After a four-week run in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on pay-per-view (PPV) this weekend (Sat., March 18, 2023) ... and its going across the pond to London, England. In UFC 286’s main event, Leon Edwards will defend his Welterweight championship against 170-pound rival, Kamaru Usman, in a must-watch trilogy bout.
UFC 286’s PPV card is also loaded with European talent, so before it goes down, let's check out some random storylines, tidbits, and statistics ahead of showtime.
Let's start with the obvious. Edwards and Usman have fought twice before. Their first fight occurred at UFC on FOX 17 in Dec. 2015. Usman won via unanimous decision. Seven years later, Edwards got his revenge, sleeping Usman with the “Knockout of the Year” winner (watch highlights).
Leon Goin’ Home
"Rocky" hasn't fought in London since 2019, when he defeated Gunnar Nelson. He was supposed to headline The O2 in 2020 against Tyrone Woodley; however, COVID-19 stopped that as the entire card was canceled.
Protected By London
Edwards is also undefeated when fighting in London ...
Leon Edwards hasn’t fought in London since 2019.— MMA Mania (@mmamania) March 14, 2023
He was supposed to headline the O2 Arena in March 2020 against Woodley but the card got canceled. pic.twitter.com/WmaJC6qIeN
Immediate Rematch Curse?
Usman tries to reclaim the 170-pound title he defended five times furing his reign this weekend, but, the odds, surprisingly, are not good.
The official money line has him as a -245 favorite over Edwards; however, UFC fighters are 3-11 in immediate title rematches. The only three fighters to win the belt back in immediate rematches are Deiveson Figueiredo, Amanda Nunes and Randy Couture.
Trevor Whittman Double Duty
It is not rare for a coach to pull double duty on a single card, but Trevor Whittman often does it in a championship fight and another big fight. The 2021 “Coach of the Year” usually has great success; however, in his last double duty, he came up short.
At UFC 268 in 2021, all three of his fighters — Usman, Rose Namajunas and Justin Gaethje — were victorious (Usman and Namajuanas also won at 261). Last year at UFC 274, Namajunas lost her belt and Gaethje lost his title fight.
On Saturday, Usman tries to reclaim his title and Gaethje attempts to protect his No. 3 ranking.
Trevor Whittman’s latest multiple single-night fight duty:— MMA Mania (@mmamania) March 16, 2023
UFC 261: Usman W Rose W
UFC 268: Usman W Rose W Gaethje W
UFC 274: Rose L Gaethje L#UFC286: Usman _ Gaethje _
Battle Of Fixed Broken Beaks
In UFC 286’s PPV co-main event, Gaethje — a former interim Lightweight champion — faces top-ranked contender, Rafael Fiziev, in what could be the “Fight of the Year.” After Fiziev's knockout win over Rafael dos Anjos (watch it), he called out “Highlight;” however, he knew the fight wouldn't materialize until he fixed his broken nose. It turns out Gaethje got his nose fixed after years of ignoring it, too.
Perfect timing Let’s find out who’s nose job is better @Justin_Gaethje pic.twitter.com/hasx9yzCz2— Rafael “Ataman” Fiziev (@RafaelFiziev) July 15, 2022
The "King" Returns
After a phenomenal rookie year in 2021, "King" Casey O'Neill returns to action after a nasty knee injury sidelined her for the entirety of 2022.vIt was a brutal layoff for the 25-year-old fighter, but she told MMAmania.com that the year layoff was a blessing in disguise.
O'Neill is undefeated (9-0, 4-0 in UFC) with three finishes. In her last outing, she retired MMA pioneer Roxanne Modaferri at UFC 271. "King" wastes no time getting back to action against former Flyweight title challenger, Jennifer Maia, on UFC 286’s PPV main card.
Check out our exclusive interview with O'Neill.
Another fighter that is coming off a layoff is Joanne Wood. She last fought in March 2022 against current Flyweight champion, Alexa Grasso, suffering a first round submission loss (watch highlights).
There has been a narrative that Wood got released or retired after her most recent fight; however, that isn't the case. Instead, the 37-year-old fighter decided to take some time off to heal lingering injuries and remove herself from the rankings to let the division move.
