UFC 286 Report: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3 Results
Welcome to POST Wrestling’s coverage of UFC 286 from the O2 Arena in London, England. The card was headlined by UFC Welterweight Champion, Leon Edwards, attempting to defend his championship against Kamaru Usman, the man he knocked out to win the title less than a year ago. Usman was riding one of the longest win streaks in the history of the UFC heading into their previous fight, compiling a record of 15-0 in the promotion, a streak which included a win over Edwards in December of 2015. Edwards put an end to that undefeated streak in their rematch, pulling off a historic comeback with just a minute remaining in their title fight, knocking Usman out, and taking his welterweight Championship in the process. Usman largely dominated their rematch prior to the finish, so he was naturally favored going into this fight as well, but Edwards had not lost a fight since his 2015 loss to Usman, and was looking to solidify his status as the best welterweight in the world by beating Usman for a second time here. This card also featured a notable fight in the lightweight division, as Rafael Fiziev looked to cement himself as the top contender at 155lbs, fighting former interim champion, Justin Gaethje, in what was guaranteed to be an entertaining fight. The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Michael Bisping, and Daniel Cormier.
- Veronica Hardy def. Juliana Miller by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
- Jai Herbert vs. Ľudovít Klein resulted in a majority draw (28-28, 28-28, 29-27)
- Joanne Wood def. Luana Carolina by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
- Jake Hadley def. Malcolm Gordon by TKO at 1:01 of Round 1
- Christian Leroy Duncan def. Dusko Todorovic by TKO at 1:52 of Round 1
- Lerone Murphy def. Gabriel Santos by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Muhammad Mokaev def. Jafel Filho by rear naked choke at 4:32 of Round 3
- Yanal Ashmoz def. Sam Patterson by KO at 1:15 of Round 1
- Chris Duncan def. Omar Morales by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 27-30)
- Jack Shore def. Makwan Amirkhani by rear naked choke at 4:27 of Round 2
- Marvin Vettori def. Roman Dolidze by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Jennifer Maia def. Casey O’Neill by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Gunnar Nelson def. Bryan Barberena by armbar at 4:51 of Round 1
- Justin Gaethje def. Rafael Fiziev by majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
- Leon Edwards def. Kamaru Usman by majority decision (48-46, 48-46, 47-47)
JULIANA MILLER (3-1, 125.5) VS VERONICA HARDY (6-4-1, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Hardy was timing overhand rights well, catching Miller repeatedly as she attempted to work her jab. At one point, a right hand from Hardy sat Miller down, but she did not appear to be rocked and quickly returned to her feet, where she pressured forward. Miller was having difficulties closing the distance and was taking significant damage from Hardy every time, who was countering well. Hardy secured a takedown late in the round, and Miller opted to roll for an armbar, but she could not sink in the submission, and Hardy decided to return to the feet to end the round. 10-9 Hardy.
The fighters traded strikes to begin the second round, with Hardy clearly landing the harder shots. Miller rushed forward and brought Hardy to the cage, before pulling Hardy to the ground, where she attempted to secure another armbar. Hardy escaped the submission attempt and began to work from the guard of Miller. Miller continued to chase after armbars from her back, but the submission never came, and Hardy landed some strong ground and pound shots before letting Miller back to her feet. This was another round for Hardy. 20-18 Hardy.
Hardy took Miller down in the opening minute of round three. Miller rolled for a kneebar, but the positioning was a bit off, and Hardy peppered Miller with body shots. Hardy secured two more takedowns before the end of the round and caught Miller with a heavy left hand at one point. A head kick from Hardy seemed to hurt Miller in the fight’s final minute and recorded one last takedown to end the fight in top position. 30-27 Hardy.
