UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards is preparing to face Kamaru Usman for the third time in his career at UFC 286, and he expects the fight to be nothing like the previous meetings.
This time, Edwards (20-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) will be entering the cage as the champion in front of a hometown crowd at O2 Arena in London. Knowing he will be the final man to make the walk to the octagon at the event, Edwards has not only been visualizing the moment he hits the curtain and crowd’s reaction, but how the fight itself will play out in his third meeting with Usman.
“This time around it will be a totally different fight,” Edwards told BT Sport. “I’ve never lost in the U.K. I’ve never lost at UFC London. … Pro and amateur. So, I’m taking that confidence into it. I’m taking the confidence of knowing I can knock him out into it. I’m taking the confidence of knowing I can take him down into it. I’m taking the confidence of knowing that once it hits the mat and I’m on top, I’m way better. Just all taking into it. My heritage, my story, it’s all going into it. I just can’t see how he comes over and beats me.”
At UFC 278, Edwards pulled off a comeback for the ages. Down on all three official scorecards going into the final round, Edwards knew he had to finish the fight, and did exactly that in spectacular fashion with a head kick knockout. The moment won MMA Junkie’s 2022 Comeback of the Year, and tied the series with the two fighters at one win a piece. +
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Edwards admits the night he won the welterweight title was not his best performance. Things were going much like the first meeting with Usman in 2015. That is until Edwards knocked him out cold in the final round of the rematch.
“To beat the pound-for-pound on your worst night, I think that’s one of my worst performances as far as career-wise goes in the UFC,” Edwards said. “To be able to still stay calm under that going into the fifth round and to get the KO, I think that shows character from me. That shows my mental I.Q. for the fight game, as far as knowing when to land that shot.
I think taking all that into the fight, it’s going to be a good night for me. I know he’s tough, I know he’s good – I’m not deluded. I know he’s a good fighter, but I truly believe that I’m better and I can’t see how he comes over and beat me in London.”