With a perfectly timed left-heeled head kick, set up by a genius left-jab feint, Leon Edwards landed a shot heard round the world. There’s a lot to unpack here. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Usman vs. Edwards
In the first minute-and-a-half of round one, Leon Edwards established that he was not intimidated by the reigning UFC Welterweight Champion, Kamaru Usman. He advanced forward, initiating the pressure and putting the champion on his heels. However, Usman displayed his elite wrestling skills and took Edwards to the mat at the 3:30 mark. Edwards quickly fought to his feet, then summoned the strength to score a takedown of his own at the two minute mark of the first round. It was the first time during Kamaru Usman’s UFC tenure that he’d been taken to the mat by an opponent. It was a great foreshadowing of things to come.
Usman started round two with an impressive barrage of strikes. After Usman landed a crisp right jab, Edwards responded with a left hook of his own. Usman would go on to score a takedown in round two, and two more takedowns in round three. By the beginning of round four, Edwards was visibly fatigued. He attempted to take Usman to the mat a second time, but the champion again displayed great defensive skills. Near the end of round four, Usman scored yet another takedown and Edwards began to look dejected.
In the beginning of round five, it looked as if Edwards had accepted defeat. He did not apply forward pressure and Usman stayed aggressive. Approaching the middle of the round, Edwards hinted at a left jab, that caused Usman to lean to the right to avoid the strike. Simultaneously, Edwards executed a brilliant left head kick; the maneuver landed directly on the side of Usman’s face and knocked him out cold. It was a stunning turn of events. Leon Edwards had suddenly become the UFC’s Undisputed Welterweight Champion of the World!
This was one of the most shocking turn of events I have witnessed in all my years of watching combat sports. Kamaru Usman had an aura of invincibility that the sport had not seen since the heyday of Anderson Silva. However, with Edwards’ kick, the impenetrable veneer of elite athleticism and aficionado-level wrestling skills has been met with the reality that Usman is a mere mortal. Like the rest of us, he is human and can be beaten by the right man on the right day. Leon Edwards said that he believed his moment had arrived; this time, he was right.
Costa vs. Rockhold
Middleweight challenger Paulo Costa was dominant in all three rounds against the legendary Luke Rockhold tonight. Costa entered the fight in the best shape of his career. He’s struggled to make weight in the past, and he’s blamed those issues on undisclosed injuries that did not allow him to train as hard as he would like to. Rockhold also entered the fight in peak condition, but it appeared Father Time had caught up to him; he looked winded at several key moments throughout the fight.
The highlight of round one was the emphatic takedown scored by Costa midway through the period. Rockhold eventually fought to his feet and landed four left-heeled kicks that were audible as they smashed into Costa’s right rib cage. Perhaps the altitude in Utah took a toll on both men, as they were both clearly fatigued at the start of round two. However, Costa found the strength to stay active enough to outpoint Rockhold through well-timed strikes.
In round three, both men decided to go on the offensive and abandon defense altogether. Near the end of the round, Rockhold scored a takedown and hilariously rubbed his bloody nose all over Costa’s face intentionally. The octagon was covered in blood and the audience loved it. Ultimately, Costa was awarded a unanimous decision by the judges and Rockhold announced his retirement from the sport during the post-fight interview.
Aldo vs. Dvalishvili
Mixed martial arts legend José Aldo is yet to see the type of success at bantamweight that he enjoyed during his tenure in the featherweight division. His opponent, Merab Dvalishvili, outworked him and outpointed him tonight on his way to a unanimous decision victory. Although there were no standout moments during this bout, it is worth noting that Dvalishvili attempted takedowns in all three rounds and did not succeed until the last minute of the final round. Aldo’s defense was good, but his lack of offensive aggression hurt him tonight. Dvalishvili’s persistence was the deciding factor. It just goes to show “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Wu vs. Pudilová
Women’s bantamweight prospect, Lucie Pudilová, was able to score a takedown less than two minutes into her fight against Yanan Wu. Although Wu attempted an arm bar submission, Pudilová was able to escape the maneuver and dominate the round with ground control time. Early in round two, Pudilová scored another takedown, followed by a barrage of elbows that rendered Wu defenseless. Referee Herb Dean stepped in and mercifully stopped the fight. It was an emphatic victory for Lucie Pudilová!
Pedro vs. Hunsucker
Light heavyweight challenger, Tyson Pedro, made quick work of Harry Hunsucker tonight. Early in round one, Pedro landed a clean left jab that stunned Hunsucker. He followed that up with a right-heeled front kick that sent Hunsucker spiraling into the cage. Pedro then rushed his opponent and hit him with a barrage of uppercuts. Hunsucker crumpled to the mat, unable to defend himself. The referee stopped the fight. Tyson Pedro is a name to keep an eye on in the increasingly competitive light heavyweight division.
The stunning upset that Leon Edwards pulled off tonight is going to reverberate throughout the sport for months to come. The moment was so sudden that my initial reaction was to stand up in disbelief. It was almost as if I could not believe what I just witnessed. When it sunk in that Usman had just been dethroned in emphatic fashion, there were high fives, handshakes, heads shaking back and forth and any variety of outward display you can imagine. The reactions were not because those present were opposed to Usman or dislike him; it was due to the shocking nature of what just occurred. Everyone respected Leon Edwards but no one expected him to win. We were all wrong. The only thing left to do now is congratulate the new Welterweight champion.
The UFC returns on September 3rd with a main event featuring heavyweight contenders Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa, in an event that will be held in Paris, France. The fight could have future championship implications. You won’t want to miss it! As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis available right here at World in Sport!
Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.