In the main event of the Salt Lake City-held pay-per-view, Usman targeted his sixth successful title defense, having run roughshod at 170 pounds since capturing the gold from Tyron Woodley in 2019.
But while there’d been talk of the challenge of Khamzat Chimaev providing more motivation for him post-Leon Edwards, as well as the thought of a champ-champ pursuit at light heavyweight, “The Nigerian Nightmare” has now been left without UFC gold in his possession.
That’s courtesy of a last-gasp head-kick knockout from Edwards, who marked himself in history as the United Kingdom’s second-ever titleholder on MMA’s biggest stage by upsetting the odds to dethrone Usman.
While the come-from-behind victory immediately went viral, with most congratulating and praising Edwards — who secured a memorable rise from troubled teenager to top step of the UFC welterweight ladder — many pointed to a perceived level of complacency from Usman as a major part in the Brit’s underdog triumph.
Now, Teddy Atlas has provided his own assessment, and whilst giving Edwards full credit for the incredible feat, laid some blame on the approach of Usman and his team.
Atlas: Usman Forgot He Was Fighting MMA
During a recent episode of The Fight with Teddy Atlas, the 66-year-old looked back on a memorable weekend of combat sports action, which included Oleksandr Usyk’s second victory over Anthony Joshua and Edwards’ crowning at UFC 278.
Assessing the latter result, Atlas suggested that Usman’s newfound striking arsenal, which has seen heavy focus on a boxing approach in training — and even calls for a crossover fight against Canelo Álvarez — ultimately caused him to lose the welterweight strap in Utah.
“I thought his boxing pedigree or teaching — and he’s gotten good teaching and he’s improved tremendously his striking, he has, Usman — but I thought it hurt him,” Atlas said. “It betrayed him. It ambushed him… When that throwaway left hand came at him, he slipped his head to the right to get away from it, the way you would in boxing. But he forgot this ain’t boxing, this is MMA. This is UFC, specifically.
“There are kicks to worry about. And he moved his head to get away from what he thought was a punch, and it was a throwaway punch, and forgot about the kick. So his boxing and concentration on boxing, and his level of learning boxing to the level he has, actually hurt him,” Atlas added. (h/t Sportskeeda MMA)
Whilst initially known as a relentless wrestler — a reputation that came from the skills he utilized to outpoint Edwards in 2015 and Woodley to win the title win 2019 — Usman has developed a feared stand-up game in recent years, largely through his work with coach Trevor Wittman.
While his improved striking was on display in his TKO victory over Gilbert Burns last February and his flush knockout of Jorge Masvidal two months later, Atlas believes it may have backfired last weekend inside the Vivint Arena.
Do you agree with Teddy Atlas’ assessment?