UFC 286: Leon Edwards Overcomes Point Deduction, Defends Welterweight Title Against Kamaru Usman

Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman, UFC 286
Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman, UFC 286 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jamie Theodosi/Cageside Press

To cap off a highly entertaining UFC 286 card at the O2 Arena in London, England on Saturday, Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman met for the third and presumably final time.

Their career series was tied 1-1, Usman having won the initial meeting in 2015 via a three-round decision. Years later, Edwards had stolen victory from the clutches of defeat when he landed a final minute, fifth round head kick to put Usman away and capture welterweight gold.

The title, plus the bragging rights, awaited the winner of Saturday’s rubber match. For Usman, who had gone 2-0 against other rivals in Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington, Edwards represented something new — “Rocky,” living up to his nickname, was the only man to defeat him inside the UFC octagon.

It was challenger Usman pushing the pace early, walking Edwards down, though there was little in the way of significant strikes in the opening half of the round. Edwards kicked low, and occasionally caught Usman coming in. In the second half, Edwards stayed outside, but soon sent Usman down with a body kick! The ex-champ forced himself back up, eating another kick, but he pressed onward.

After the pair clinched up, with Usman driving Edwards into the fence, ref Herb Dean halted the action, warning Edwards for hooking Usman’s glove, and threatening a point deduction if it happened again.

Round two had a false start, as Usman had charged across the cage prior to the ref signalling them to start — though seconds continued to tick away as Dean reset the action. A low blow then landed on Usman, who chose not to take any recovery time.

Back underway, Edwards fired a leg kick. Another inside leg kick followed. Edwards next connected with a combo, added a knee, and appeared to wobble Usman slightly. But Usman came back with a solid right hand and landed a key takedown at the midway mark, only for Edwards to get right back up — while eating punches. He reversed, then shot a takedown, forcing Usman to sprawl and defend with a guillotine. Usman turned the corner, nearly took the back, but Edwards escaped out as tensions mounted.

A high kick was blocked by Usman, the first of the fight. Edwards would land one to the body in the final minute of the frame, however. From there, the final minute became a chess match of feints and angles.

Early in round three, Edwards hit home with leg kicks multiple times, inside and out. Usman shot for a takedown, grabbled a leg, and swung Edwards to complete the attempt. Usman had a full four minutes to work, with Edwards locking down half-guard. The champ scrambled up, but grabbed the fence — earning a point deduction, much to the displeasure of the crowd, not to mention the champion. Back underway, Edwards found time to land one more foul in the round, another low blow, though there was no point deduction on that infraction.

Usman soon after tried to complain about another kick, though the ref ruled it legal. The ex-champ then put the pressure on Edwards, while the Brit fired kicks to the legs. After some grappling at the end of the stanza, they headed to the championship rounds.

Round four saw Edwards again use a kick to the body to drop Usman, which was part balance, but still impressive. Usman scrambled up, leading to a grappling exchange before they reset at center. Usman was showing damage to the legs as well, but thus far, it hadn’t hampered his movement too severely. Edwards found a home for his jab, and Usman fired a clubbing overhand back at him. “The Nigerian Nightmare” then shot for a takedown, but couldn’t convert, with Edwards taking a knee but popping back up.

Another takedown attempt by Usman saw him unable to lock his hands together. He switched to a single, but the champ broke free.

Kamaru Usman found himself blocking a head kick early in round five, in what was a puzzling fight to score, especially with the point deduction in play. Usman then tied up Edwards against the cage; “Rocky” turned out, and landed an uppercut. A head kick followed, but Usman handled it. Edwards ripped the body with an uppercut, and turned up the heat, landing several shots. Usman continued to push forward, changing levels, but Edwards, who had shown improved takedown defense all fight long, fought it off with wrist control.

Back at distance, Edwards worked his jab. He fired a kick to the leg. A knee came up the middle for Edwards; Usman reacted with a takedown attempt that was stuffed again. Edwards fired a kick to the body. But another takedown attempt with 90 seconds to go landed for Usman. Edwards, however, was right back up, causing the crowd to erupt. Another takedown attempt followed, with under a minute remaining. With 20 seconds to go Edwards turned off the fence; Usman rallied for another takedown attempt that was fought off, but finished the round striking — with both men raising their arms in victory at the horn.

With the point deduction looming large, the judges’ scorecards were anybody’s guess. In the end, one judge scored the fight a draw — but two had it in favor of Edwards, who successfully defends his title and closes out the rivalry with Kamaru Usman. What comes next could be interesting, as Colby Covington remains in play — and another Edwards’ rival, Jorge Masvidal, fights Gilbert Burns next month.

Official Result: Leon Edwards def. Kamaru Usman by majority decision (48-46, 48-46, 47-47)