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Edwards & Usman

UFC 286: Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman Trilogy

In the third installment of the trilogy, these two fighters meet for the Welterweight title having won one fight apiece in their two previous meetings. We take an in-depth look at what we can expect and give our predictions, but before that, you can head to our Cross Sport Specials page to check out some of the special offers we have.

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The Hail Mary. You’ve probably heard that term in sports before. It’s a desperation play made when you’re on the brink of losing, and you have no choice but to try something – anything – to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In American Football, – where the term originates from – the Hail Mary is a very long forward pass made with an extremely low chance of being completed. In soccer (football), it could be a goal-keeper going up the field for a corner-kick in the 96th minute with hopes of snatching an equalizer.


In basketball, it could be a half-court attempt when you’re down by 3pts, and you have only 1-second left on the clock. I think you get the picture. The idea is that when everything seems lost, you make a last-ditch effort and say a prayer (a Hail Mary) in the hopes of a miracle. It rarely works, with less than a 5% chance of success, but when it does, it is a thing of beauty. When these two fighters met in August last year, Kamaru Usman was seconds away from winning. Leon Edwards knew this and his demeanor said it all. However, a Hail Mary head-kick turned it all around as he sent Usman to bed, handing the Nigerian Nightmare a nightmare of his own. It was a head-kick that earned him the Knockout of the Year award by both ESPN and Cageside Press.

Tale of The Tape

Leon Edwards

  Kamaru Usman

20-3 (7 wins by KO)


20-2 (9 wins by KO)




1.88 m


1.83 m

77.1 kg Weight

77.1 kg

188 cm


193 cm

A History of The Kamaru & Edwards Rivalry

Leon Edwards may have needed a Hail Mary to get the win last year but, being crowned Welterweight champion was not a fluke. After their fight in August, video footage emerged of Edwards and his trainers practicing the head-kick. It might have appeared as a desperation move – which it was, really – but it had been practiced. These two fighters first met in a 3-Round fight back in December 2015, with Usman getting the win through a Unanimous Decision. It was a one-sided fight to be entirely honest, but Usman just couldn’t land the knockout blow he wanted to end the match early. The Nigerian Nightmare had 48 Significant Strikes (126 total) to Edwards’ 26 (36 total). He also had 6 Takedowns with Edwards failing to register one.

It wasn’t a surprise, though. Kamaru Usman, who has a background in wrestling, had never been taken down in his professional career in 2015. In fact, Usman has a 97% Takedown Defense, only suffering one Takedown in his 10-year career.

UFC 278 Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards odds, predictions: How Usman can extend his winning streak - The Athletic

Following his victory over Leon Edwards in 2015, Kamaru Usman would go on to win 13 fights in a row, while picking up the Welterweight Championship against Tyron Woodley in 2019 by a Unanimous Decision. Leon Edwards also went on a winning streak of his own, winning 9 fights in a row. He strongly feels that his streak should have been 10 if the fight against Belal Muhammad in 2021 wasn’t declared a No Contest following an accidental poke to the eye that made Muhammad unable to continue.

When these two met last year, they were in better phases of their careers. They were seasoned veterans in their 30s, with Edwards having not lost in 7 years, while Usman, who was now the Welterweight Champion, hadn’t lost since tapping out to Jose Caceres’s Rear-Naked Choke in 2013. Some things, however, stayed the same. Just as he had done in 2015, Usman dominated the fight. He landed 83 Significant Strikes (189 Total) to Edwards’ 55 (64 Total). Usman had 5 Takedowns, but this time Edwards had 1. It was an early Takedown in the first round & the first the Nigerian Nightmare had suffered in his career. After what seemed like an even first round, Edwards was pretty much on the back foot for the rest of the fight. He admitted that after the fourth round, he was downcast because he knew he was losing on the scorecards. He felt Usman was one round away from a win by Unanimous Decision, and it would take something special to turn things around. So, late in the fifth round, with defeat all but certain, he went for a Hail Mary. The rest, as they say, is history.

The London Fight

With one win apiece, this fight at the 02 Arena in London is generally believed to be the final installment in the rivalry between these two phenomenal fighters. Usman is the overwhelming favorite, as many believe he is just too focused to lose. However, Edwards – the second British champion in UFC history – is used to being the underdog and has embraced the tag. Edwards will understand, however, that he was outfought in his last two fights and while he did beat Usman in August, he can’t always rely on a Hail Mary to bail him out – the odds don’t favor that.

UFC 278: Leon Edwards shocks Kamaru Usman to win UFC welterweight title - BBC Sport


In their two fights, Usman has landed more Significant Strikes (131 to 81) and has 3 times the Total Strikes (315 to 100) as well as more Takedowns (11 to 1). If he puts in a similar performance, and avoids a shock knockout, then he stands a good chance of winning the bout. It is now all on the Champion to execute a better game plan if he is to retain his title. To do this, he will have to lean on his strength which is his defense. Edwards has impressive defensive skills, as evidenced by his ability to absorb 2.28 Significant Strikes per minute, which is the third-best rate among active welterweights. Edwards’ toughness was on display in his last fight, and it could be the key to him winning this fight in front of his home crowd.

Usman will lean on what has worked for him in the past while hoping to avoid a late kick to the head. His strikes-landed-per-minute rate of 4.55 is significantly higher than Edwards’ rate of 2.59 while he has a slightly higher Striking Accuracy of 53.09% (compared to Edwards’ 50.58%). With his background in wrestling, he is expectedly is a superior grappler and this is where his win could lie. He has a takedown defense rate of 97%, which is unmatched by most fighters in the sport today, and he averages 3.01 takedowns every 15 minutes, which is far superior to Edwards’ rate of 1.39.


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