UFC 286 fight card — Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman: Five biggest storylines to watch in London

The title trilogy tops the list as the UFC returns to London on Saturday for a highly anticipated bout. UFC 286 pay-per-view card inside the O2 Arena.

Seven months after his dramatic fifth-round knockout of Kamaru Usman in their rematch, Leon Edwards is still the underdog in betting as he attempts to defend his UFC welterweight title for the first time in a rubber match against Usman.

Former interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje returns as a co-writer as he salutes the victorious Rafael Fiziev in a key bout in the 155-pound title rankings.

Let’s take a closer look at the most important storylines coming this weekend.

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1. Can lightning strike Leon Edwards twice?

Largely ignored and/or ignored by critics throughout a 10-fight unbeaten streak that led him to his first title shot at UFC 278, Edwards made the most of a career-defining moment last August. Despite losing on the scorecards in the final round, Edwards delivered the ultimate “Rocky” moment, “a head kick heard around the world” to finish Usman off. It was the culmination of an incredible journey for a UK Jamaican whose multiple traumas and setbacks prevented him from reaching his true potential to the fullest. Not only did Usman crush Edwards in their first meeting in 2015, he was voted the best weight class in every mixed martial arts contestant in their rematch and was one win away from equaling Anderson Silva’s UFC record. out of 16 wins in a row. However, as truly inspiring as Edwards’ moment was, he would need to do it a second time against Usman in the Saturday Trilogy to be considered anything other than historical footnote or one-time miracle. It’s a reality that sounds harsh, especially considering how much Edwards has already overcome from those who claim he’s not in demand or interesting enough. But that’s the path Edwards has gotten used to, and this time he’ll have his own home crowd backing him in his first title defense, similar to the homecoming of Hall of Famer Michael Bisping from his rematch with Dan Henderson at UFC 204. after his own victory. upset title.

2. This is Kamaru Usman’s moment of truth

The 19-fight winning streak (including a 15-0 in the UFC) that Usman brought with him in the rematch last August is not to be missed. Except for a few brief moments of struggle, including a loss to Gilbert Burns in the first round of their 2021 title fight, the Nigerian native has pretty much dominated the entire journey. His success, which includes five title defenses at 170 pounds, which he won against Tyron Woodley in 2019, even prompted Usman to openly campaign for a boxing match against Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez. Usman has also built up his crossover brand enough to be offered an acting role in the blockbuster Wakanda Forever last fall, which was released two months after his UFC 278. Edwards in their rematch isn’t enough to take anything away from him. except for his momentum. But the loss does raise some legitimate questions about how Usman, who turns 36 in May, is recovering from such a massive knockout, especially when he seemed so close to achieving MMA immortality, equaling Silva’s vaunted record.

It should be remembered that Edwards’ victory was not just blind luck. The knockout head kick was the culmination of his and his team’s extensive film research on Usman’s tendency to tilt his head to the right when dodging a jab. Like Valentina Shevchenko’s recent loss in the women’s flyweight division to Alexa Grasso, Usman has been partly a victim of his own success given how much of his propensity has been recorded. No fighter can be completely perfect, especially in a sport where there are so many ways to lose, especially after one mistake. But even though Usman’s welterweight championship speaks for itself in terms of his historical memory, UFC 286 gives him the opportunity to right his wrongs – like Georges St-Pierre (against Matt Serra) and Amanda Nunes (in her head-to-head match). -rematch with Julianne Pena) – while really doubling his greatness.

3. Getzhi-Fiziyev – fighting at the crossroads with the potential for violence

With two of the UFC’s top six fighters in the 155lb division, Saturday’s co-main event could go a long way in shaking up the lightweight title picture. Can Gaethje, despite suffering two title losses in his last three fights, pave the way at 34 for another title shot, or will the ardent Fiziev, on a six-fight streak, firmly declare himself the next light threat? Either way, UFC fans will likely benefit from the potential for action in this fight. To be honest, the past six years have brought nothing but unforgettable wars that have featured many of the top stars in the lightweight division, including Gaethje, Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira, Eddie Alvarez and Rafael dos Anjos. After three knockouts over Dos Anjos, Brad Riddell and Renato Moicano in four fights, Fiziev has the potential to join this group if he and Gaethje exceed expectations.

4. Roman Dolidze – middleweight on assignment

Currently ranked ninth in the UFC at 185 pounds, the 34-year-old Georgian slugger looks poised to take some damage to the division’s top 10. A four-fight winning streak, Dolidze’s last three fights, which all took place in 2022, have created a buzz among fight fans. Over the past six months, Dolidze has knocked out Kyle Daucaus, Phil Hawes and Jack Hermansson three times. The opportunity to take on former title contender and No. 4 Marvin Vettori proves how highly UFC management appreciates Dolidze’s potential. With an overall record of 12-1 in just six years as a pro, Dolidze remains an intriguing dark horse that threatens the overall title. A strong professional wrestler with extensive international experience, Dolidze has turned into a terrible knockout threat thanks to his thunderous punching power. Vettori, whose only UFC losses came to former champions Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya (twice), presents the perfect all-round challenge to find out just how real Dolidze really is.

5. Women’s Flyweight May Have Another Rising Opponent

Remember the recent past when Valentina Shevchenko ruled the UFC 125-pound weight class with an iron fist, killing off one overwhelmed title contender after another? Those days are behind us, not only because of Shevchenko’s embarrassing loss at UFC 285 to Alexa Grasso, but also because of the rising tide of intriguing new contenders, including Manon Fiorot, Tayla Santos and Erin Blanchfield. Another interesting name that could soon join the list is ‘King’ Casey O’Neill, a 25-year-old kickboxer from Scotland who went 9-0 in Saturday’s test against former title contender Jennifer Maya. An ACL tear last spring slowed O’Neal’s pace and she will need to prove she has her full back against Maya. However, if she survives and moves forward against her toughest opponent to date, O’Neal is likely to be another name to keep an eye on as a future flyweight attraction with the mindset and talent needed to succeed. to shake up the division.


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