For seven years, Kamaru Usman took on and dispatched of all comers in the UFC welterweight division.
Usman won The Ultimate Fighter 21 in July of 2015 to begin his assault on the division.
His first official UFC fight came just five months later against Leon Edwards, a relatively uneventful fight that he won by unanimous decision.
Fast forward seven years and five UFC welterweight title defenses later and the two squared off at UFC 278 last August for the welterweight crown.
Usman controlled most of the fight and looked well on his way to another unanimous decision victory. But with less than a minute remaining in the fight, Edwards changed everything.
Edwards landed a walk-off, left high kick that sent Usman crumbling to the mat and sent the belt home with the challenger.
Kamaru Usman Doesn’t Believe Leon Edwards Was The Better Fighter In UFC 278 wIN
Now the two are set to square off in the grudge match at UFC 286 on Saturday, and Usman sounds like a man confident that he’ll get his title back.
“Yes, you have a ton of tape. All these people or all these fighters have all this tape to watch and study and try to defeat you with what they’ve studied. If they’re able to do that, if they have the ability to study your tape and go out there and shut everything and do that, they’re the better fighter. They deserve to be champion anyways. You can’t stop it. If they have the ability to trump what they see on tape, they’re the better fighter anyways.
“Now, the problem is, you can watch as much tape as you want to. A lot of people can see me and say, ‘Oh, wow, he has a decent gas tank.’ But until you are locked in that cage with me and you actually feel that, you have no idea. This individual has felt it twice, and he has melted twice. He’s shown me nothing to let me believe he’s a better mixed martial artist than I am — besides one Hail Mary in the fifth round.” – Kamaru Usman on Morning Kombat
To Usman’s credit, he makes a good point. The former champ led for almost the entire of their previous two fights. But therein lies the danger with Edwards. He’s an elite striker with knockout power.
It only takes one strike for him to end a fight. And even if Usman dominates again on Saturday, Edwards still poses that same threat.