WINNER: Veronica Hardy by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Miller was a sizeable favorite heading into this fight despite her relative inexperience, but Hardy won every round of this fight decisively. Hardy was far sharper than Miller on the feet, seemingly doing damage with every shot she landed, and was able to take Miller down at will throughout the bout as well. Miller was a bit single-minded in her armbar attempts whenever the fight went to the ground and seemed a bit lost on the feet, but this was only her fifth professional fight, and there is still plenty of time for her to improve. Hardy improved to 2-4 in the UFC with this win, and this marked her first fight since March of 2020.
JAI HERBERT (12-4, 156) VS LUDOVIT KLEIN (19-4, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Klein caught a kick and took Herbert to the ground roughly a minute into the first round. Herbert did a good job of defending himself on the ground, landing numerous up kicks, which cut Klein open and ultimately forced him to give up the position. The fighters traded knees to the body before Herbert switched it up and caught Klein with a knee to the head. Herbert dealt a considerable amount of damage throughout this round, so I thought this was a fairly clear round in his favor. 10-9 Herbert.
Klein swarmed Herbert with strikes to begin the second round, pressuring him into the cage, where the fighters began to wrestle. Herbert broke away but was caught by a solid left hand from Klein moments later. Klein attempted to pressure forward, but Herbert chipped away at his lead leg with calf kicks, defending Klein’s attempts to take the fight to the ground as well. Klein connected with a solid elbow to end what was a very close round. 19-19.
An accidental low blow to Klein led to a short pause in the action early in the final round. Klein went on the attack as the action resumed, perhaps with the knowledge that he could be down on the scorecards. Once again, Klein was the recipient of an accidental knee to the groin, and this time, Herbert was deducted a point. Herbert took Klein to the ground with three minutes to work, where he threw down solid elbows before taking half guard. Klein managed to work his way to top position, but was unable to do much with it before time expired. With the point deduction to Herbert taken into account, I scored the fight 28-28.
RESULT: Majority Draw (28-28, 28-28, 29-27)
I thought Herbert fought a very good fight here, but the repeated fouls in the third round cost him big time on the scorecards after the referee opted to take a point from him. He unanimously won two of the three rounds on the scorecards, and the second round was very much up for grabs as well, with Klein taking it on two of the scorecards by the narrowest of margins. Klein found success throughout the fight whenever he was able to close the distance, but Herbert did the better work from at range, and did more damage on the ground as well, even when he was fighting from beneath Klein. With the point deduction taken into account, I thought a draw was the correct result, but Herbert was the more impressive fighter throughout the bout, and this was largely a strong performance from him.
JOANNE WOOD (15-8, 126) VS LUANA CAROLINA (8-3, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Wood stepped in with a right hand before engaging Carolina in the clinch. Carolina landed numerous knees to the body in the clinch, and an elbow as the fighters broke apart. Carolina did a good job of controlling the distance early in the round, but Wood began to find a home for more of her strikes as the round progressed, and was landing some solid short elbows in the clinch as well. Carolina had her moments throughout the round but fell slightly behind in terms of activity, and I thought this was a round for Wood. 10-9 Wood.
The fighters continued to battle in the clinch in round two, with both women landing knees to the body. Carolina was starting to fight rather wildly whenever the fighters separated, throwing looping strikes that were not finding their target, while Wood found success stepping in with elbows and knees. I thought this was a closely contested five minutes, but Wood did just enough to take the round on my scorecard. 20-18 Wood.
Wood seemed to have slowed down by the final round, which allowed Carolina to circle her opponent, landing sharp left hands. Much like the previous two rounds, both fighters found success with knees and short elbows in the clinch, with Wood seemingly landing the stronger shots. Carolina was able to defend trip attempts from Wood, keeping the fight on the feet, where the fighters traded jabs. Wood rocked Carolina right before time expired, securing the round on the scorecards. 30-27 Wood.
