Since dethroning Tyron Woodley in 2019, Usman has successfully defended the title five times and established himself as a contender for GOAT status at 170 pounds. Having brushed aside two challenges apiece from Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal, as well as one from former teammate Gilbert Burns, the list of fresh contenders certainly thinning.
And next up for the champ appears to be another rematch. Earlier this year, UFC President Dana White confirmed that Edwards is set to get his long-awaited title shot in the summer.
The pair first collided in 2015, where Usman emerged victorious on the scorecards. Since that defeat, Edwards has gone unbeaten in 10 bouts, defeating the likes of Nate Diaz, Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone, and Vicente Luque.
Given the Englishman’s development since their first meeting, many expect Usman to face a much tougher test when the two share the Octagon again.
With that in mind, Edwards believes the champion will avoid exchanging on the feet and return to his wrestling roots for their rematch, which has been largely left in the back-pocket in his last three defenses.
“He [Kamaru Usman] has definitely fell in love with his hands. He definitely believes in them,” Edwards told ESPN MMA. “He’s called out Canelo. He truly believes that he’s some sick striker so fair play to him, but I know that when we fight, I think he’ll be shooting for his takedowns. I don’t think it will be a striking match. I think it will be more wrestler versus striker match but I’m looking forward to it.” (h/t Sportskeeda)
Usman Gives Edwards Something To Think About
In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, Usman responded to his next challenger’s comments. “The Nigerian Nightmare” suggested that if wrestling is what Edwards expects, he’s happy to oblige and “beat his face” on the canvas.
Given his tone, it’s safe to assume Usman is happy for “Rocky” to underrate his striking ahead of their clash.
“He said if I step in there with him, I won’t be striking the way that I am now. So I’ll oblige,” said Usman. “I give it to you. I will not strike. I am coming in to wrestle. I’m going to take him down, I’m going to beat on his face until he quits. So don’t expect me to strike—at all. I’m going to wrestle.
“Don’t expect me to strike, Leon. Since I’m not a good striker, don’t expect me to strike. I’m coming to take him down, and I’m gonna beat his face in.”
At UFC 261 last April, Usman brutally knocked out Masvidal in their rematch. In their first clash, “The Nigerian Nightmare” employed a wrestling-heavy approach. With that in mind, many have pointed out that Masvidal’s focus on defending any takedown attempts in their rematch may have left him open for the fight-ending shot up top.
Given how that played out, Edwards would certainly be wise to take Usman’s comments with a pinch of salt.
While his work with Trevor Wittman and impressive striking development means we’ll likely see Usman willing to trade with the Englishman, Edwards is certainly a different beast on the feet to the champ’s latest opponent.
With that said, we can expect to see Usman mixing up his attack more so than he did when he shared the Octagon with Covington last November. But after seeing Edwards dazed from a late punch against Diaz last June, he’ll certainly fancy his chances of finding the KO shot.
Do you think Kamaru Usman could hang with Leon Edwards in a five-round striking battle?