Leon Edwards (+300) vs Kamaru Usman (-400)
Edwards: DK: $7.1k | Usman: DK:$9.1k
Holy 2015, Batman! We’re going back an entire hairline with this one. A lot has changed since Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman met in the Octagon for the first time. But one thing that hasn’t, the L column for both fighters since. Usman has never lost in the Octagon and is one fight away from tying Anderson Silva’s longest winning streak record at sixteen, and Edwards has won noine fights with one no contest since suffering his last defeat.
This is one of the rare occasions that you can’t take much away from the first meeting between two fighters. Usman dominated the first fight with wrestling/grappling, controlling Edwards against the cage for most of the fight. His striking was still raw, wild with massive holes in his technique. Back then, Usman wasn’t even using the southpaw stance at all, and his punches were nothing but long overhands. He was a Coachella lip-syncing hologram version of himself.
The present-day Usman doesn’t mind standing and banging and isn’t one hundred percent dependent on scoring takedowns. He has become one of the most feared strikers in the world with life-changing power. And Leon Edwards has developed his wrestling and has transformed into an underrated grappler while honing his technical skills on the feet. Compared to their 2015 selves, both fighters are unrecognizable, like Sean Archer seeing Castor Troy staring back at him in the mirror.
One key to the rematch will be Leon Edwards’ speed. As good as Usman’s striking has become, he struggles against fighters with good hand speed. The first round in the first fight against Jorge Masvidal, the first round against Gilbert Burns, and both fights with Colby Covington; in every one of those fights, Usman was hurt and a follow-up or two away from losing his belt. Edwards has Amazon same-day delivery hand speed (shit shows up at your doorstep before you even get the confirmation email) that’s enhanced by his straight, tight punches. The way you beat Usman is down the middle, and Edwards has the crispy boxing to take advantage.
The second key: seventy percent, Leon Edwards’ takedown defense. In the first fight, Usman scored six takedowns and logged over five minutes of control time from the top. Edwards hasn’t given up six takedowns total in ten scraps since and has improved his wrestling dramatically. If Leon can stuff Usman’s early attempts, it will discourage Usman and almost ensure that he’ll engage in a kickboxing match the rest of the way.
Edwards can beat Usman on the feet; he uses more weapons and is more intricate/technical than Usman. The game plan for Edwards will be to establish his range and use his speed to attack from outside the pocket with short hand and kick combos. Leon only has three finishes in fourteen career UFC bouts, he isn’t a KO artist, but he’s technically sound and has only been close to being finished one time in his career, in the closing minute of the Nate Diaz fight.
Usman makes up for defensive holes and lack of variety in his attacks with power. He’ll have the Toraja people exhuming and propping you up in your favorite Lazy Boy with a warm Truly in your hand with one punch. Kamaru doesn’t have fluid combinations and fancy footwork, but his punches cause more damage than any fighter I’ve seen other than Francis Ngannou. Usman sparks people; they see Fourth of July grand finales when he lands his jab. You can land ten punches to every one Usman punch, but Usman’s one will have you DMT trippin’, Kenny McCormick cheesin’.
Wrestling will be the key for Usman; he’ll have to take some time off the clock and some speed out of Edwards’ hands by forcing him to defend takedowns and the clinch against the cage. Usman won’t want this fight to look like both the Colby fights, standing and trading for twenty-five minutes; Leon is a better, faster striker than Colby. Leon has very good grappling from the top and bottom but can’t afford to lose time on his back.
The numbers: Usman is 20-1 for his career and 15-0 in the UFC and won the Ultimate Fighter. Fantasy-wise, Usman is a monster. Not only can he finish you at any moment, but he can take you down and clock top control, and he averages over four and a half significant strikes landed per minute and three takedowns per fifteen minutes.
Edwards is 19-3 for his career and 11-2-1 in the UFC with two TKO/KO’s and one sub. He averages nearly half as many significant strikes as Usman at just over two and a half and one and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes. Leon sacrifices output for finesse, calculated attacks from the outside and rarely gets drawn into long exchanges.
At (+300), bust out the Piso Mojado signs; Leon Edwards will be drippin’ with value. This is a dangerous fight for Usman; he can get got on the feet, especially if Edwards can eliminate the takedown threat early. The odds favor this one going the distance at (-150), returning (+115) if it finishes before the final bell. But the under for four and a half rounds is (+125) and a better bet. Both fighters have paths to a finish; Usman’s will always be a gold-brick road lined with ripe apple trees and cherry blossoms. And Leon can catch Usman on the feet with a crisp combination or sneaky head kick and set off a chain reaction that leads to a gold belt around his waist.
We’re main event-streaking again after Chito Vera did Chito Vera shit again last weekend. This one is a toss-up for me. Leon Edwards is a live dog; trust me. But I promised Usman I would never pick against him for the rest of his career if he beat Colby Covington the first time, and he not only beat Colby, he broke Colby’s jaw and had him sippin’ Dan Marino Nutrisystem shakes through a straw. Kamaru Usman via decision.
Winner: Kamaru Usman | Method: Decision