Kamaru Usman seeking revenge against Leon Edwards to erase memory of last summer’s knockout for the ages
Kamaru Usman will feel he has Leon Edwards’ number despite the devastating last-minute knockout he suffered against the English fighter last year.
Edwards was crowned welterweight champion after an extraordinary conclusion to his title showdown against ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ last August at UFC 278.
Trailing on the scorecards and heading into the final minute of the contest, The 31-year-old shocked the world with a comeback for the ages, scoring with a sublime head kick that left his opponent unconscious on the mat to snatch the belt.
Usman was widely considered the pound-for-pound best at 170lbs and will attempt to take back the title in London this weekend in Edwards’ homecoming title defence at the O2 Arena – the third meeting between the two.
Their history dates back to 2015 when Usman secured a unanimous decision win over Edwards – the last time the Birmingham fighter suffered a defeat in the cage.
At 35, the former champion has more miles on the clock than his rival, with Edwards this week suggesting that incredible knockout last summer will have had a major psychological effect ahead of their trilogy in the capital.
Before that stunning moment, however, Usman had been in control of the fight, winning the second, third and fourth rounds as he negated Edwards’ offence, seemingly edging towards another points win.
Having won those middle rounds and drawn first blood eight years ago, former UFC fighter Dan Hardy believes Usman will be confident of utilising his own psychological advantage and anticipates a much sterner test for the home fighter this weekend.
‘In the first round [last August], Leon was able to close him down and take him down which I think was a big surprise to Usman,’ Hardy told Metro.co.uk.
‘But that was something he [Usman] addressed immediately after, after that he was very good with his takedown defence. Even though he lost the first round, he walked back to his corner smiling and won the next three rounds on all the scorecards.
‘So having won those rounds and having won the first fight a few years ago, Kamaru feels like he has got Leon’s number and just let his guard down for a moment.
‘This is going to be a much more difficult test for Leon because Usman is not going to give him that space, he will give him the respect he earned. I don’t know if that knockout is going to linger with Usman, because it is part of the sport.
‘I feel like he has got a competitor’s mindset and since then he has been telling himself, “I was winning that fight.” Even if had stayed conscious until the end of that final round and it was scored a 10-8, it would have finished a draw and he would have kept his belt.
‘I think in that moment in his head, he would have been saying, “you keep hold of the belt, I gave you that one. I won’t give it to you again”.’
While it was Edwards who produced the defining moment across both their fights, Usman’s wrestling success across the two contests leaves Hardy leaning towards a new champion being crowned on Saturday.
‘The biggest test in the division right now is still Usman,’ said Hardy, who was this week unveiled as the PFL’s new head of European fighter operations.
‘Everyone Leon fights is going to try and take him down, he is a very sharp, talented striker, he has a superb reach and is very good at hiding his techniques too. He is a tough test for anyone but I think Usman is the kryptonite for him.’
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