Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight standouts Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards will rematch TONIGHT (Sat., Aug. 20, 2022) at UFC 278 inside Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
How much has changed in the seven years since these last men fought? Both have risen up the ladder quickly, with Usman taking gold and Edwards circling title contention for quite a while now. Neither man has lost since that match up (well, Usman has never lost in the UFC period), and both have shown significant improvements in all areas of the game. Now, the question becomes whether Edwards’ improvement has outpaced “The Nigerian Nightmare,” because he was soundly controlled all those years ago.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Colby Covington (UFC 268, UFC 245), Gilbert Burns (UFC 258), Jorge Masvidal (UFC 261, UFC 251), Tyron Woodley (UFC 235), Demian Maia (UFC Fight Night 129), Rafael dos Anjos (TUF 28 Finale), Leon Edwards (UFC on FOX 17), Sean Strickland (UFC 210)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Usman is a physical specimen. His combination of raw strength, great cardio and excellent wrestling is a championship-quality recipe in its own right, but he’s grown exceptionally more dangerous since refining his boxing.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Usman really commit to his wrestling. Usman last wrestled for five rounds in July 2020 against Jorge Masvidal; since then, it’s been largely kickboxing for the pound-for-pound king.
It’s time for Usman to return to his roots.
People like to label Edwards chinny, and true, maybe he cannot survive an Usman bomb direct on the jawline. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s simply the better striker, and he has the power to hurt Usman too. With that in mind, wrestling is the safer strategy.
In the first fight, Usman had a lot of trouble taking Edwards down early, but he wore the striker down with consistent shots and clinch work. Even with both men improved, that core concept should continue to be applied here: Usman wants to wear down Edwards, then take top position and beat him up.
Record: 19-3 (1)
Key Victories: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC on ESPN 4), Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 132), Vicente Luque (UFC Fight Night 107), Gunnar Nelson (UFC Fight Night 147), Albert Tumenov (UFC 204), Bryan Barberena (UFC Fight Night 115), Nate Diaz (UFC 263)
Key Losses: Kamaru Usman (UFC on FOX 17)
Keys to Victory: Edwards may not match Usman in raw physical gifts, but he’s a remarkable athlete himself. Perhaps more important, “Rocky” is one hell of a technician in all areas of the game.
This may sound strange given Edwards’ relatively few finishes inside the Octagon, but damage is likely his key here. I believe there is weight in Edwards’ claim that Usman is feeling the wear-and-tear of a long athletic career, which could explain the reason Usman has so frequently opted to strike rather than wrestle as of late.
Edwards’ job, then, is to build on that wear. If Usman has chronically bad knees, low kicks will take effect more quickly. Really, an hard kick at distance is a positive, as Covington did good work with the left body kick. Even if Edwards’ shin is bouncing off Usman’s forearms, that’s no problem.
It’s vitally important that Edwards deters Usman from closing distance. He should be looking to angle off and counter when Usman does press, but when the clinic inevitably does happen, urgency is paramount. Edwards cannot rest with his back to the cage, he simply has to immediately work to break off and land elbows.
The more time Edwards spends at distance playing his game, the more likely we end the night with a new champion.
For my money, this is the best Welterweight title match up possible.
Usman has accomplished tremendous things in defending the title five times after an undefeated run to the belt. His dominance is nearly unmatched (Alex Volkanovski has an argument). Usman is looking to continue establishing that reputation, and perhaps another title defense is his ticket to a big money fight, whether that’s a boxing crossover or jump up in weight class.
More likely, however, the Khamzat title fight is next up.
Edwards’ path to the title shot has been unusual and meandering, but a 10-fight unbeaten streak is nothing to laugh off. The English fighter is in the prime of his career and shown his championship potential several times, so it’s really all lining up for “Rocky.” What better way to prove himself and demonstrate his improvement than dethroning Usman, the last man to defeat him?
At UFC 278, Kamaru Usman will put his Welterweight title on the line opposite Leon Edwards. Which man leaves the cage with the title?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 278 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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