UNITED STATES: British ‘Underdog’ Leon Edwards dethroned Kamaru Usman and won the UFC welterweight title with a fifth-round head-kick knockout at UFC 278 on Saturday, capping one of the greatest comebacks in mixed martial arts history.
Leon Edwards’ exceptional comeback
The 30-year-old Jamaican-born British fighter appeared to be on his way to a loss on the judges’ scorecards until he faked a jab with his left hand and then landed a left-foot kick to the head, prompting the 35-year-old Nigerian to claim the belt.
“They all doubted me, they all said I couldn’t do it – look at me now!” Edwards roared in his post-fight interview in the cage.
Leon Edwards is only the second British fighter to hold a UFC title, after Michael Bisping, who won the middleweight title in 2016.
Usman, who entered the fight with a streak of 15 victories in the UFC, struggled in the opening frame as Leon Edwards, whom he had defeated in their lone prior encounter in 2015, shocked him by taking him to the mat for the first time in his UFC career.
Leon Edwards made a rear naked choke threat to end the fight, but Usman, who was making his sixth title defence, escaped and stormed back in the second round as Edwards initially appeared to stumble.
Usman, 35, then reverted to the kind of strangling wrestling that has been the foundation of his fighting style ever since he turned professional in 2012, backing his opponent up to the fence and taking him down at will.
Before the challenger starched him with that kick with just 56 seconds left in the fight, he had completely outclassed Leon Edwards and appeared to be returning to the top of the division.
“I’m from the trenches, I’m built like this, I battle until the battle is done. I’ve been down my whole life, and look at me now!” an elated Edwards said.
Paulo Costa vs Luke Rockhold
In the middleweight fight, Paulo Costa won by unanimous decision over former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. Prior to his fight in Salt Lake City, Costa had lost two straight matches.
For the first time in three years, Rockhold entered the octagon, and as the fight went on, his rust became apparent. Through the first two rounds, Costa more than doubled Rockhold’s total number of strikes, and in the third, he finally left him with a bloodied mouth.
As both fighters were locked in a deadlock on the ground in the closing seconds of the round, Rockhold wiped his own blood over Costa’s face.
Men’s Bantamweight contest
In the men’s bantamweight contest, Merab Dvalishvili defeated former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo by unanimous decision to earn his eighth straight victory. Although the crowd was behind him, Aldo became exhausted after three rounds of Dvalishvili’s constant pressure.
For her third straight victory, Lucie Pudilova defeated Wu Yanan in the women’s bantamweight match on the main card. Yanan lost for the fourth time in a row. At the 4:04 mark of the second round, after dragging Yanan to the ground and repeatedly elbowing her from a back mount, Pudilova won via TKO.
The final match on the main card was a light heavyweight contest between Tyson Pedro and Harry Hunsucker, which Pedro won by TKO at 1:05 of the first round.