World champion Kamaru Usman will look to defend his UFC welterweight title against a familiar foe this weekend, in his highly anticipated rematch with Leon Edwards in Salt Lake City.
Edwards has had revenge on his mind for the last seven years, after he was beaten by unanimous decision in their first meeting back in 2015.
But the challenger has rightfully earned his chance at world title glory, having bounce back from that dominant loss with a fierce winning streak from his last nine fights.
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It hasn’t been a straightforward path to follow though for the British fighter, with five of his last six fights having been cancelled, including an almost historic meeting with Nate Diaz.
While that fight was rescheduled for June this year, with Edwards winning by unanimous decision in Glendale, it’s still far from ideal.
Edwards’ stellar run of form over the last six years, although he didn’t fight at all in 2020, has all been leading to one night – a shot at destiny, revenge and redemption.
Usman is considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC today, with Australian Alexander Volkanovski second on the official rankings.
The man known as The Nigerian Nightmare made his UFC debut against Edwards in that three round battle, which he largely dominated with six takedowns and 111 total strikes.
Usman became Africa’s first world champion after he beat American Tyron Woodley a few years ago in Las Vegas, winning by decision.
The king of the welterweight division is looking to hang onto his crown and extend his reign once again.
Usman has defended his title five times already, including a stunning knockout win over Jorge Masvidal last year.
But just like his opponent, there’s plenty on the line for both the champion and contender as their careers both come full circle on Sunday afternoon (AEST).
In other bouts Tyson Pedro returns from the longest lay-off in UFC history, nearly four years, in a huge moment for the Aussie.
WHEN AND WHERE (AEST)
The UFC 278 undercard will be live on ESPN via Foxtel and Kayo from 10am AEST on Sunday August 21.
The main card can be purchased on Kayo or Main Event, live from midday AEST.
Salt Lake City will host a UFC fight night for the second time, after a card back in 2016.
Kamaru Usman vs Leon Edwards (welterweight title bout)
Paulo Costa vs Luke Rockhold (middleweight)
Jose Aldo vs Merab Dvalishvili (bantamweight)
Wu Yanan vs Lucie Pudilova (bantamweight)
Tyson Pedro vs Harry Hunsucker (light heavyweight)
Marcin Tybura vs Alexandr Romanov (heavyweight)
Leonardo Santos vs Jared Gordon (lightweight)
Sean Woodson vs Luis Saldana (featherweight)
Miranda Maverick vs Shanna Young (flyweight)
AJ Fletcher vs Ange Loosa (Welterweight)
Amir Albazi vs Francisco Figueiredo (flyweight)
Aoriqileng vs Jay Perrin (bantamweight)
TALE OF THE TAPE
Both Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards will enter the cage for their highly anticipated rematch full of confidence, as both look to write their own names into history.
In the other fights, former world title challenger Paulo Costa will look to test himself against the experienced Luke Rockhold in co-main event.
New Zealander Israel Adesanya was the first fighter to beat Costa in the UFC, winning by TKO in the second round of their bout a couple of years ago.
Adesanya has advised Rockhold he can “get him (Costa) tired” by wrestling, and taking his opponent to the floor early.
“Luke should take him down,” Adesanya said on his YouTube channel. “Luke, start wrestling straight away.
“If he can wrestle him and get him tired, wear those muscles out. Luke, try to wrestle him straight away… establish leg kicks a little bit, but start wrestling straight away and make him tired, make him second guess.
“Make him know he can be taken down or there’s a threat of being taken down.”
Veteran fighter Jose Aldo will also look to extend his unbeaten run to four fights, dating back to December 2020.
Aldo, who infamously lost to Conor McGregor after being knocked out inside 15 seconds in 2015, will go head-to-head with Merab Dvalishvili.
But for Australian fight fans, keep an eye out for Tyson Pedro who is making his return to a pay-per-view card for the first time since 2018.
Injuries have plagued the 30-year-olds career over the past few seasons, but he made his return to the cage with a win over Ike Villanueva in April.
Pedro, has revealed that Hollywood wants to tell his life story, is the heavy favourite for this matchup.
WHAT THEY SAID
Kamaru Usman: “I’m just a competitive guy. I got into sports and I just realised it was something burning inside me that I wanted to compete and compete. I wanted to best that guy. This is the ultimate, mono-e-mono, the sport to do it,” Usman told ESPN.
Leon Edwards:“Now is the perfect time,” Edwards said. “He’s been in so many wards. He’s been hurt by Colby, hurt by Gilbert. His body is showing that. I’m fresher, I’m bigger, and I’m excited to prove to the world that I’m number one.”
Fighter Jamahal Hill: “Leon don’t be active enough for me to really get a full scope or picture of where he is at this moment,” he said. “I look at him (Edwards’ last opponent Nate Diaz) as highly skilled, but for the level of where the games is and where the typical people at the top of the game are, he’s not up there.”
Israel Adesanya on Rockhold vs Costa: “With the time off, hopefully, his brain has recovered as much as it can,” he said. “My brain goes Luke so I’m gonna go Luke.”
UFC veteran Anthony Smith on Luke Rockhold: “I think that Luke is absolutely the better fighter, but I’ve said that about the last couple of guys that Luke has fought,” Smith said. “His issue has always been his defence and pulling out of shots with his chin up.”