With 2022 now behind us, one moment that no doubt led most people’s lists for the year’s best knockout, comeback, and championship victory was Edwards’ crowning at UFC 278.
In the Salt Lake City-held pay-per-view‘s headliner, “Rocky” shocked the world by ending the previously dominant reign of Usman, who had his sights set on GOAT status at 170 pounds. While he appeared set to move closer to that target through four rounds against Edwards, the Englishman turned the tables with just a minute remaining.
He did so by launching an emphatic and perfectly set up head kick, knocking “The Nigerian Nightmare” out cold.
While the novelty of seeing his inspiring journey continue with him reaching the top of the food chain in the UFC likely still hasn’t worn off, Edwards’ attention must now turn towards his first title defense, which is expected to come in the form of a third date in the cage with Usman.
Although many have suggested that the former champ won’t get caught again and will have too much for the Brit, similar to their first collision in 2015, one man who’s both fought with and trained with Usman sees things slightly different.
Burns Names Key Factor In Edwards/Usman 3
During an interaction with the media backstage at UFC 282, one-time welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns was asked for his prediction for the likely trilogy fight at the top of his division.
While “Durinho” suggested that the matchup is a pick’em, he did highlight a possible factor that may grant Edwards the edge come fight night.
Their fight last year took place in Utah, where the region’s high altitude appeared to play a part throughout the UFC 278 event. Given Usman’s time training in Colorado, “The Nigerian Nightmare” appeared more acclimatized to the conditions and less fatigued than Edwards late in the day.
With that in mind, and having seen the success a fresh Edwards found early in the August fight, Burns believes the reigning welterweight king may have an edge in a location he’s more used to.
“That’s a 50/50 fight. I think, to be honest, I look at that fight from an angle that I don’t think a lot of people saw it (from),” Burns said. “That fight was in Salt Lake City, with the altitude. Kamaru trains in Denver on the altitude. Leon is not at (high) altitude, where Leon trains in London. And Leon did very good in the first round, I was impressed with the takedown, mount, taking the back. But I think he faded a little bit second, third round.
“Now, going into the second fight, there’s no altitude in London. That’s frickin’ Leon’s house, you know? Sh*t, I think it’s a 50/50 fight. I think it’s gonna be super, super close. If I gotta give the advantage, it’s gonna be a little bit for Leon, because there’s no altitude this time, great camp, at home,” Burns continued. “He even said he didn’t feel good and he did what he did the way he did. I think it’s gonna be a 50/50 (but) maybe a little bit more to Leon Edwards. He’s in good momentum right now, he’s young, he’s hungry.”
Should the apparent plans come to fruition, Edwards will certainly be putting his belt on the line in familiar surroundings. By all accounts, “Rocky” is being lined up to defend the gold opposite Usman at UFC 286, set for London in March.
Although reports last week hinted that Usman may not be his opponent come March 18 owing to a hand injury, Kill Cliff FC’s Henri Hooft recently disproved those rumours with footage of the former titleholder grappling in the gym.
Do you agree with Gilbert Burns’ assessment of Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3?
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