Those who populate the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight division can not afford to overlook Leon Edwards any longer.
The former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion extended his winning streak to eight fights and did so in resounding fashion, as he pitched a virtual shutout against Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC on ESPN 4 main event on Saturday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. Scores were 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46, all for Edwards.
Dos Anjos was competitive throughout but struggled to deal with the offensive weaponry the Brit fired at him. It included three surprising takedowns, along with a standing elbow strike in the second round that tore open a gnarly gash above the Brazilian’s right eye. Dos Anjos was burdened by the wound for the rest of the fight despite the admirable work done by his cutman. Edwards continued to land punches in combination and mixed in a few more slashing elbows to keep him off-balance.
In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN 4, here are five matches that ought to be made:
Leon Edwards vs. Jorge Masvidal: Since his December 2015 decision defeat to current champion Kamaru Usman, Edwards has gone 8-0 and slowly risen through the ranks at 170 pounds. Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson, Vicente Luque and Albert Tumenov were among those who were unable to crack his code during this run, adding serious credibility to his resume. Edwards’ degree of difficulty only figures to increase from here, and he has a well-chronicled history with Masvidal. The two men were involved in a backstage skirmish at UFC Fight Night 147 in March during which “Gamebred” connected with a punch. Masvidal went on to author the fastest knockout in organizational history on July 6, when his flying knee froze Ben Askren in five seconds at UFC 239.
Walt Harris vs. Blagoy Ivanov: Harris turned his co-headliner with Alexey Oleynik into a squash match, as he dispatched the Russian submission specialist with punches 12 seconds into the first round of their encounter. It was the third-fastest knockout in the history of the UFC heavyweight division and painted “The Big Ticket” in new light at the age of 36. Since being disqualified for an illegal kick against Mark Godbeer in November 2017, Harris has compiled a 3-0 record with one no-contest and provided reason to consider him a person of interest inside the promotion’s weakest weight class. A former World Series of Fighting champion, Ivanov last competed at UFC 238 on June 8, when he was awarded a unanimous decision over Tai Tuivasa.
Greg Hardy vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik: Everyone has an opinion on Hardy, the vast majority of them falling somewhere between disgust and disdain. Nevertheless, the American Top Team representative and former NFL defensive end has established solid footing in the heavyweight division and continued his march toward relevance with a 45-second technical knockout of Juan Adams. All five of Hardy’s wins have resulted in first-round finishes, four of them of the sub-minute variety, and his notoriety only provides the UFC with more reason to showcase him on MMA’s brightest stage. Rozenstruik upped his record to 8-0 with a nine-second knockout against Allen Crowder at UFC Fight Night 154 on June 22.
Dan Hooker vs. Charles Oliveira: Sufficiently recovered from the horrendous beating he absorbed from Edson Barboza a little more than seven months ago, Hooker returned to the winner’s circle with a stirring first-round knockout of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 semifinalist James Vick. “The Hangman” drew the curtain 2:33 into Round 1, improving to 8-4 under the UFC banner. Hooker has won five of his six fights since returning to the 155-pound weight class in 2017, putting him in prime position to make another run at someone in the Top 15 before matchmakers close the book on 2019. Oliveira, who has finished five straight opponents, put away Nik Lentz with second-round punches at UFC Fight Night 152 on May 18.
Alexander Hernandez vs. Islam Makhachev-Davi Ramos winner: Hernandez rebounded from his ill-fated pairing with the aforementioned Cerrone in January, albeit in controversial fashion, as he took a contentious unanimous decision from former Jungle Fight champion Francisco Trinaldo in their three-round lightweight showcase. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, all for “Alexander the Great.” The 26-year-old Texan struggled to pull the trigger before a crowd of 9,255, spent much of the 15-minute confrontation moving backward and suffered a cut thanks to a knee strike from Trinaldo in the second round. Even so, Hernandez has won nine of his last 10 fights and owns a 3-1 record in the UFC. Makhachev will lock horns with Ramos at UFC 242 on Sept. 7.