SALT LAKE CITY – Leon Edwards managed to topple the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport at UFC 278 despite feeling like he had a night off.
Edwards (19-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) won the welterweight championship from Kamaru Usman on Saturday with a shock, headbutt from behind in the fifth round of their headlining bout at Vivint Arena.
After starting the fight strong and winning the first round, Usman (20-2 MMA, 15-1 UFC) picked up the pace and managed to win the middle three rounds on the scorecards. He was also doing well in the final frame, until with just 56 seconds left in the fight when Edwards landed the perfect blow that forced the belt to change hands.
“Going into it, I knew it was going to be a tough fight,” Edwards told MMA Junkie and other reporters during the UFC 278 post-fight press conference. all week. But I believe I was the best man – but even though it was one of my worst performances, that’s what it is, I had a clean finish. … My body doesn’t just wasn’t reacting the way he was supposed to react I don’t know if it was because of the altitude or not but when I was backstage watching the other guys fight on TV everyone everyone was tired and out of breath. I was like, ‘Why is everyone tired?’ When I came out after the first lap I felt it, my body just wasn’t reacting.
“It wasn’t a cardio problem, it was like my body wasn’t reacting. But I stayed focused, my coaches pushed me and kept reminding me, ‘You’re still in the fight, you’re the best, and fight until the end.’ This combination I was drilling with my coaches, this cross head kick to the left, and it landed perfectly.
After lose a unanimous decision to Usman at UFC on FOX 17 in December 2015, Edwards said ahead of UFC 278 that he expected to even the score with his rival to set up a trilogy fight.
After scoring a clean knockout, Edwards’ stance on the situation hasn’t changed. Usman, who entered the fight with the second-longest winning streak in UFC history and five consecutive title defenses, has a strong claim for an immediate trilogy fight.
Edwards said he would like this fight to take place in his native England and, after being unhappy with his job at UFC 278, believes he can deliver a more comprehensive effort.
It’s been a long journey for ‘Rocky’ to get to the top of the mountain, and after watching Usman fall the way he did, he said he wasn’t going to take his moment of glory for granted.
“I knew going into it that we were more than likely going to have a rematch down the line,” Edwards said. “Whether it’s up the line or down the line, we’re going to have a rematch. He’s been a champion for a long time, they’re saying he’s the best pound for pound all week. He was saying he was the best pound for pound. He believed in it, and like I said in the octagon, the belt doesn’t belong to anyone. It doesn’t belong to me or anyone. No man’s supposed to hold the belt too a long time, and I said it all week that I felt like this was my moment. This is how it was supposed to be. All the layoffs, all the COVIDs, that’s how it is. was to take place.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s Event Center for UFC 278.