TNT Sports Reload - Episode 13Oct 10
The three judges at Octagonside scored the contest 48-46, 48- 46 and 47-47, ensuring Edwards kept the 170lb title under British custody following a tense encounter with the former pound-for-pound ruler Usman.
It was an engrossing encounter from the first bell as Edwards looked to pick up where he left off at UFC 278 roared on by a ferocious atmosphere inside the O2 Arena.
The champion enjoyed some early success too, whipping up fervour among the crowd as he appeared to stagger Usman temporarily with a powerful body kick just 90 seconds into the contest.
Into the second, Edwards looked to manage to distance and tempo of the contest with his kicks, targeting Usman’s lead leg and body time and time again.
A huge knee from the champion forced Usman to prove his chin and “The Nigerian Nightmare” ate it commendably, retaliating with a stinging right hand that caught Edwards’ attention.
The challenger looked to turn to his wrestling in the third round and Usman managed to land a rare takedown that led to a scramble against the cage in which Edwards was found guilty of a flagrant fence grab that helped him get back to his feet.
Referee Herb Dean had no choice but to dock Edwards a point but with the contest then back standing, Edwards took advantage of the position to pepper the 35-year-old with a beautiful display of elusive kickboxing.
It was a masterful defensive wrestling performance
- Tom Aspinall
Usman continued to push the pace and drive the tempo in the fourth round but it turned into a cagey affair as Edwards continued to maul Usman’s lead leg while stuffing takedowns with impressive defensive wrestling.
The UFC 278 head kick made an appearance in the opening moments of the fifth round but this time Usman had his hands in the right place to block the strike, despite the roar of the crowd which greeted it.
Another stuffed takedown from the challenger opened the door for Edwards to land a number of eyecatching strikes on the retreating Usman, slamming home an uppercut and a short elbow to send the home fans ballistic.
Usman looked increasingly desperate heading into the closing stages of the fight but Edwards would not be beaten – nor would the electric crowd inside the O2 Arena as they roared the champion over the line.
In the end, it was a thoroughly deserved victory from Edwards who upset the oddsmakers to ensure the UFC welterweight title would remain on British soil.
Speakin on the UFC Fight Week post-fight show, UFC heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall hailed Edwards’ performance.
“His decision-making is second to none. His tactics were bang on,” Aspinall said.
“It was a masterful defensive wrestling performance.”
In the co-main event Justin Gaethje upset the oddsmakers to edge a narrow decision win over Rafael Fiziev in an enthralling battle between two of the most dynamic strikers in the division.
The former interim lightweight champion had been unfancied by some to navigate the challenge posed by a surging Fiziev but Gaethje proved his championship mettle in a battle that lived up to its pre-fight billing as a bloody war of wills.
Addressing the crowd inside the O2 who had been chanting his name throughout the contest, Gaethje said: “I'm taking one more run at the title, but I'm not going to be around much longer, so thanks for sharing this with me.”
I'm taking one more run at the title, but I'm not going to be around much longer, so thanks for sharing this with me
- Justin Gaethje
Earlier there were big wins for some of the home contingent as Jack Shore got his UFC featherweight campaign off to a winning start by submitting Makwan Amirkhani, Chris Duncan squeezed past Omar Morales via spit decision and Muhammad Mokaev survived a brutal kneebar before tapping Jafel Filho during a dramatic third round to keep his undefeated record intact.
The UK also went undefeated on the early prelims portion of UFC 286 too with wins for Lerone Murphy (SD vs Gabriel Santos), Christian Leroy Duncan (TKO vs Dusko Todorovic), Jake Hadley (TKO vs Malcom Gordon), Joanne Wood (SD vs Luana Carolina) and Jai Herbert (MD vs Ludovit Klein).