Leon Edwards retains welterweight title with points win over Kamaru Usman at UFC 286

British champion claims majority decision in trilogy bout in London to extend winning streak to 12 fights

Leon Edwards, right, leaves the Octagon after victory against Kamaru Usman after their welterweight title bout at the UFC 286 mixed martial event at O2 Arena, in London, Saturday, March 18, 2023.  (Kieran Cleeves / PA via AP)
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Leon Edwards successfully defended his UFC welterweight title in London on Saturday night after emerging victorious from a gruelling five-round battle with a majority decision win over Kamaru Usman at UFC 286.

Edwards beat Usman in sensational fashion when the two met in Salt Lake City in August last year, knocking the Nigerian out with a spectacular fifth-round head kick to claim the title, but Usman was quickly granted a re-match.

This time, the fight was to be on home soil for the 31-year-old Briton, and London's O2 Arena gave him a hero's welcome as he entered the octagon.

The crowd chanted his "Rocky" nickname as he circled his opponent first round, picking his shots and landing heavy body kicks towards the end of the frame.

Famed for his superb wrestling skills, Usman got Edwards to the mat twice midway through the second round, but each time the champion managed to scramble back to his feet.

Usman had his opponent on the ground again early in the third round, and referee Herb Dean deducted a point from Edwards for grabbing the fence as he tried to get back up.

With the two fighters tiring, the fourth round turned into a cagey affair as Usman pressured and Edwards continued to attack the body with kicks, hoping to set up the same head kick finish that finished their previous encounter.

Edwards uncorked that exact kick twice early in the final round but this time Usman emerged unscathed. Undeterred, Edwards continued mixing his body shots with some vicious uppercuts and brilliant defensive wrestling to ultimately thwart his opponent.

After the fight, Edwards said he could be open to a bout with former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington, who was cage-side on Saturday, but added he could also travel to Miami in April to see Gilbert Burns' fight with Jorge Masvidal.

"That man [Covington] has sat out for two years. I might take a little trip to Miami and see what's going on there," Edwards said.

"I know it was a close fight so I knew I had to land the cleaner shots. He didn't land many clean on me. He just had lots of pressure. Thanks to Kamaru for being a great competitor."

UFC 286: Edwards v Usman III - in pictures

In beating Usman, Edwards extended his unbeaten run in the UFC to 12 fights, with his last defeat coming against Usman in the first of their trilogy bouts in 2015.

"He didn't get any takedowns, I was landing cleaner shots, I took out his legs," Edwards said. "I couldn't get the kick around his head. He had the perfect defence. I was trying to set it up with kicks to the body and legs."

As the fighters and everyone in attendance awaited the judges' scores, Usman raised his arm expecting to be announced as the winner, and while he believed he won the fight, the Nigerian was gracious in defeat.

"I think I did enough to win the fight but I knew it was close," he said. "He had a great gameplan. I always said from the start we'd meet again and I'm not done. We will see each other again.

"I always gave him props for what he's accomplished. He's a brother like myself and great respect. London you've got yourself a great champion."

In the co-main event, American Justin Gaethje scored a majority decision victory over fellow lightweight Rafael Fiziev of Kazakhstan after a thrilling three-round display of high-level striking from both men.

Updated: March 19, 2023, 5:28 AM