WINNER: Joanne Wood by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
A significant amount of this fight was spent in the clinch, where the fighters were very active, trading knees and elbows. Wood seemed to get the better of these exchanges, but Carolina found success too, and in the end, it may have been the strikes from at range that separated the two. Carolina was often lunging in with her shots, allowing Wood to counter consistently. Honestly, I did not see two rounds in this fight for Carolina, and I was surprised that one judge saw the fight in her favor, but in the end, I believe the right fighter had her arm raised here, and this put an end to a three-fight streak of losses for Calderwood, dating back to June of 2021.
JAKE HADLEY (9-1, 126) VS MALCOLM GORDON (14-6, 129.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Gordon missed weight by 3.5lbs and was fined 30% of his purse.
A pair of huge body shots from Hadley dropped Gordon quickly, and he swarmed Gordon with strikes on the ground until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Jake Hadley by TKO at 1:01 of Round 1
Apparently, Gordon suffered from liver issues heading into this fight, and Hadley capitalized on this by just brutalizing Gordon’s body with a pair of heavy shots that put a quick end to this fight. At one point, the commentary team stated that Gordon told them that he had been urinating out parts of his liver, which ranks among the most disturbing things I have heard on a UFC broadcast, and I have to question if he was in any condition to fight here. Regardless, this was an impressive finish from Hadley, who improved to 2-1 in the promotion with this win.
CHRISTIAN LEROY DUNCAN (7-0, 185.5) VS DUSKO TODOROVIC (12-3, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Duncan closed the distance and wrestled Todorovic against the cage early in the fight. Suddenly, Todorovic collapsed to the ground holding his knee, and the fight was stopped as Todorovic was unable to continue fighting.
WINNER: Christian Leroy Duncan by TKO at 1:52 of Round 1
Todorovic pivoted awkwardly in the clinch, and just collapsed under the weight of his lead leg as he attempted to put pressure on it. It was a very unfortunate ending to this fight, and it occurred so quickly into the bout that we did not really get to see much of what either fighter had to offer. Todorovic was able to return to his feet before the decision was read, but could not put much weight on the leg, and ultimately hopped out of the cage in clear pain. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, this will go down as a TKO win for Duncan in his UFC debut, and he improved to 8-0 professionally.
LERONE MURPHY (11-0-1, 145.5) VS GABRIEL SANTOS (10-0, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Santos took Murphy down quickly, but Murphy popped right back to his feet and took top position when Santos attempted to drag him back down. Santos started working for a triangle off of his back, but Murphy had the advantage in terms of positioning and opted to return to his feet. The fighters traded strikes back on their feet, with both men seemingly landing with power. At one point, Santos tripped Murphy to the ground, and soccer kicked him in the back as he picked himself up. Santos took Murphy to the ground after threatening a flying knee, although he could not keep Murphy down for long. A left hand from Santos staggered Murphy late, and they traded big shots before staring each other down as the horn sounded. 10-9 Santos.
The fighters continued to trade heavy hands at the start of round two before Murphy started wrestling Santos against the cage. Murphy took Santos down against the fence and began to work from side control before allowing Santos to his feet. A kick from Murphy landed low, and Santos was given a short period of time to recover before the action resumed. A head kick from Santos partially landed, but if Murphy was hurt, he recovered quickly. The fighters exchanged hooks before a leg kick from Santos grounded Murphy. Murphy popped back to his feet but was immediately taken back down by a single leg, and Santos took the back of Murphy with ninety seconds to work. Murphy spent the remainder of the round defending submission attempts, but could not improve his position due to Santos’s body triangle. 20-18 Santos.
The fighters hugged to begin the fight’s final round. Santos chased after a takedown and successfully brought Murphy back down momentarily. Murphy escaped to his feet, where he landed a pair of big elbows, before tagging Santos with a head kick. I thought Murphy was doing the better work on the feet in the third round, and Santos seemed a bit tired, but he was still packing power into each of his punches whenever he did let loose. With a minute to go in the fight, Santos picked Murphy up and slammed him to the ground, where he maintained a dominant position until the final seconds of the fight. 29-28 Santos.
