Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion Kamaru Usman probably felt unstoppable ahead of his Leon Edwards rematch at UFC 278 last summer in Salt Lake City and for good reason. “The Nigerian Nightmare” was undefeated inside the Octagon with six straight championship victories — three of which ended by way of knockout.
But then longtime rival Leon Edwards flipped the script and crushed Usman with a head kick late in the fight, capturing the 170-pound title and putting an end to Usman’s quest to tie (and eventually surpass) former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s record of 16 straight wins. Usman will settle for second place at 15 while five other combatants remain tied at No. 3 with 14.
The upset loss to Edwards was not unlike the UFC 69 main event when Georges St-Pierre, a massive favorite to destroy Matt Serra back in early 2007, was sent ass over tea kettle after “The Terror” landed the unexpected kill shot. It has been argued that “Rush” returned a different fighter, earning the unflattering nickname “Georges Safe-Pierre” for grinding out decisions instead of finishing fights.
Even former knockout artist Chuck Liddell had a problem with St-Pierre’s “safe” approach.
The good news for MMA fans, a least the ones who are rooting against Edwards, is that Usman has no plans to overhaul his offense ahead of his “Rocky” rematch. That’s because he was dominating their UFC 278 fight — much like he was in their first go-round at UFC on FOX 17 back in late 2015 — and only plans to make minor adjustments for part three.
Usman was also quick to dismiss any talk of being mentally shook by the sudden knockout, something that may have haunted St-Pierre for the remainder of his career. “The Nigerian Nightmare” understands why some fans (and pundits) may push that narrative but expects “Rocky” to know better.
“It’s warranted when you’re speaking about ordinary things and ordinary people,” Usman said during the UFC 286 media day (watch it here). “When a trauma like that happens, most people are gonna be disturbed about it. Yeah, that’s when you’re speaking about ordinary people. Leon Edwards and I both know that I am not ordinary. I am extraordinary.”
Usman and Edwards will headline the UFC 286 pay-per-view (PPV) fight card, scheduled for this Sat. night (March 18, 2023) inside The O2 in London, England. The hometown crowd will undoubtedly be cheering for “Rocky” but Usman plans to silence those cheers with a dominant performance.
“It’s time for me to go in there and get violent,” Usman said. “For one, keep your damn hands up, so you don’t get kicked in the head. That’s important. But it’s been from the beginning of my career to where I am now, if you watch the way that I fight and you’ve seen all my performances, how much more do I need to change?”
Usman, 35, stands at 20-2 with 10 finishes, so he probably doesn't need to change much.
“I’ve been blessed with coaches that know how to get to me, that know how to give me directions to where what I’ve been doing is working,” Usman continued. “This camp was basically correcting little mistakes I made in the fight. That was the sole purpose of it. Saturday, once I go out there and correct those mistakes, how does a loss happen?”
We’ll find out this weekend in London.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 286 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 286: “Edwards vs. Usman 3” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated and finalized UFC 286 fight card and PPV lineup click here.