UFC 286: Leon Edwards proves title win was no fluke in decision victory over Kamaru Usman

Anyone who thought Leon Edwards’ victory over Kamaru Usman in a welterweight title fight in August was a fluke needs to think again.

Edwards went out on Saturday in the main event of UFC 286 in front of an adoring home crowd at the O2 Arena in London, England, and did it again. He used his leg kicks to propel himself to a majority decision win over Usman to retain the title.

Judges had it 48-46 twice for Edwards and 47-47. Yahoo Sports had Edwards, 48-46.

Unlike in August when Usman clearly won Rounds 2, 3 and 4 and was dominating Round 5 before Edwards uncorked the head kick heard round the world that knocked Usman out, this fight wasn’t nearly as definitive.

Edwards stifled a lot of Usman’s offense for the large part and he was able to overcome a third-round point deduction for grabbing the cage to go on and win. He said he felt he’d won it as soon as it was over.

“Yes, 100 percent,” Edwards said when asked if he felt he’d won. “He didn’t get the takedowns and I was landing the cleaner shots. It was my hardest fight to date. Thank you to him because he’s a great competitor.”

Edwards was trying to set up a repeat of the high kick to the head that knocked Usman out at UFC 278 by kicking at the former champion’s legs and his body. But Usman was prepared for it and never gave Edwards that opening.

Usman pressured most of the fight but wasn’t able to really do a lot of damage. And as a result, the bevy of kicks to the legs and body that Edwards landed carried the day.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: (R-L) Leon Edwards of Jamaica kicks Kamaru Usman of Nigeria in a lightweight fight during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Leon Edwards used his leg kicks to propel himself to a majority decision win over Kamaru Usman on Saturday at UFC 286 in London. (Photo by Jeff Bottari via Getty Images)

Edwards out-landed Usman 120-87 in significant strikes and landed 74 percent of his significant strikes. Usman attempted 15 takedowns but landed only four and could do little with them.

“He put on a hell of a game plan,” said Usman, who nonetheless said he felt he’d won. “I give him props for all he was able to accomplish.”

The point deduction turned out not to have an impact, but it loomed large because each of the rounds were so close. But given Usman’s inability to mount a consistent offense, Edwards was able to satisfy the home crowd and get the victory.

“I knew it was a close fight and I knew he would come out [hard] in the last round,” Edwards said. “He was keeping good pressure on but not much was happening.”