WINNER: Lerone Murphy by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
This was a very entertaining fight. Santos applied non-stop forward pressure throughout the bout, mixing up his striking and wrestling very well. While Murphy spent most of the fight on the back foot, he dealt quite a bit of damage whenever he went on the attack, especially as the fight progressed and Santos began to tire out. I thought Santos did enough throughout the first two rounds to get his arm raised, but it was certainly very close, and Murphy seemed to have the slight edge in terms of cardio, which certainly paid off late in the fight. Murphy is now 4-0-1 in the UFC following this win, and this marked Santos’s first professional loss.
MUHAMMAD MOKAEV (9-0, 1 NC, 126) VS JAFEL FILHO (14-2, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
The lights in the arena went out just as the fight was supposed to begin, leading to a momentary delay as the fighters waited for the lighting to return.
Filho jumped on a guillotine choke following a takedown attempt from Mokaev, but the attempt backfired, and Mokaev quickly took his back. Mokaev opted to switch positions after an arm triangle attempt, where he was able to mount some ground and pound offense after Filho scooted back to the cage. This was a dominant round for Mokaev, but he likely did not do enough damage to earn himself a 10-8 on the judge’s scorecards.
Both fighters seemed slightly hesitant to engage throughout the early portions of round two. Eventually, they found their range and started trading strikes, with Filho attacking the leg of Mokaev with regularity as well. Mokaev decided to change levels, and while Filho’s takedown defense initially held up well, Mokaev was successful on his second attempt, taking top position with a minute remaining in the round, and he maintained that position until time expired.
Mokaev instantly took Filho down in the final round. He took the back of Filho and locked in a body triangle with the near entirety of the round to work. Filho managed to escape to his feet but was immediately taken back down. Filho rolled for a kneebar, and he had the submission locked in, hyperextending the knee of Mokaev, but Mokaev somehow withstood the pain and escaped the submission, before taking top position. Mokaev worked his way to Filho’s back, and he just started cranking at Filho’s back, forcing him to submit.
WINNER: Muhammad Mokaev by rear naked choke at 4:32 of Round 3
Mokaev could barely walk after the finish, clearly injured from the kneebar attempt. I cannot stress how brutal this kneebar from Filho was, and it is beyond remarkable that Mokaev managed to withstand the pain of his leg hyperextending here, but he did just that, and secured the finish moments later. It was a tremendous finish, and the image of that kneebar will stick in the minds of all who saw it for quite some time. The severity of the injury to his leg is unknown, but Mokaev successfully defended his spot in the rankings here, and I have no doubt that his name will be remembered by the fanbase following this performance.
SAM PATTERSON (10-1-1, 155.5) VS YANAL ASHMOZ (6-0, 155) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Just a minute into the fight, Ashmoz stepped in and caught Patterson off balance with a heavy right hand, and as Patterson was falling to the ground, Ashmoz caught him with a left hook on the way down that rocked him badly. Ashmoz followed Patterson down, where he just threw down vicious ground and pound strikes until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Yanal Ashmoz by KO at 1:15 of Round 1
Patterson took a lot of damage after being dropped, and the commentators were critical of Mark Goddard’s stoppage. In hindsight, the stoppage was certainly late, and Patterson took far too many unanswered strikes, but at the moment, I could see why Goddard was hesitant to stop it, as Patterson was moving in a way that suggested he was trying to defend himself, although, in reality, the fight was already over. It was a brutal finish, and Patterson was barely able to stand after regaining consciousness, seemingly not understanding that the fight was over. This marked Ashmoz’s UFC debut and Patterson’s first loss in the promotion.
