Teddy Atlas believes Kamaru Usman’s boxing focus led to his UFC 278 loss: “This is MMA… there’s kicks to worry about”

Teddy Atlas, Kamaru Usman
Mandatory Credit: THE FIGHT with Teddy Atlas, Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

At UFC 278, Kamaru Usman lost the UFC welterweight title in a last-minute via brutal head kick knockout at the hands of Leon Edwards. Boxing legend Teddy Atlas is convinced that Usman’s boxing approach played a major factor in ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’s’ first loss in nine years. 

Edwards would feint a right jab, causing Usman to lower his head to the right. This would prove a costly mistake as Edwards threw a perfect head kick to end the fight. 

On THE FIGHT with Teddy Atlas, the legendary boxing coach discussed how the Usman camp was so focused on boxing that they forgot about MMA fundamentals.

“When that throwaway left hand came at him, he slipped his head to his right to get away from it, the way that you would in boxing but he forgot this ain’t boxing,” Atlas said. “This is MMA, this is UFC specifically and there’s kicks to worry about.” 

Teddy Atlas thinks Kamaru Usman got too Relaxed

Atlas believes Usman got too comfortable inside of the octagon, which he thinks also contributed to his loss. The legendary boxing coach felt that Usman began to lower his guard with a minute left after finding success and dominating for most of the fight. 

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“I think a part of what conspired against Usman also was that he got overconfident…you got to become calm in an uncommon environment but never become comfortable, never feel safe in a dangerous environment,” Atlas said. “I thought success hurt him that he had the success he had, it almost became too easy.”

The comeback by Edwards was not downplayed by Atlas. He gave the British star credit for hanging in the fight and setting up the fight-winning head kick. 

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“He [Edwards] went out there and he freaking had the resolve to still be there after losing solidly in the fight,” Atlas said. “He was getting broken down mentally a little bit but he didn’t give in, he didn’t say no.”

Usman reacted to his loss by congratulating Edwards and hinting at a trilogy fight at Wembley Stadium in London. 

“It was a great shot…I’m talking hail mary in the Super Bowl, last 10 seconds, that was a great shot,” Usman said. “[The trilogy] is absolutely what’s gonna happen next. Talk to Dana, I’ll let him do his job and we’re gonna see what date makes sense… it’d probably be top of next year.”

With a potential rematch in 2023, Usman will be looking to redeem his status as the welterweight king and pound-for-pound best fighter in the UFC.

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Marc Ray has lived his entire life in Houston, Texas, where he was born, raised and attended the University of Houston, studying broadcast journalism. As you may imagine, he spends much of his time watching mixed martial arts as part of his daily routine — not only to pump himself up, but also because he deeply enjoys the sport. Ray has worked for Houston Public Media, where he interned in the newsroom and produced community stories. Ray also created sports features in Houston for El Gato Media Network and occasionally produced content for an internship at AARP.