With UFC 278 firmly in the rear view mirror, the world continues to admire Leon Edwards’s championship knockout. As the newly crowned welterweight champion soaks in the limelight, former champion Kamaru Usman quietly recovers from his loss. The viral head kick knockout has gained so much attention that many overlook how the majority of the fight went.
Even Leon can admit that Usman was winning the majority of their fight. After Leon scored a stunning takedown in the first round, Usman handily controlled the next three rounds. As the fight dragged on, Edwards seemed exhausted while Usman continued to pressure. With less than a minute to go, Usman seemed ready to notch another title defense. Then, however, the world watched Edwards change history with a perfectly placed kick.
The UFC’s pound for pound rankings immediately changed following the fight. In a flash, Usman fell from the pinnacle of the sport while Edwards celebrated the fruition of his hard work. But make no mistake, Usman still showed off all the impressive skills that earned him the pound for pound crown.
Throughout the fight, Usman’s pace clearly overwhelmed Edwards. Even though Edwards has more technical striking, Usman unleashed relentless flurries to back Edwards against the fence. From there, Usman used his suffocating wrestling to wear Edwards out.
Looking ahead, the trilogy fight between the two is all but inevitable. Edwards has attributed his cardio issues in the fight to the altitude at Salt Lake City. Usman, who already trains at altitude in Colorado, naturally enjoyed an advantage in that regard. Edwards will undoubtedly look to enter the trilogy more prepared for Usman’s offensive pace.
Usman, on the other hand, can return to his usual game plan, which proved effective even in defeat. If anything, Usman can look to clinch even more aggressively, and reduce Edwards’s opportunities to find open space. Even if Edwards no longer has to struggle with altitude, Usman’s endurance will likely remain supreme. In both the first and second fights, Usman started to dominate in the later rounds. Furthermore, Edwards has also slowed down in other fights, notably against Gunnar Nelson and Nate Diaz.
Kamaru Usman’s aura of invincibility may have disappeared, but the former champion still has the tools to dominate. He showed championship caliber tenacity, confidence, and skill at UFC 278. To count him out in the trilogy fight would be a major mistake.
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