CHRIS DUNCAN (9-1, 156) VS OMAR MORALES (11-3, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
The fighters exchanged kicks to the legs and body throughout the opening minutes of the fight. A big right hand from Duncan found its target, but Morales took the shot well. Duncan was continuously loading up with big right hands, and whenever he found his mark, he was clearly landing with power. Morales defended a takedown attempt after Duncan’s corner called for a takedown. Morales went on the attack late in the round, and he had Duncan hurt badly with a right hand, however, Duncan fired back, knocking Morales off balance and relieving the pressure, before ending the round with a big elbow. 10-9 Morales.
Duncan secured an early takedown in the second round. Morales escaped to his feet after roughly two minutes and did not take much damage throughout that period of control time for Duncan. Morales landed a straight right hand after checking a pair of leg kicks, and he seemed to be growing in confidence, taunting Duncan for his efforts. Duncan opted to go back to his wrestling, and while he was unable to take Morales back down, he controlled him against the cage for a significant period of time. 20-18 Morales on my scorecard.
Duncan began the third round with a number of kicks to the body. A leg kick from Morales dropped Duncan to a knee, but he recovered quickly and secured a takedown. Morales attempted to climb back to his feet, but Duncan had a strong position, and he was able to return Morales to the ground repeatedly. Duncan was not terribly active from top position, but he maintained it until the final thirty seconds of the round, where Morales escaped and attempted to find a late finish that never came. 29-28 Morales.
WINNER: Chris Duncan by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 27-30)
The first round of this fight was a wild one, with both fighters doing significant damage on the feet. As the fight progressed, Duncan decided to wrestle with Morales, and while Morales was able to prevent Duncan from doing any significant damage or attempting submissions, he was unable to create consistent separation, and ultimately lost the final two rounds (although personally, I thought he did enough damage to earn the second round). One judge scored every single round of the fight in favor of Morales, and I have trouble seeing the third round in his favor, despite Duncan’s inactivity from top position.
JACK SHORE (16-1, 146) VS MAKWAN AMIRKHANI (17-8, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Shore pressed Amirkhani against the cage, where he attacked the body with knees before breaking away. The fighters traded jabs before Amirkhani changed levels and took Shore to the ground. Shore attempted to escape, but Amirkhani was a bit too quick for him and managed to maintain his position. Still, Amirkhani was rather inactive from top position and was warned by the referee that the fight would be stood up if he did not pick up the activity. Amirkhani managed to maintain his position for the remainder of the round and likely won the opening five minutes on the scorecards.
Shore attacked the body with kicks and knees in the second round, prompting Amirkhani to shoot for another takedown. Shore defended the attempt, and landed a kick to the head that gave Amirkhani pause, before sprawling on a takedown attempt. Shore was doing damage with every shot he landed, and Amirkhani was looking beat up and tired as he attempted to generate some offense. Shore took Amirkhani down himself later in the round, where he took the back of Amirkhani, locked in a rear naked choke, and forced Amirkhani to submit.
WINNER: Jack Shore by rear naked choke at 4:27 of Round 2
Amirkhani had a strong opening round but was clearly fatigued by the start of round two. Shore attacked the body to further drain Amirkhani and eventually started pouring on the attack, seemingly hurting Amirkhani with every big shot that he landed. The commentary team questioned the wisdom of his late takedown in the second round, but Shore felt as though he was the stronger grappler, and quickly secured the submission to drive that point home. This was a solid debut at featherweight for Shore, who gave an emotional post-fight interview, thanking his father, who recently beat cancer.
MARVIN VETTORI (18-6-1, 185.5) VS ROMAN DOLIDZE (12-1, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Dolidze swarmed Vettori early in the fight, which Vettori absorbed before responding with a heavy left hand. Vettori seemed to have a slight edge in terms of activity, but Dolidze was confident and was throwing each of his strikes with power. An accidental clash of heads led to a momentary pause in the action, and Dolidze fired off a pair of body kicks as the fight resumed. A heavy right hand from Dolidze found its target, and he went on the attack in an attempt to finish the fight, but Vettori’s chin held up, and he fired back before the end of the round. 10-9 Dolidze.
