UFC 278: Leon Edwards stuns Kamaru Usman to clinch welterweight title

Edwards becomes only the second British champion after decisive kick in fifth round

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Leon Edwards dropped Kamaru Usman with a kick to the head and neck in the final minute of the fifth round to win the welterweight title at UFC 278 in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.

Usman appeared to be seconds away from a 16th consecutive victory, which would have tied an all-time UFC record, before Edwards came up with the stunning finish just in time. He delivered the knockout blow with 56 seconds left in the bout.

“That crosshead kick landed perfectly,” Edwards said.

Usman had controlled the entire fight and was beating Edwards handily until the challenger connected at the 4:04 mark of the fifth and final round. Usman led 39-37 on all three judges' cards.

Edwards thus snapped Usman's 15-fight winning streak, one shy of Anderson Silva's UFC record.

Edwards, who lost to Usman in 2015, is only the second Briton to become a UFC champion, following Michael Bisping in 2016.

He said in his post-fight octagon interview: "I can't put it into words. It's been a long four years. They all doubted me, they all said I couldn't do it. Look at me now!

"I'm from the trenches, I'm built like this. I go until the battle is done.

"I do it for everyone coming behind me. I told you it was possible. We can win a belt, from the UK. Look at me now. I told you I could do it.

"God is on my side. I said it all week, I felt like this is my moment. Everything that happened in the past - two years out, the pandemic, all of it. They all said I couldn't come back and do it.

"There is no ring rust. Now look at me, the champion of the world. I was born in Jamaica with nothing, look at me now."

UFC’s first pay-per-view event in Utah drew 18,321 fans and $4.2 million in live gate revenue, a Vivint Arena record. It marked the 23rd consecutive sellout for the UFC.

UFC chief Dana White praised the arena atmosphere and said the UFC could return to Utah as early as 2023.

“You could put this crowd up there with anybody tonight,” White said.

Former UFC champion Conor McGregor wrote on Twitter: "An amazing scene to witness! Huge congrats Leon! A real good, solid and dedicated mixed martial artist!

"The UK's second only UFC champion! Incredible! Congrats mate!"

Meanwhile, Paulo Costa prevailed over former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in a unanimous decision in the middleweight bout. Costa (14-2) had lost two straight bouts coming into Salt Lake City.

Updated: August 21, 2022, 8:50 AM
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