Exclusive – Stephen Thompson backs Leon Edwards to beat Kamaru Usman: ‘Deep down, I want Leon to win’

Stephen Thompson
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Bottari - Zuffa LLC & Mike Roach - Zuffa LLC

Providing his breakdown for this weekend’s undisputed welterweight championship rematch between Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards at UFC 278, two-time title chaser, Stephen Thompson claims he hopes Edwards lands divisional gold, however, remains coy on whether or not the Birmingham native can topple Usman.

Thompson, who previously twice challenged for undisputed welterweight gold against promotional alum, Tyron Woodley back in 2016 and 2017, first fought to a majority draw against the St. Louis veteran, before suffering a majority decision loss in an immediate title rematch.

The Simpsonville native has yet to be booked for his next Octagon appearance, however, will be tasked to snap a run of back-to-back losses against both Gilbert Burns and the surging, Belal Muhammad next time out.

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Boasting a 16-6-1 professional record, striking ace, Thompson had enjoyed a run of impressive victories against both Geoff Neal and Vicente Luque prior to his decision loss against former title challenger, Burns back in July of last year.

Stephen Thompson believes Leon Edwards has evolved more than Kamaru Usman since 2015

Staking his claim for a shot at Usman’s throne given the need for a fresh matchup at welterweight prior to his back-to-back losses, Stephen Thompson broke down this weekend’s headlining title fight between the Auchi native, and Edwards – claiming the latter has made the most improvements since their initial 2015 showdown.

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“Well, they’ve faced each other before, but I think Kamaru Usman’s going to back to his old style – wrestling,” Stephen Thompson told LowKick MMA reporter, Mike Owens. “He may throw a little striking out there, but I think the person that has improved the most out of those two is Leon Edwards. Just the fights that he’s had leading up, he’s used his wrestling – his wrestling has improved, a lot. And he’s got the high-level striking on top of it.”

“I think if Usman decides to strike with Leon, it’s a bad day,” Stephen Thompson said. “But I think if Usman can get him to the fence, control him, and use that cardio-based wrestling, I think he still has a chance. But, for me – like on paper, it’s Usman, but deep down, I want my man Leon to win. I want him to win. He’s been through a slew of guys – he should have had the title shot a lot sooner. And I think it’s his time.” 

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A victory for Usman in Salt Lake City would come as his sixth successful defense of his throne during a dominant reign at welterweight, while Edwards would avenge his 2015 defeat and extend his impressive unbeaten run to 11 straight fights.

Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.