Vettori continued to be the busier fighter in the second round, while Dolidze was content to wait for opportunities to explode with his powerful right hand. Vettori had landed a considerable amount of leg kicks, although they didn’t seem to be bothering Dolidze. Dolidze opted to switch levels as he attempted to take Vettori down, but Vettori was able to defend the attempt, keeping the fight on the feet. I did not think the activity was quite there for Dolidze in the second round, and I scored the second round for Vettori as a result. 19-19.
The fighters traded kicks to start the final round. Dolidze attempted to flurry forward with right hands, as he did in the first round, but he was a bit slower by round three, allowing Vettori to avoid most of the shots. Still, there was more output from Dolidze in this third round, which led to success whenever he threw his shots in combination. With two minutes remaining in the round, I thought that Dolidze’s powerful shots were the biggest moments of the round, and Vettori needed to turn it up to secure the round. Both fighters connected with some big shots throughout the final minutes of the round, and this was a very tough fight to call as the final horn sounded. 29-28 Dolidze.
WINNER: Marvin Vettori by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
The crowd was not happy with the decision, but I thought it was a very close fight. Vettori held the slight edge in terms of activity and was doing significant cumulative damage with his leg kicks, but Dolidze was doing more immediate damage. The third round in particular was very hard to call, and Vettori ended the fight strongly, so I was not shocked that he ultimately earned the nod, although I personally thought Dolidze narrowly took the round based largely on the powerful shots he was landing throughout the middle portion of that last round. Regardless, Vettori’s arm was raised in the end, and he remains among the top middleweight contenders. Vettori’s next fight is not obvious, as he has already fought so many of the top fighters in the division, but perhaps a fight against Dricus Du Plessis.
At this point in the broadcast, it was announced that Anderson Silva would be inducted into the pioneer wing of the UFC Hall of Fame. Silva was one the greatest fighters in the history of Mixed Martial Arts, famous for his creativity and charisma inside the cage. Silva had early success in promotions such as PRIDE and Cage Rage, defeating the likes of Carlos Newton, Lee Murray, and Jeremy Horn. It was in the UFC however, where Silva enjoyed the prime years of his career, winning the UFC Middleweight Championship in just his second fight. Silva would go on to hold that title for 2,457 days, a record that stands to this day. Silva won sixteen consecutive fights to start his run in the UFC, which is another record that has yet to be topped, and he managed to finish a remarkable fourteen of those opponents throughout his historic win streak. Eventually, time caught up to Silva, and he did not enjoy the same level of success after losing his title to Chris Weidman, but in his prime, Silva had an aura of invincibility unlike any other. He was a showman through and through, taunting his opponents and playing to the crowd, while almost always delivering spectacular finishes. His rivalries against the likes of Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, and Chris Weidman all generated significant money for the company, and Silva was unquestionably one of the top stars of his era. Throughout his lengthy run in the UFC, Silva recorded victories over the likes of Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Demian Maia, and Chael Sonnen. Silva retired from the sport with a professional record of 34-11 (1 NC) and is about as deserving of an inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame as there has ever been.
JENNIFER MAIA (20-9-1, 126) VS CASEY O’NEILL (9-0, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
Maia found a home for a number of right hands in the fight’s opening minute. O’Neill was content to trade with Maia, but Maia seemed to have the advantage in terms of power, showcasing some solid boxing ability. Maia worked her jab as the round progressed, circling away from O’Neill’s right hand, and continued to land big right hands whenever O’Neill closed the distance. Maia caught a leg from O’Neill and attempted to take her down, but O’Neill managed to remain on her feet, and the fighters continued to exchange strikes. This was a very competitive round, but I thought Maia was a bit sharper and took this opening round. 10-9 Maia.
