People love underdogs and people love champions. When Leon Edwards knocked out Kamaru Usman with less than one minute to go in the 5th and final round of a championship fight on August 20, 2022, the good guy won.
Personally, I really enjoy when someone dominates at something. When they develop a winning strategy and work, work, and work to win at a high level, it makes them special (most people simply don't put in the work). So when Kamaru Usman originally became the champion, I was a fan. A fan of his work ethic, his attitude and approach to his craft, and the sport. But, something changed last year. Maybe it was me, but maybe it was him. Leading up to UFC 278 I rooted for the underdog, and, the person who I believe, was and is, the good guy.
Leon Edwards has a story that's inspiring. Humble beginnings would be an understatement as he grew up in an environment where incarceration and/or death at a less than fulfilling age are likely outcomes. He overcame these obstacles and as of the time of this article is the welterweight world champion in arguably the best, but most certainly the largest and most well known fight promotion on the planet, the UFC.
What makes him the good guy though is not just his story, but the way he carries himself. When you watch press conferences, weigh ins, or media clips it's hard to know how someone is "all the time," but when you watch a show like UFC Embedded which releases short usually less than 10 minute reality style episodes that follow fighters around leading up to PPV events, you see a guy who really loves what he does and seems to be grateful every moment to be where he is at. He is polite, doesn't get involved with drama that some do, and really feels like the good guy going into this battle. I want this guy to win. Again.
But what's going to happen at UFC 286 is to be determined. Edwards and Usman have fought twice before and while Usman won the initial bout in 2015 between the two and lost the last match via a vicious leg kick to the head, he is the -260 favorite in this rematch the night before and with good reason.
Usman has the physique of a world class athlete, and he is wrestle heavy in his fighting style. While Leon Edwards had minimal and not any noticeable damage to him in their last fight, Usman was still ahead on the scorecards right up until he got knocked out because of the way that MMA is scored. If you control your opponent and they are unable to fight back or do anything to you, you are scoring ahead of them for that round. Usman would be smart to take this approach again. Take Leon down, keep him there, and grind on him while trying to do damage. Do this for 5 rounds, don't get hit, and you win. It's not the most exciting fighting style, especially for non-hardcore mma fans, in fact a lot of times it just looks like two people rubbing on each other for a long time, but it is grueling and it does work. It also takes a very high level of skill and energy. Work ethic.
For Leon to win he is going to have to avoid the take downs, or, do like he did last time when he surprised even Usman himself with a take down of his own, and control where the fight happens. Leon's striking ability and power even 24 minutes into a fight is world class. That's how he earned his place as the reigning champion right now. And that's why this sport is so amazing. The fighting spirit never fails to amaze, and both of these guys are fighters to the core.
Will we get another 5 round grinder? Or, will we get fireworks that make for a "short night?"
I'd love to see Edwards by KO late in round 2. My prediction is we get Usman by decision or stoppage in round 4.