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A Stunner for the Ages: Leon Edwards Shocks Champ Kamaru Usman at UFC 278

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

It had been the finish of the fourth round. The columns were all half-written, the bets 5 minutes from cashing. Kamaru Usman was comfortably ahead on the scorecards and cruising to a sixth consecutive defense of his UFC welterweight title. The finish was just 5 minutes of formality, of the continued slow crush of Usman’s dominance away.

No one appeared to know it a lot more than poor Leon Edwards.

“A dejected challenger,” observed color commentator Joe Rogan.

“Yeah,” agreed fellow broadcaster Daniel Cormier.

The fifth began with the broadcasters predicting Edwards was far behind on the scorecards and that the challenger would have to look for a stoppage to win. They discussed moral victories, concerning the accomplishment of going 25 minutes with maybe the sport’s greatest reigning champion.

In the round’s opening moments, Din Thomas, another valuable area of the broadcast team, said, “If it wasn’t obvious enough, Leon is broken now…he’s embarrassed from their own performance.”

On further inspection, Edwards did indeed look like wearing what we used to call a thousand-yard stare.

But, there is a cracking sound. And there is Usman, on the mat, looking sightlessly up at the lights.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

The champ had just ducked right into a perfectly disguised left high kick from Edwards. And there he was, separated from his senses. The cleanest knockout you can ever desire to see. And there is forget about roof on the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

With only 56 seconds remaining in the contest, we’d a UFC welterweight champion, and his name was Leon Edwards.

“I cannot put it into words, Joe,” an ecstatic Edwards told Rogan in the cage following the fight. “For a long time you all doubted me and said I couldn’t take action. You all said I couldn’t take action. Look at me now! God is on my side. I’ve said everything week: that is my moment.”

You can’t fault those commentators in hindsight; these were speaking for everybody watching. Edwards had the appearance of a beaten man and Usman had the appearance of a complete master of his craft, plying his trade on the way to some other convincing win. Recalling their observations isn’t designed to cast aspersions with this so much since it would be to capture the mood in the arena and between your two combatants, that they accurately did.

Until that fateful moment, the initial round was easily Edwards’ best. Each man exchanged kicks early (kicks were a crucial weapon for Edwards in every five rounds) sufficient reason for Usman plying his bread and butter: takedowns and control time on the mat or across the fence. When Edwards landed a vacation takedown, he became the initial man to take Usman down in the UFC, ending the champ’s perfect 100 percent takedown defense rate.

WHO DAT Cool Breesy @Steve2duhO

I’m giving the very first round to Leon Edwards. That has been a good leg trip by Leon to perform the takedown. He’s the initial fighter to takedown Kamaru Usman. #UFC278

Likely sensing he might have lost a round, Usman ratcheted up the pressure in Round 2. This is the champ’s highest-output striking round, per UFC stats, as he outlanded Edwards 36-20 in significant strikes. Usman repeatedly walked Edwards down contrary to the cage and chopped at the top and body as Edwards covered up.

The 3rd and fourth unfurled in classic Usman fashion. Whenever Edwards regained his verticality, he was quickly dumped on his backside again or ate an elbow for his troubles. In both of these rounds, Usman amassed six minutes and 14 seconds of control time, more than half of the full total 10 minutes of combined action.

As confirmed following the fact, the judges all gave Edwards the initial and Usman the next, third and fourth, making the final stanza a make-or-break proposition for the challenger. And although his face was blank and his eyes were glassy, he still seems to have gotten the message.

Jed I. Goodman @jedigoodman

Usman/Edwards scorecards.
All 3 judges had identical scorecards. 39-37.#UFC278 pic.twitter.com/ppBV2VpF9G

Usman had taken the drama out from the proceedings. And, with one minute remaining in the ultimate round, when Edwards threw that straight left hand and convinced Usman to duck right into a head kick, he put everything back in and some.

Shannonnn sharpes burner @shannonsharpeee

Leon edwards knocks out usman #UFC278 pic.twitter.com/7lq4X9KjVw

Yes. Some individuals will say Edwards was still not the higher fighter that night, a fluky shot is what has him leaving with the gold.

Jen @Jmadams03

Dont strut bud. That performance sucked until it didnt. #UFC278

That isn’t inaccurate. Nonetheless it doesn’t change the truth that this sort of thing is baked in to the sport. It is the special sauce of MMA: so a lot of things can occur.

And for individuals who saw Edwards shock everybody who was simply watching, this can’t help but be an all-time come-from-behind win. There have been a lot of other upsets that happened when confronted with longer statistical oddsEdwards was “only” about +260but that is up there for out-of-nowhere, snatching-victory-from-jaws-of-defeat victories.

Aaron Bronsteter @aaronbronsteter

Odds on Edwards by KO/TKO in Round 5: +5000 (via @FanDuelCanada)

Anderson Silva’s Hail Mary triangle choke on Chael Sonnen in 2010 probably rules the genre. The next and third Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard fights were great. Heading back to the venerable Pride days, Fedor Emelianenko returning in 2004 after Kevin Randleman nearly slammed him into unconsciousness is another good one.

There are lots to select from, which fight just joined that rarefied list. That is more pleasurable than marching slowly toward Usman’s date with Khamzat Chimaev, assuming the phenom got past beloved but fading Nate Diaz at UFC 279 the following month. That day should come, but these delightfully, quintessentially MMA detours are always portion of the story.

So just forget about Chimaev for the present time. UFC President Dana White said afterward that he’s prepared to make the Usman-Edwards rubber match, also to ensure it is in Edwards’ native England.

Jed I. Goodman @jedigoodman

Dana White says he really wants to do the Usman/Edwards rematch in England.#UFC278 pic.twitter.com/Tqk8f5ZdgU

It’s good to function as champion, and Edwards has earned his way here. Regardless of what happens the 3rd time around, Edwards will will have among the company’s most thrilling title wins ever sold.

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