TNT Sports Reload - Episode 13Oct 10
The Birmingham fighter has been relishing the chance to rematch Kamaru Usman for the belt since losing to the future 170lb king back in 2015 – and now he has the chance in an unmissable main event atop a brilliant card at UFC 278.
Former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold’s return from a three-year layoff serves as a mouth-watering co-main event for the evening, as he faces one-time title challenger Paulo Costa in a bout sure to end in violent fashion.
And featherweight legend turned bantamweight contender Jose Aldo takes on one of the 135lb’s most avoided men as Merab Dvalishvili looks to extend his seven-fight win streak with the biggest victory of his career to date.
There’s so much to look forward to at UFC 278: Usman vs Edwards 2 from the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City so without further ado, here are four reasons why have you to tune in!
UFC 278: Trending
Everything you need to know about how to watch UFC 278 on BT Sport on TV and online.
Fight-by-fight predictions for a stacked card from Salt Lake City, including Usman vs Edwards and Costa vs Rockhold.
A look back at the life of British UFC star Leon Edwards and his journey to UFC welterweight championship contender
Both fighters’ key professional statistics ahead of UFC 278
A real ‘Rocky’ story
Leon Edwards has been waiting for this moment a long, long time.
Ever since losing to Kamaru Usman in a three-round scrap buried on the early prelims of an unremarkable Fight Night card back in December 2015, the man nicknamed ‘Rocky’ has been working on his own comeback story.
On Saturday night, Edwards looks to give that script a Hollywood ending as he challenges for UFC gold against the last man to beat him; redemption, revenge, finally.
There were times when it looked like this moment might never arrive, when a never-ending conveyor belt of misfortune tried valiantly to throw Edwards off-course from his destiny.
It began when the onset of the global pandemic forced the cancellation of Edwards’ scheduled headline tilt against Tyron Woodley at London’s O2 Arena in March 2020.
Subsequent travel restrictions prevented Edwards from travelling to the US for the rearranged bout, which instead saw Gilbert Burns secure a dominant win against the fading Woodley in May 2020.
A brief spat with the UFC later that year saw Edwards removed from the 170lb rankings entirely – only to be reinstalled as the number three contender when he accepted a showdown against the surging Khamzat Chimaev.
However, when both men came down with Covid just days apart at the start of December, it set the wheels in motion for a miserable winter that saw the fight pushed back three times before its eventual cancellation.
Having been out of the Octagon for more than 18 months as a result, Edwards subsequently made his return against Belal Muhammad in March 2021 and looked as sharp as ever, winning the first round comfortably.
But disaster struck once again in the second when an accidental eye poke rendered Muhammad unable to continue, forcing the bout to end in a no-contest.
Thankfully this time Edwards managed to make a relatively quick return to competition as he took on one of the biggest names in the promotion, Nate Diaz, at UFC 263.
Edwards dominated four rounds of the contest but needed to survive a major fifth round scare after being clipped by the ever-dangerous Diaz, eventually securing the victory by unanimous decision.
With the promise of a title shot not yet secure, the UFC set up a bitter grudge match between Edwards and Jorge Masvidal in a fight that would have helped elevate the Brit’s profile to a new level of stardom.
But a month out from their proposed bout at UFC 269, Masvidal withdrew with an undisclosed injury, inflicting further frustration on Edwards’ hopes of moving forwards.
The victim of circumstance once again despite signing up to do all that had been asked of him, Edwards was finally given his reward when in March this year, UFC boss Dana White confirmed he would be granted the next crack at welterweight king Usman whenever the champ returned to full fitness.
It’s been a long time coming but Edwards’ date with destiny is finally here as he seeks to become Britain’s second ever UFC champion.
Along with the former 185lb king Michael Bisping, Edwards will join Darren Till and Dan Hardy as the only men from these shores to reach a UFC title fight.
Can Rocky write history in Salt Lake City?
Will the Nightmare ever end?
We’re witnessing one of the true greats of mixed martial arts in action.
When all is said and done, Kamaru Usman will join the pantheon of legendary fighters to have made that Octagon walk – and many believe he might even be the best among them.
The 35-year-old reigns over the 170lb division with a frightening ledger evidencing his greatness: his 15 consecutive wins are unmatched among active fighters in the UFC and the most of any fighter in welterweight history.
His five title defences make him the second most dominant 170lb champion in UFC history behind only the legendary Georges St-Pierre (9) while he has also never been taken down or knocked down in the UFC.
