Leon Edwards was well on his way to an uneventful, lopsided win against Nate Diaz at UFC 263 before the Stockton, Calif., native offered one final salvo in the fifth frame.
After failing to mount much in the way of significant offense for the majority of the fight, Diaz tagged Edwards with a left hand in the waning moments of their non-title affair. The blow sent “Rocky” stumbling across the cage, and Diaz stalked his man in hopes of a finish. While more punches were landed, Diaz couldn’t put Edwards away. It was a rare moment of suspense in a contest that was largely dominated by the well-rounded skills of the 29-year-old Brit.
“Like I said, it was a wild minute… To be dominant in a fight and then get caught with a shot out of the blue, I was like, ‘What the!?’” Edwards said. “There was one minute left, I was up four rounds but Nate is a legend, he’s been around in the sport for a long time and he knows how to ride his shots, he knows how to stay in there and fair play to him.”
After a headlining bout against Belal Muhammad ended in an unsatisfying no contest in March, Edwards secured his first victory since July 2019 and extended his unbeaten streak at 170 pounds to 10. The Team Renegade representative nonetheless found flaws with a performance that saw him control range with low kicks and left hands while mixing in several takedowns.
“It was all right,” he said. “I give it a seven out of 10. I could have picked more hands, let more hands go, pick more body shots with my hands... Like I said, live and learn. I can’t believe I caught that shot in the last round, but you have to stay switched off the whole fight, can’t get lazy, and fair play to him.”
Speaking of fair play, Edwards believes that the win over Diaz cements him as the No. 1 contender in the UFC’s welterweight division.
“I feel the world knows what I deserve next. I deserve a world title shot next,” Edwards said. “That’s nine in a row, there’s no one else that’s doing what I’m doing in the sport. I’m the one going out there and accepting all the fights, all of them ranked opponents. Khamzat [Chimaev], Diaz, Belal [Muhammad]... Everyone. I’m the one that is saying yes. I’m not turning down fights. I feel the world knows what I deserve next. The world title is next for me.”
Edwards may very well be disappointed in the coming months. At Saturday’s post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White doubled down on his statement that Colby Covington will receive a rematch against Kamaru Usman in the next 170-pound title fight. In the meantime, Edwards could be booked against Jorge Masvidal. The two have a history following their backstage confrontation at UFC Fight Night 147 in March 2019.
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