On the cusp of a UFC welterweight title rematch against reigning division kingpin, Kamaru Usman, the #3 ranked welterweight challenger, Leon Edwards believes his former-foes, newfound competency with his striking ability will ultimately result in his downfall — despite the recent success the Auchi has had with his hands in particular.
Undefeated in his last nine Octagon walks, Birmingham native, Edwards returns to the Octagon this weekend at UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona — tackling the returning Stockton favourite, Nate Diaz in a five round, non-title fight at the Gila River Arena. And to the consensus, a victory over the veteran Diaz this weekend in the ‘Copper State’ would prime Edwards for a well-overdue title re-run against Usman.
Whilst Edwards must get past the returning Diaz to earn his first title shot under the UFC’s banner, the possibility that he’ll challenge for spoils against Usman next is still uncertain, given the fact that UFC president, Dana White confirmed last week that former interim welterweight champion, the #1 ranked contender, Colby Covington would be receiving a rematch with Usman next instead.
Now under the tutelage of Trevor Wittman at ONX Labs in Colorado, Usman, as naturally gifted and technically proficient a grappler and wrestler at 170lbs as you’re likely to find in the UFC, has really begun to tighten up his overall striking — evident in knockout wins over Gilbert Burns in February, and a particularly devastating one-punch finish over two-time foe, Masvidal in April at UFC 261 to successfully lodge his fourth successful defence of the welterweight title since assuming the throne back in March of 2019.
However, the above-mentioned, Edwards has spoken candidly of Usman’s striking improvements over the last 12 months, and claims that the champion’s newfound fondness for his striking ability will result in an eventual downfall for him — but has admitted that the Nigerian has improved since his move from Sanford MMA to ONX Labs.
“Yeah, for sure,” Edwards replied when asked by BT Sports’ Adam Catterall if he believes Usman’s improved since the move of training facility. “His (Kamaru Usman) strikings getting better, you know. I think he’s probably fallen in love with his hands now, you know. Like I said, to go out there and put (Jorge) Masvidal away, Colby (Covington) away, and (Gilbert) Burns away — he’s probably fallen in love with his hands. But I think that’s gonna be his downfall. He’s gonna fall so in love with his striking, but I that’s gonna be his downfall, in the end, you know.“
Usman and Edwards first clashed at UFC Fight Night Orlando back in December of 2015 beneath a lightweight title main event between then-champion, Rafael dos Anjos and then-challenger, Donald Cerrone — with Usman handing Team Renagade BJJ & MMA staple, Edwards a unanimous decision loss — the most recent blemish of his professional career prior to his nine-fight undefeated streak.