Wed, 29 Mar 2023

When Leon Edwards knocked out all-time UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) welterweight great and then champion Kamaru Usman with one of the best head kicks in mixed martial arts (MMA) history, it changed the course of the Brit's career forever.

Prior to that fateful night in Salt Lake City at UFC 278, Edwards' time as a professional had been plagued by injury and late withdrawals from opponents that ultimately hindered his progress up the division's rankings.

Whether it be long-time rival Jorge Masvidal pulling out due to an undisclosed injury, or his fight with Khamzat Chimaev being cancelled due to the Swede suffering from COVID-19 symptoms - it wasn't the quickest or easiest path to a title shot.

As mentioned earlier, he made up for it in spades with a finish that was awarded the UFC's 2022 Knockout of the Year - and in doing so - became the welterweight champion and tied their rivalry up at one win apiece after Usman got the better of him back in 2015.

That sets up a mouth-watering trilogy bout, which has been confirmed for UFC 286 at the 02 Arena in London on March 18. Despite Edwards securing the victory in their most recent meeting, Usman enters their third match-up as the favourite with those who are online betting - with the American garnering odds of 4/11, while Edwards is the outsider at 15/8.

While many would feel that's disrespectful to the current champ - before his knockout at UFC 278, Usman was largely dominating the contest.

His superior wrestling skills and never-ending gas tank caused Edwards problems every round, and up until the last minute of the fifth and final round, it appeared as though the man they call the 'Nigerian Nightmare' was going to achieve his sixth consecutive title defence, all while tying Anderson Silva's record of the longest win streak in UFC history (15).

It wasn't to be, and it's safe to say Edwards has taken plenty of confidence from his upset victory in August of last year.

'I can see it being a totally different fight from the second fight, it's also about how can he come back after the knockout,' Edwards said. 'I can take confidence from knowing that I can take him down, hurt him and knock him out. I can see myself getting my hand raised again. I'm not going out there to chase the headshot and get another spectacular finish, it's just about getting the win.'

Additionally, the atmosphere in London will feel much more of a home ground advantage than the last time Edwards fought in the UK, where he was booed by the 02 crowd due to a lacklustre performance in 2019 in which he was awarded a decision victory over Gunnar Nelson.

However, having won the welterweight belt in the fashion that he did last time out - there's no doubting that the crowd will be electric this time around. Therefore, with a UK crowd behind him and filled with confidence in knowing he can knock Usman out, will their trilogy bout be a repeat of Utah? Or will Usman show his greatness and bounce back to become a two-time champion at 170lb? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain, it will be an absolute barnburner.

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