Tom Aspinall: Is Kamaru Usman’s brain physically, mentally healed after UFC 278 knockout?
For UFC heavyweight Tom Aspinall, the biggest X factor in the UFC 286 trilogy between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman is Usman’s brain.
When Usman enters the cage on Saturday, it will be about seven months since Edwards “knocked him clean, froze him on the floor,” as Aspinall put it, with a head kick in the fifth round of their rematch at UFC 278. Usman has since been taken to the district hospital for examination. Although a medical suspension from the event was not made public, he likely faced a 30 to 90 day time limit.
Edwards said knockouts like the one Usman suffered changed fighters forever. Aspinall, his English compatriot, wonders if the ex-champion is completely healthy.
“That’s not much time to regenerate your brain, seven months after the show,” Aspinall said on the air. Hour of MMA. “Will the brain physically recover from something like this? And now the brain is going to mentally recover from something like that? Psychologically? Can you recover from this, something like that, in such a short period of time?
“We don’t know, but we’re talking about one of the best welterweights of all time, Kamaru Usman. We do not know. We’re going to find out.”
Edwards and Usman will meet Saturday at The O2 in London. The pair split a couple of fights, with Usman earning a unanimous decision in 2015 and Edwards bouncing back from a two-round deficit at UFC 278 to knock out Usman.
After surgery on his hand, Usman described his knockout loss as a simple oversight and plans to prove that Edwards’ victory was just an accident. For now, bets are on the former champion, who is a convenient favorite in the trilogy.
Aspinall may be a biased source towards his compatriot, the Brit, but he can understand Edwards’ explanation about his slow rounds due to the altitude in Salt Lake City, host of UFC 278.
“From what Leon said last time, he won the first round pretty confidently,” Aspinall said. “He took the takedown, stayed on top, controlled the first round and then seemed to falter a bit and he blamed the height for that. … If that’s the case, then I think Leon could very well win the fight.”
But while he can’t be sure how the fight will play out, he’s sure Usman won’t look at Edwards the same way again.
“I’m sure Kamaru Usman respects him after the last time,” Aspinall said. – I am sure about that.