He has wins over every notable contender of his era in the welterweight division, including Colby Covington twice, Jorge Masvidal twice and Gilbert Burns.
And at 35, Usman could still have another few years in him at the very top level, particularly given he seems to improve every time he makes that Octagon walk.
I don’t know how much longer I’m willing to do this
- Kamaru Usman
However, one day his reign will come to an end.
The likelihood is that it will be on Usman’s terms, given the dominance he has exerted on the welterweight landscape to date – but it is an eventuality that creeps closer every time “The Nigerian Nightmare” steps inside the cage.
Retiring on top is a prospect that Usman has at least considered in recent times, first broaching the subject during an interview with MMAFighting.com after beating Masvidal for the second time.
“Being a realist and I’m honest with myself and I know that I can’t do this forever, and I don’t want to do this forever,” he explained.
“Like I said, we’re on a track right now. I’m just so far ahead of these guys that I’m coming back around and I’m lapping them now. So, talking to some of my mentors, and some of the greatest that have done this, what they’re telling me at some point it’s going to start, that waking up in the morning and going to the gym to put in a day’s work is going to start to get heavier and heavier when nothing really motivates me like that anymore.”
Last November, he again hinted at his looming retirement when quizzed about a potential showdown with 170lb phenom Khamzat Chimaev.
“As far as me [fighting him], you know I’m in a point in life to where I understand how much this takes from you,” Usman continued.
“I’ve been nine weeks now away from my daughter, and FaceTime does help, but it doesn’t do it justice, as far as being there each and every day. So obviously I don’t know how much longer I’m willing to do this. They have to make sense for me now. If he’s able to get there, then we’ll talk about it at that point.”
There are no indications that UFC 278 will be Usman’s swansong atop the 170lb throne but, as Khabib famously showed by hanging up the gloves at UFC 254, nothing is certain in this sport.
Let us enjoy the greats while they are here. They won’t be forever.
A wants the B C
From one GOAT to another, Jose Aldo returns to action this weekend looking to continue writing the incredible epilogue to his featherweight legacy from his new place in the world as a 135lb contender on the hunt for the bantamweight championship.
The 35-year-old Brazilian may well go down in history as the finest featherweight to step foot into the Octagon; a former UFC champion with seven defences – nine if you include his reign as WEC king – Aldo’s ledger is almost unmatched among his fellow 145lb contemporaries.
That’s why nobody expected the “King of Rio” to take his talents south of the 145lb division – not least of which because it looked like an impossible weight cut for Aldo to endure at this stage of his storied career.
However, Aldo pulled it off and has looked phenomenal at his new home among the 135lbers.
In doing so, Aldo transformed his fate too, veering away from the likelihood of becoming just another featherweight gatekeeper to ignite a fresh world championship campaign.
His maiden effort at the 135lb strap proved unsuccessful as he came up against a masterful Petr Yan in Abu Dhabi at UFC 251 two summers ago – but the Brazilian icon has since gone on a three fight win streak, taking out a trio of game rivals to climb back to third in the rankings.
Nobody would have begrudged the man from Manaus a ride off into the sunset after his post-McGregor slump: his indelible mark is imprinted on the sport forever for his featherweight exploits.
But the veteran superstar stands on the cusp of elevating his legacy even further with one eye on that bantamweight crown.
Activity has picked up near the top of the 135lb rankings over recent weeks and will continue to over the coming months, building up towards Aljamain Sterling’s second title defence against TJ Dillashaw at UFC 280.
Can Aldo put himself in the conversation for a crack at the winner with a statement win here? Don’t bet against it.
The Roman march
Alexander Romanov is coming and the heavyweight division better watch out.
The undefeated Moldovan returns to action this weekend against Marcin Tybura looking for a sixth straight UFC victory that would see him take another step towards the top 10 on his indomitable march towards the top.
Aptly nicknamed “King Kong”, the 31-year-old looks destined to shake things up at the summit of the division sooner rather than later.
A world level freestyle wrestler with nasty submissions, Romanov will fancy his chances against many of those above him in a division dominated by strikers.
Tybura is the perfect opponent for Romanov to test his level; the Pole is coming off the back of a points defeat against Alexander Volkov but had been on a five-fight win streak prior to that loss at UFC 267.
However, if Romanov is as good as he’s led us to believe with his performances in the UFC so far, we could witness a mauling on Saturday night.