We take a look at some of the biggest questions in MMA, starting with Leon Edwards’ wild anger at Kamaru Usman, and try to separate what’s real and what’s not.
SALT LAKE CITY – The fight was as good as over. Aside from a takedown and a back-naked choke attempt in the first round, Leon Edwards easily lost to Kamaru Usman.
There was less than a minute left. Usman was close to winning his 16th straight UFC fight, breaking Anderson Silva’s record. It looked like another dominant performance from the man widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
And then, bam!
Edwards snapped a left headbutt and Usman was unconscious on impact. At 4:04 of the fifth and final round, Edwards defeated the seemingly invincible Usman to end his historic streak and win the UFC Welterweight Title at Vivint Arena on Saturday. The 18,321 in attendance were stunned and then whipped into a frenzy as they chanted Edward’s nickname, “Rocky.”
Utah fans knew they were witnessing history. And they really, really did. One could argue that Edwards pulled off the biggest comeback knockout in UFC history.
It’s rare for a challenger to take down a champion in the last round while they’re on the cards. Miesha Tate pulled it off in 2016 when she defeated Holly Holm to win the UFC women’s bantamweight title. Jiri Prochazka finished off Glover Teixeira with a fifth-round rear-naked choke in June to win the UFC light heavyweight title, though that was more of a back-and-forth bout. Edwards hit it with a Hail Mary headkick.
Perhaps the best comeback in the history of the sport was Silva’s triangle choke finish in the fifth round against Chael Sonnen in 2010. Sonnen had dominated the entire fight with his wrestling and ground-and-pound before Silva choked out of nowhere pulled out of his back with just a little over two minutes left. But again, it wasn’t a knockout.
On top of that, Edwards has taken on the best fighter in the world and one of the greatest of all time. UFC President Dana White previously opened up about Usman in the GOAT conversation. Edwards completed one of the most impressive trajectories in MMA history with a kick.
As Usman came close to ending the longest winning streak in UFC history, Edwards put a stop to it and who knows if the fighter will ever match or beat. Alexander Volkanovski now has the longest active winning streak in the UFC at 12 years old. Usman was also close to surpassing Matt Hughes’ five title defenses, the second-highest in UFC welterweight history. But for now he’ll have to settle for a draw with Hughes.
Edwards and Usman will fight again for sure. It will likely be the next fight for both of them, a massive trilogy match set to take place in Edward’s adopted home of England. Edwards will then have a chance to defend the title and continue to develop his own legacy.
But now? No matter what happens from here, this epic knockout — perhaps the biggest comeback KO in UFC history — will live forever.
Ciryl Gane won’t get a title shot next, even with a spectacular win over Tai Tuivasa
Raimondi: Really. Gane seems unlikely to get another title shot anytime soon after losing to champion Francis Ngannou at UFC 270 last January. As good as Gane looked as he climbed the rankings to face off against Ngannou, his former teammate at the MMA Factory in Paris, his performance in the title fight was disappointing. Ngannou was able to defeat him with a bad knee that required surgery through wrestling and grappling, something Ngannou was never known for before. Ngannou is one of the strongest punchers in UFC history and that’s how he usually wins fights. Very few saw this wrestling-heavy schedule coming, and Gane had a hard time figuring it out.
Gane is only 32 years old and will almost certainly get another tear in the belt. He’s a hearty -550 favorite against Tai Tuivasa. But even if he wins in spectacular fashion, it really doesn’t seem likely that he would be next in line. Ngannou is still recovering from surgery and is expected to be a free agent in January. Nobody is sure how this situation will develop.
Unless Ngannou is healthy or on his way out, the UFC appears poised to host an interim title fight between former longtime light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, the most successful UFC heavyweight champion. That fight could happen as early as December at UFC 282, which Jones dodged in a recent post on Twitter. If Ngannou leaves, Gane could theoretically fight winner Jones vs. Miocic for the undisputed title. But Curtis Blaydes is also out there as a top contender and Gane may have to go through him first.
There are definitely ways Gane could take a win over Tuivasa to a heavyweight title fight, but the most likely scenario is that the veteran Frenchman needs to win another one before he gets his second shot at the belt.
Demetrious Johnson – do you remember him? — is still a pound-for-pound force
Wagenheim: We’ll find out on Friday when “Mighty Mouse” has a rematch with Adriano Moraes for the One Championship flyweight title. When they met in April 2021, Moraes successfully defended his belt with a shock knockout of the former UFC champion with a knee in the second round. It was the only time in Johnson’s 35-fight career that he had finished. Now they’re doing it again, and the fight is a big deal for One trying to establish itself in the United States. This week’s event will be held in Singapore but will be broadcast live in prime time in the US. It’s hard to think of a better way for the promotion to showcase Johnson, one of the greatest in MMA history. Both men are in the top 10 ESPN men’s flyweight list, but Mighty Mouse is the brand name that American fans will recognize.
Does Johnson have a future as a presence in pound-for-pound rankings? I could be proven wrong by the end of the week, but I’ll say it “Not,” Mighty Mouse’s days as a top-notch competitor are over. The man is 36 years old and hasn’t had a win at a high level since 2017. Sure, he won three straight in one to earn his first title shot, but he didn’t exactly roll over his lower-ranked opponents. This is not to detract from Johnson’s career-long greatness. He is No. 3 in the UFC title fight with 12 wins, behind only Jones and Georges St-Pierre and ahead of Anderson Silva and Amanda Nunes. As that list of names suggests, Johnson is one of the greats and I’ll be watching on Friday to see what else he has to show us.
Okamoto: Not really. I think that’s pretty obvious. How on earth could it be? Chimaev just beat the No. 1 welterweight contender. He’s in his prime and talks about winning titles in three different weight classes. Diaz is 1-3 in his last four fights. The last time he fought for a championship was 10 years ago, in a different weight class. The only way you can tell this is the right fight for Chimaev is if he can build his brand, which is why the UFC did it. And I can’t blame him for that.
After Diaz clarified that he only wanted one more fight in the UFC, the promotion would make a business decision on who that final fight would be against. And it would be either Conor McGregor (for the money) or Chimaev (to build Chimaev). So it’s pretty easy to understand why this fight is happening. But no, I can’t say it’s the right fight for Chimaev. A better fight would have been an opponent like Colby Covington, who the UFC was also interested in booking.
https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/34438154/ufc-real-not-was-leon-edwards-win-vs-kamaru-usman-best-kick-knockout-ever UFC Real or Not – Was Leon Edwards’ win vs. Kamaru Usman the best kick knockout ever?