Her husband and head coach, John Wood, confirmed it on Twitter shortly after her last fight.
Lol… she’s not been removed… she’s still under contract and is taking time off to heal some ongoing injuries… she was removed from the rankings so the division can move on without holding anyone back!— John Wood (@bigwoodmma) July 12, 2022
“JoJo” faces Luana Carolina on the “Prelims” under card.
Scotland In The House
Three Scottish-born fighters are set to compete on Saturday's card:
- Chris Duncan (Octagon debut)
Featherweight "Tank" Incoming
After nine fights at Bantamweight, Jack Shore is moving to Featherweight to fight Makwan Amirkhani. The 28-year-old Welsh fighter started his career at 145 pounds, competing at that weight seven times.
Shore told MMAmania,com that he has been thinking about moving to Featherweight for awhile now because the weight cut to Bantamweight was getting very hard and was really affecting his performances ... even his wins.
Shore suffered his first professional loss in his last outing at UFC Long Island against Ricky Simon (watch highlights).
I cannot lie: before Roman Dolizde's knockout of Kyle Daukaus at UFC Austin, I could not care less to watch him fight because his previous three fights were snoozers. Boy, thankfully, I was dead wrong because now he is must-watch TV and has returned to his finishing ways.
After his brutal knockout of Daukaus (Watch!), he slept Phil Hawes (Watch!), and then most recently, he finished Jack Hermannsson (Watch!) on short notice to earn his top 10 ranking.
On Saturday, he tries to crack the Top 5 by taking out Marvin Vettori, who has never been finished.
Lerone Murphy FINALLY Gets A Fight
It has been waaaay too long since Lerone Murphy has competed inside the Octagon. He was last in action at UFC 267 against Amirkahni in Sept. 2021, where he brutally knocked him out on short notice (watch highlights).
Murphy was scheduled to face Nate Landwehr last March, but an injury forced him to withdraw.
"The Miracle" had a scary couple of weeks leading up to this weekend after his original opponent, Nathanial Wood, pulled out. He got an opponent, thankfully, as LFA Featherweight champion, Gabriel Santos, has stepped up on short notice to fight him.
Oh, and it is Murphy's first fight in London since signing with UFC.
Two Chris Duncans are fighting this weekend!
Christian Leroy Duncan is the latest Cage Warriors champion to move to UFC. He is 27 years old and has finished six of his seven fights — he is one to watch.
Chris Duncan, meanwhile, is making his UFC debut following his incredible come-from-behind knockout on Dana White's Contender Series.
That. Was. INSANE!!!! @TheProblem155 just closed the show with a ! #DWCS pic.twitter.com/ZjYBPF9DnF— UFC (@ufc) August 3, 2022
Speaking of UFC debuts.....
Welcome To UFC
Six fighters make their UFC debut this weekend at UFC 286.
- [Christian] Duncan (7-0) fights Dusko Todorovic
- [Chris] Duncan (9-1) takes on Omar Morales
- Sam Patterson (10-1-1) fights fellow newcomer Yanal Ashmoz (6-0)
- Jafel Filho (14-2) fights Muhammad Mokaev
- Santos (10-0) takes on Lerone Murphy
TUF Winner Welcomes Back Veronica Hardy
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 30 winner, Juliana Miller, finally makes her true UFC debut this weekend against Veronica Hardy, who is coming off a three-year layoff.
Miller is coming off a third round technical knockout win over Brogan Walker in which she hit the legendary D-X crotch chop afterward (watch it).
Hardy has been on the sidelines dealing with injuries and concussion symptoms since her loss to Bea Malecki at UFC Fight Night 170 in March 2020.
Americans In London
Four Americans are entering enemy territory this weekend: Usman, Gaethje, Miller and Bryan Barberena.
Good luck, lads.
Winners And Losers
Nineteen fighters are coming off wins, while 11 fighters are coming off losses.
Here are the divisions that will be on display this Saturday:
- Two Middleweight fights
- Two Welterweight fights
- Four Lightweight fights
- Two Featherweight fights
- Two men's Flyweight fights
- Three women's Flyweight fights
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.