Leon Edwards Turns Away Kamaru Usman to Retain Title in Spirited UFC 286 Main Event
Leon Edwards still occupies the throne.
Kicks to the body, head and legs, extraordinary takedown defense and stellar counterstriking carried the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder to a majority decision over Kamaru Usman in the emotionally charged UFC 286 headliner on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. Scores were 48-46, 48-46 and 47-47.
Edwards (21-3, 13-2 UFC) completes his trilogy against “The Nigerian Nightmare” with a 2-1 advantage and now holds sway over the 170-pound weight class.
Usman (20-3, 15-2 UFC) struggled and ultimately failed to pry the champion away from his gameplan. Edwards zeroed in on the body and legs with repeated kicks, staggered the Onx Sports representative with a knee strike off the break in the second round and managed to minimize his rival’s gains in the grappling exchanges. Usman appeared to turn the corner in Round 3, where he also benefitted from a point deduction due to a pair of fence grabs, but momentum proved elusive. Edwards saved his best work for when it mattered most. He stonewalled Usman’s increasingly desperate attempts for takedowns in the fifth round, pairing those efforts with a few partially blocked head kicks, some short-range uppercuts and an exquisite standing elbow.
Indomitable Gaethje Downs Fiziev
Former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje called upon a potent jab, power punching combinations and vicious low kicks, as he captured a majority decision over Rafael Fiziev in the three-round lightweight co-main event. Two of the three judges—Mark Collett and Clemens Werner—saw it 29-28 for Gaethje, while Paul Sutherland scored it a 28-28 draw.
Related » UFC 286 Round-by-Round Scoring
It was the barnburner that everyone expected. Fiziev’s blindingly fast hands and a series of devastating front kicks to the body were the story early on. Gaethje (24-4, 7-4 UFC) weathered the assault and turned up to the heat with hooks to the head at distance and thudding uppercuts at close range. Fiziev (12-2, 6-2 UFC) seemed to answer at the start of Round 3, where he clipped the Trevor Wittman protégé with a clean one-two and unleashed another front kick to the body. Gaethje, however, refused to be denied. He brought his crushing jab into play more and more, paired it with uppercuts that sent spit, blood and snot flying and mixed in a tactical takedown in the closing seconds.
The setback was Fiziev’s first since April 20, 2019 and slammed the door on a six-fight winning streak.
Nelson Armbar Dismisses Barberena
Gunnar Nelson disposed of Bryan Barberena with an armbar in the first round of their welterweight feature. A short-notice replacement for Daniel Rodriguez, Barberena (18-10, 9-8 UFC) raised the white flag of surrender 4:51 into Round 1.
Nelson (19-5-1, 10-5 UFC) walked through a few low kicks, punched his way into the clinch and executed a single-leg takedown. From there, a feeling of inevitability took hold. Nelson chipped away with elbows, progressed to full mount and applied additional ground-and-pound until the opportunity he desired presented itself. With time ticking away, the Icelandic grappling savant transitioned to the armbar and forced the tap.
It was the 12th first-round finish of Nelson’s career.
Maia Stymies Unbeaten O’Neill
Chute Boxe mainstay Jennifer Maia outboxed the previously undefeated Casey O’Neill to a unanimous decision in a three-round women’s flyweight attraction. Maia (21-9-1, 6-5 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks from the three-member judiciary.
O’Neill (9-1, 4-1 UFC) failed to make necessary adjustments in time. Maia used the former Eternal MMA champion’s aggression against her and walked the Irvine, Scotland, native into two-, three- and four-punch combinations for the better part of two rounds. O’Neill diversified her attack in Round 3, did a better job of incorporating kicks and matched the Brazilian’s output, only to fall short in the eyes of the judges.
Maia, 34, will enter her next assignment on the strength of back-to-back victories.
Surgical Vettori Outduels Dolidze
Former Venator Fighting Championship titleholder Marvin Vettori won for the seventh time in nine appearances, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Roman Dolidze in a three-round middleweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Vettori (19-6-1, 9-4-1 UFC): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
Dolidze (12-2, 6-2 UFC) headhunted for the duration, connecting with clubbing blows from both hands at various points. Vettori answered with repeated kicks to the inside and outside of the lead leg, a sneaky jab and occasional combinations. His surgical approach curried favor with the judges. Dolidze excelled at close range, often cornering the Italian along the fence. However, his lack of output—particularly in Round 2—proved costly.
The loss snapped Dolidze’s four-fight winning streak.
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