UFC 286 marked the culmination of the trilogy between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman. While Usman embarrassed Leon in their first fight, the latter took sweet revenge after knocking out Kamaru at UFC 278. Ahead of their previous fight, Usman was the champion and Leon took the belt from Usman with a head kick. Hence, Usman had the chance to return the favor and take back his belt. So how did the bout go? Let’s find out!
As expected, Kamaru Usman came out to a chorus of boos. UK fans are known for their high energy. Although the crowd seemed somewhat timid in comparison throughout the night, they saved their best for the last. As soon as Leon came out to the arena, the O2 Arena perhaps heard the loudest cheer in its illustrious history. The animosity was clear between the two the moment they locked eyes in the cage.
Leon started the fight with a leg kick and Usman fired back with a body kick of his own. Usman’s intentions were clear from the very beginning as he shot for a takedown. However, Usman soon found out that Leon was fully prepared as a clean strike from the champ almost made Usman lose balance. The bout heated up with one and a half minutes to go in round 1 as Leon Edwards hurt Usman with some great body kicks.
Leon Edwards beats Kamaru Usman in a close fight at UFC 286
The Nigerian Nightmare managed to almost secure a takedown right at the end of round 1. However, to escape from the position, Leon seemingly hooked his fingers in Kamaru’s gloves. The ref warned Leon and threatened to take a point away if he repeated that. Herb Dean stopped the bout right at the beginning of round 2 as well after Leon landed a groin strike.
The longer the fight went, the more intense the bout became. Although the former champ landed a takedown, Leon managed to get up without much of a problem. Kamaru was by far the more active fighter in round 2. However, Leon’s kicks were a problem for Usman to deal with. Hence, right at the beginning of round 3, Kamaru landed a single-leg takedown. It became significant as the ref took a point from Leon for grabbing the fence while trying to stand up.
Herb Dean takes a point away from Leon Edwards for a fence grab.#UFC286— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) March 18, 2023
It definitely put Leon at a huge disadvantage, as a point deduction might prove to be a death sentence if the bout went to the judges’ cards. Surprisingly, Usman did not opt to go for many takedowns afterward. It gave Leon Edwards the chance to land some big kicks to end round 3. But Usman started to push the pace right at the beginning of round 4.
Despite a very difficult round 3, Leon had an excellent fourth round. Nearly every time he threw a kick, Leon landed. Not only that, but Leon also displayed excellent takedown defense. In the first two fights, fans saw Usman roll over Edwards in the takedown department. But this time, Edwards made it extremely difficult for Kamaru to get takedowns.
The first half of the 5th and final round went very well for Leon. From blocking all the takedowns to landing leg kicks, Rocky had a great response to all of Usman’s moves. Although Usman was the one to push the pace, Leon did the most amount of damage and showed exactly why he was the welterweight champ heading into the bout.
However, the trilogy bout was a close one. The judges scored the bout 48-46, 48-46, and 47-47. Hence, Leon retained the belt via a majority decision.
Edwards vs Usman 3: judges’ scorecards and punching stats
According to UFC stats, Leon Edwards landed 120 significant strikes and 123 strikes in total. In comparison, Usman landed a total of 113 strikes and 87 significant strikes. While Usman landed 57 strikes on the head, Leon landed 50 leg strikes and 34 head strikes. On top of that, Leon’s 36 body shots also did a ton of damage to Usman as well.
In terms of scorecards, Ben Cartlidge (48-46) and Chris Lee (48-46) both scored the first two rounds in Leon’s favor. While Ben scored the third round for Leon as well, the point deduction meant the round ended in a tie (9-9). He gave only one round to Kamaru in the whole fight, which was the 4th round. Chris Lee, on the other hand, gave the third round 10-8 to Kamaru. But surprisingly, he did not score any of the other rounds for Usman.
The third judge, David Lethaby (47-47), gave round 1, 4, and 5 to Leon and gave rounds 2 and 3 to Kamaru. Afterward, Kamaru felt like he won the bout, but did not make any accusations of bad judging. Usman also stated that he will not retire despite rumors. Although it looks like Colby Covington will be next for Leon, not many would oppose a fourth fight between Leon and Kamaru.