply the second one British champion in UFC historical past. The Birmingham fighter has spent his entire profession coaching on house soil, determined to turn out to his compatriots that they don't wish to transfer to the United States to make a reputation for themselves. Of a possible name win, Edwards says: “It’d be superb, now not only for Birmingham however for the United Kingdom. It might probably best lend a hand and spur different guys directly to have extra self assurance, to head available in the market and beat those different guys [from around] the arena.”
Defeating Usman might simply be essentially the most huge job in all of MMA at this time. However Edwards, regardless of his previous defeat via the champion, may just smartly be the person to hold out that job.
The Briton does now not communicate the similar sport as his welterweight opponents, however he does now not wish to; within the Octagon, he's on every other stage to them. The one one that is also on a degree of their very own is Usman. On Saturday, Edwards faces his ultimate boss.