UFC 286: Leon Edwards oozes confidence after ending Kamaru Usman ‘on my worst day’

Leon Edwards’ last minute knockout of Kamaru Usman is the one he will be most associated with for the rest of his life. Nothing else he could ever do in the fighting game will top coming from far behind in the dying seconds against the best fighter in the world for a dramatic KO win.

Edwards rallied from far behind to stop Usman at 4:04 of the final lap, just as UFC broadcasters were wondering where Edwards’ urgency was. The win made him the UFC Welterweight Champion and led to the rubber match between the men in the main event of UFC 286 at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN + PPV).

Almost five years to the day before his title defense against Usman, Edwards finished off Peter Sobotta at 4:59 of the last round, scoring a TKO finish with a second to go through vicious elbows.

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The circumstances between the two fights were very different. He was way ahead against Sobotta and the stakes weren’t nearly as high as the Usman fight in August. But although many questioned his approach in the second Usman fight on the track, and his trainer Dave Lovell infuriated him between rounds four and five, urging him to up the pace, Edwards stayed calm because he knew he could could create .

“You just don’t stop looking for a way to win,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ win was perhaps a little shocking to those who aren’t religious to the sport because Usman was so successful and the combined circumstances resulted in Edwards having a lower profile than he otherwise might have had. This is a guy who hasn’t lost since 2015 when he was beaten by decision by Usman in their first fight. Edwards has since won 10 straight wins without competition. But Edwards sat out first 21 months and then 14 months, a combination of the pandemic, injuries to himself and those of his opponents.

He lost a welterweight title fight to then-champion Tyron Woodley when the pandemic hit and the card was canceled, then missed a fight against the highly regarded Khamzat Chimaev when Chimaev contracted a bad case of COVID-19.

When he met Usman in Salt Lake City, Utah, in August, he may not have received as much recognition as he probably deserved.

And then, with the fight ending as it did, with Usman dominating Rounds 2, 3 and 4 and in command until the sudden end at the last minute, much of the pre-fight conversation on Saturday revolved around, what Usman might do.

Leon Edwards (R) celebrates his knockout against Kamaru Usman at UFC 278. They will fight for the welterweight title in the main event of UFC 286 at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

What may be overlooked is that Edwards needs to improve a runway. If Edwards is better on Saturday than he was in August, what impact will that have on the way the fight is contested?

“There are technical issues that I was able to fix easily in training camp and have already fixed them,” Edwards said of the possibility he’s a better fighter on Saturday than he was the night he won the belt. “Now we don’t fight on high. Now we fight on high [United Kingdom], where I live. It’s not high and that played a big part in my performance that night. And it won’t matter at Saturday night’s performance. So yeah it’s going to be a good night and like I said I’m looking forward to it and can’t wait.”

Salt Lake City is at 4,220 feet above sea level, while London is basically at sea level, 36 feet above sea level. He said the fatigue played a role in what he considered to be the worst performance of his career.

And that’s another point that makes him ooze confidence. Usman has tried to boost his confidence by pointing out how he dominated the fight to the end. Edwards could only giggle as he looked back at it.

“He needs to find something to hold on to [to explain away the loss]’ Edwards said of Usman. “He needs to rebuild his confidence because he’s going in [UFC 278] he thought he could never be tripped, hurt, or knocked unconscious. So I think you have to find something to hold onto and that’s what he’s trying to do. He would win the fight, but who cares?

“It goes down like [Usman] going out cold after being shot in the head, and that’s all that matters. When all is said and done, the winners win. Even on my worst day, my worst performance, I still knocked him unconscious. So, like I said, winners win.”

Source : sports.yahoo.com

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