On Saturday, March 18, UFC 286 will go down at the O2 Arena in London, England. The card features several intriguing fights including Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev as the co-main event.
But all eyes will be on the main event of the evening. Leon Edwards, the reigning UFC welterweight champion, will look to defend his belt against the man he took it from: Kamaru Usman. In August of 2022, Edwards knocked out Usman with a head-kick in the final minute of a fight in which Usman had been dominating and was set for a unanimous decision. The UFC 278 main event finally shifted the supremacy at the top of the welterweight division.
Edwards now returns to his home country where he will look to extend his reign over the division. Beating Kamaru Usman twice in a row, however, is a tall task.
Usman is infamous for his wrestling prowess. In college, he wrestled at William Penn University in Iowa and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. In 2010, he became the NCAA Division II national champion in the 174 pound weight class and finished the season with 44 wins and 1 loss.
Kamaru has made his career in the UFC off of his wrestling. Because of his incredibly-sturdy core strength and unmatched endurance, Usman is able to pin people against the cage and prevent them from being threats for the entire fight.
Leon Edwards is a very different fighter. His focus is much more so on striking, as proven by his knockout against Usman last August. That style is exactly what Usman typically does well against, as he’s able to eliminate striking threats by pinning his opponent up against the cage. Of course, things didn’t turn out like that in their last fight, but expect Usman to be ready for Edwards’ attacks.
A massive X-factor that cannot be ignored is the home advantage. Edwards will be surrounded by England natives chanting his name. Neither of these fighters have ever experienced something like that on this stage. It will be difficult for Usman to stay focused with the audience undoubtedly booing and ridiculing him. Edwards must take advantage of the opportunity and use it to boost his momentum.
Another aspect Edwards approaches this fight with which he didn’t possess last time out is confidence. Prior to UFC 278, Usman and Edwards had faced each other once before, a bout which saw Usman take the decision after 3 rounds. Now, with a stunning last-minute win on his side, Edwards takes on Usman with newfound resolve.
That being said, even with all the advantages on Edwards’ side, I expect Usman will win this one. He’s simply too disciplined, too strong, too sturdy to lose twice in a row. Edwards will put up a good fight and have some moments in which his attacks threaten Usman, but it will not be enough to stop Kamaru from taking back the belt.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman by Unanimous Decision