Leon Edwards became only the second British UFC fighter to win a title in the promotion last night at UFC 278, knocking out Kamaru Usman with a head kick in the final minute of the fifth round.
Edwards came into Salt Lake City as an underdog and knowing that Usman had beat him in their first encounter in 2015, but brushed that off, winning the first round by securing a takedown and threatening the champion with a rear naked choke attempt.
Usman would recover through rounds two, three and four, taking Edwards down repeatedly and grinding on the Brit, keeping Edwards’ back on the mat or the cage while throwing nasty little shots.
The fifth round is where the real story is though. Between rounds four and five, UFC analyst Din Thomas told the commentary booth that Edwards had lost the fight mentally as he was unable to look his corner team in the eyes, before commentators Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier starter talking about Edwards resigning himself to a decision loss and that that outcome would be in a win in it’s self for the Brit.
But as if on cue, “Rocky” would throw a left straight cross at Usman, hiding a big left roundhouse behind it that connected perfectly on the Nigerian’s chin to send him to the mat.
With that KO win, Edwards becomes the second Brit to hold UFC gold, the last British champ being Michael Bisping at middleweight.
In terms of what is next for Edwards, there seem to be two clear options. If Khamzat Chimaev beats Nate Diaz later this year, the UFC would surely have to book him in a title bout with Edwards.
The second option would be for a trilogy fight between Edwards and Usman, and with the UFC’s popularity in the UK being at an all time high with two sold out London cards this year, a first UK based PPV since UFC 204 back in 2016, which was held in Manchester.
In the co-main event, Paulo Costa took a unanimous decision win over former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold.
The story of the fight was Rockhold’s gas tank, or lack of one, as he looked visibly tired after just one round, and between rounds two and three, had to be dragged by his team to the stool as he seemed two gassed to walk over.
Costa had broken Rockhold’s nose early on, and with it being full of blood, forced the former champ to breathe through his mouth the entire fight, and even wobbled him at one point.
Rockhold didn’t help himself though by continually loading up on his shots, throwing each one with the intent to end the fight without any real set-up.
The bad blood between the pair had been visible throughout fight week, and that spilled over into the fight, with Rockfold audibly telling Costa “f**k you” in the second round before hitting him with a left hook, and in a ground exchange in the third round the pair could be heard to be swearing at one another.
The judges scorecards would read 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Costa, who picks up his first win since 2019.
Merab Dvalishvili secured a huge decision win for himself against Jose Aldo in the bantamweight division.
The Georgian fighter was relentless in his attempts to get Aldo to the floor, but while the “King of Rio” was able to stay upright, he would end up with his back to the cage and being held there.
With the two landing similar numbers in the striking, Dvalishvili’s control time would give him the edge, and all three judges would award him the fight 30-27.
The night would also see one of MMA’s biggest rarities, with a split draw between Sean Woodson and Luis Saldana.
Leon Edwards def. Kamaru Usman by KO in 4:04 of round five for the welterweight title
Paulo Costa def. Luke Rockhold by unanimous decision
Merab Dvaloshvili def. Jose Aldo by unanimous decision
Lucie Pudilova def. Yanan Wu via KO in 4:04 of round two
Tyson Pedro def. Harry Hunsucker via KO in 1:05 of round one
Marcin Tybura def. Alexandr Romanov via majority decision
Jared Gordon def. Leonardo Santos by unanimous decision
Sean Woodson vs Luis Saldana ended in a split draw
Ange Loosa def. A.J. Fletcher by unanimous decision
Amir Alabzi def.Francisco Figueiredo by submission in 4:34 of round one
Aoriqiling def. Jay Perrin by unanimous decision
Victor Altamirano def. Daniel da Silva by KO in 3:39 of round one