Kamaru Usman wasn’t at his best going into his Leon Edwards trilogy, according to Francis Ngannou.
“Nigerian Nightmare” looked to rebound at UFC 286 this past weekend (Sat., March 18, 2023) in London, England, and reclaim the Welterweight title against the man who dethroned him, Leon Edwards, about six months ago. Unfortunately for him, Usman came up short via a hard-fought majority decision (see scorecards here).
Usman’s typically reliable and strong wrestling game was ultimately no match for Edwards’ improved defense throughout their most recent five rounds together. Ngannou — a good friend and fellow former champion of Usman’s — recently revealed that the 35-year-old could have been better physically.
“I know that he didn’t train,” Ngannou said on his YouTube channel (h/t MMA Junkie). “He didn’t have [time] to train properly because of a lot of injury, but he was there. He was there. It’s a victory, an unfortunate victory, but I think now he’s mentally healthy than what he was before.
“Yeah, let’s see what’s next. I believe he’s going to get it back. I believe it,” he concluded.
The loss at UFC 286 was only the third of Usman’s storied 23-fight career. A five-time defending champion before being dethroned, Usman had yet to taste defeat in back-to-back outings.
One of the larger questions heading into part three of his series with Edwards was whether or not Usman’s chin would hold up after the devastating head kick absorbed in the rematch (watch highlights). He once again ate some staggering shots — and head kicks — but kept pushing forward until the final bell.
“One thing I’m happy about is usually when people get knocked out, they don’t come back in the [next] fight,” Ngannou said. “… He was there. He fought tonight.”
Perhaps that “non-hand injury” was significant after all.
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