Leon Edwards (21-3) defeated Kamaru Usman (20-3) by majority decision to successfully retain the UFC welterweight title, settling their trilogy bout from UFC 286 at the O2 Arena in London.
AND STILL!!! LEON SILENCES THE DOUBTERS!!!! #UFC286 pic.twitter.com/kPEEGQChss
— UFC (@ufc) March 19, 2023
Edwards returned to the Octagon on Saturday for the first time since his last-minute knockout of Usman at UFC 278 in 2022 to claim the title. In that bout, Edwards started fast, was dominated in the middle rounds, and caught Usman with a head kick that put him to sleep.
In the main event this time around, the first round started off with Edwards circling Usman and the pair trading shots in the middle. Usman turned up the pressure bit midway through he round, pushing him backwards while Edwards continued to move and throw. Edwards looked to hurt Usman with a massive sweeping kick to the stomach, forcing the challenger to drop his hands and reach for his ribs. Edwards followed it up with another body kick before Usman went for a takedown. Edwards fought out, got caught with holding Usman’s glove and was warned. He went to Usman’s body again before the end of the round.
Edwards continued to chip away at Usman in the second round, with leg kicks, elbows, and a big knee that looked to hurt the challenger. Usman buckled Edwards knees with a right hand, then took him to the mat. Edwards fought back to his feet, then attempted to shoot for a takedown of his own, who stuffed it. Back on their feet, Usman pushed Edwards backwards again, stalking him around the cage to end the round.
The third opened with Edwards chipping kicks at Usman’s leg three times before Usman yanked him to the ground for a takedown. Edwards made his way back to his feet and with him facing the cage, Usman attempted to toss him to the ground, but Edwards grabbed the cage. Referee Herb Dean stopped the fight to deduct a point from Edwards before restarting things with them face to face. Usman popped Edwards with jabs and Edwards went back to the well with leg kicks before catching the former champion with a groin kick. Edwards again and again went down low, hitting Usman with kicks to his legs and body.
Edwards kept his rapid pace to open the fourth, moving and chipping away with lower body kicks. Usman hit the mat after he slipped on a kick, jumped on Edwards for a takedown attempt, but the champ fought away and out of danger. Edwards frustrated Usman with jabs from straight away, then the challenger earned a takedown. Edwards made his way back to his feet again and went back to to striking. The round ended with back-to-back unsuccessful takedown attempt from Usman.
The fifth round opened with both fighters active as they circled the cage. Edwards opened up a head kick that was partially blocked from Usman, who responded with a takedown attempt. Edwards and Usman stood in the middle of the cage trading shots with Edwards landing a head kick, jab, and elbow. Usman went for a takedown again, but Edwards fought away. Back in the center, Edwards jabbed away and Usman attempted a short combo. Edwards went back to his low kick then landed another big knee. Usman tried for a takedown, and defended successfully again. Usman finally earned a takedown with a minute and a half remaining, but Edwards reached his feet with ease. A slew of shots ended the round as the fight went to decision.
The trilogy bout comes after a 2015 decision went Usman’s way ahead of Edwards’ 2022 knockout victory.
It took Edwards three years to get his initial title shot with five fights were canceled, one fight ruled a no contest in the second round (against Belal Muhammad) and a win in the only bout that counted, a decision over Nate Diaz. Usman was been on a tear since winning the welterweight crown in 2019, earning a decision victory over Tyron Woodley, knocking out and later earning a decision victory over Colby Covington, earning a decision victory and later knocking out Jorge Masvidal, and knocking out Gilbert Burns.
Usman had previously said he was planning to jump two weight classes into light heavyweight, and it remains to be seen if he’ll stick around to try to earn another welterweight shot. Edwards now looks likely for a showdown with Colby Covington.