Leon Edwards has defended his welterweight title with a hard-fought points victory over Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 in London.
In his homecoming title defence at the O2 Arena, the Birmingham fighter went the distance with the former champion, sealing a majority decision on the judges’ scorecards.
Edwards shocked the world with his stunning knockout victory over ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ last August, producing a devastating head kick in the final minute having been left trailing on the scorecards to take the title.
It was Usman’s first defeat in almost a decade having reigned as the pound-for-pound best at 170lbs for four years and came to the capital determined to take back what he considers rightfully his.
But Edwards underlined his status as the new welterweight king on Saturday night with a champion’s performance.
In a tense opening round, a focused and calm Edwards landed the first shot of real significance, breaking through with a stinging leg kick that briefly had Usman buckling.
Both men landed midway through a blistering second round with Edwards’ speed advantage seeing him enjoy the better of the exchanges.
Usman looked to score with an early take down in the third with Edwards finding a way out of it. Referee Herb Dean however deducted a point from the champion for holding onto the cage to bid his escape.
Another brief stoppage followed with Usman on the receiving end of an accidental shot below the belt line.
In a tight final round, Edwards scored with a similar head kick to the one that ended Usman six months ago with the challenger this time standing his ground.
Edwards continued to land those chopping leg kicks trying to set up the big finish as both men lasted the pace – with the roof coming off the O2 Arena as Edwards’ named was called out as the winner.
In the chief support fight, Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev shared a bruising lightweight battle with the American picking up a majority decision having left his opponent a bloody mess in the third and final round.
Marvin Vettori opened the main card with a controversial unanimous decision win over Roman Dolidze, a decision greeted by huge boos from around the 02.
Jennifer Maia saw off Casey O’Neil in their flyweight bout, also edging a win on the scorecards as the Australian suffered the first defeat of her career.
The ever-popular Gunnar Nelson meanwhile got the job done in round one, submitting Barbrena via an armbar.
MORE : Inside the Leon Edwards camp: Brother Fabian reveals Kamaru Usman’s fate and explains why their mum can’t watch their fights
MORE : ‘He has his number’ – Kamaru Usman seeks revenge against Leon Edwards to erase memory of last year’s knockout for the ages
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