O’Neill pressured forward in round two, just as she did in round one. O’Neill was finding success with her combinations, but Maia’s hands were finding their target more often than not, and O’Neill was falling behind whenever the fighters traded punches in the pocket. O’Neill connected with a solid right hand that prompted Maia to shoot for a takedown, but the attempt was defended by O’Neill. Still, Maia outlanded O’Neill throughout the round, and while O’Neill was very much in this fight, I thought that Maia was just a step ahead. 20-18 Maia.
Maia closed the distance in search of a takedown, but once again, O’Neill was able to keep the fight on their feet. Maia continued to showcase solid boxing, landing lengthy combinations whenever O’Neill attempted to generate offense. O’Neill pressed forward in search of big moments but was running into combinations more often than not, and that big fight-changing moment did not seem to be coming for O’Neill. The fighters traded hands wildly to end the fight, but neither was able to get the finish, and the fight went the distance. 30-27 Maia.
WINNER: Jennifer Maia by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Maia’s boxing looked fantastic throughout this fight, consistently getting the better of O’Neill on the feet, even though it was O’Neill who was constantly the advancing fighter. O’Neill gave a very good account of herself here, and there was never a minute where it felt as though she was out of this fight, but Maia was just a step ahead of her, and this was certainly a tough test for O’Neill after a year of inactivity due to an ACL tear. While Maia’s quick finish over Joanne Wood is probably the highlight of her run in the promotion, I thought this was the best that she has looked in the cage, and Maia improved to 6-5 in the UFC following this win, defending her spot in the flyweight rankings.
GUNNAR NELSON (18-5-1, 170) VS BRYAN BARBERENA (18-9, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Barberena attacked the lead leg of Nelson, attempting to punish him for his wider stance. Nelson threw a short combination before closing the distance, looking to take Barberena to the ground. Barberena did his best to defend the attempt, but eventually, Nelson was able to take the fight to the ground, and he began to work from top position with two minutes to work. Nelson postured up and landed a pair of strong ground and pound shots, before transitioning into full mount. Nelson went for the armbar, and he quickly locked the submission in, forcing Barberena to submit.
WINNER: Gunnar Nelson by armbar at 4:51 of Round 1
The holes in Barberena’s ground game have been exposed previously, and Nelson capitalized on them quickly. Nelson’s grappling has always been impressive, and he just sliced through Barberena on the ground here, showcasing the finishing ability that has made him one of the welterweight’s most dangerous fighters throughout the years. This was a strong performance from Nelson after a year away from the sport, and while inactivity has been his greatest enemy throughout recent years, he looked as sharp as ever throughout the short duration of this fight. Following this submission victory, Nelson moved into sole possession of the UFC’s welterweight record for most submission victories.
JUSTIN GAETHJE (23-4, 156) VS RAFAEL FIZIEV (12-1, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Gaethje began the fight with a heavy leg kick. Fiziev responded with a kick to the body before the fighters started trading wildly. Fiziev seemed to have the advantage in terms of speed and was sneaking in some lightning-quick shots whenever the two closed the distance to exchange. Fiziev was throwing heavy shots to the body, perhaps looking to chip away at Gaethje’s gas tank as Eddie Alvarez once did. Gaethje partially landed a right hand over the top after Fiziev stopped a takedown attempt. Fiziev ended the round with a big knee up the middle. 10-9 Fiziev.
Fiziev landed a solid kick to the body in the opening seconds of round two. An inadvertent poke to the eye of Fiziev resulted in a short break in the action while Fiziev was given time to recover. Fiziev continued to attack the body as the round progressed, which was generating some big reactions from Gaethje as he attempted to return fire. A lengthy combination of strikes from Gaethje put Fiziev on the retreat, and he landed a great right hand as Fiziev pressed forward. Gaethje was finding success whenever he threw hooks around Fiziev’s guard in the pocket, and his leg kicks were adding up as well. Fiziev’s bodywork continued to do damage as well, resulting in a very close round. 19-19.
A right hand from Fiziev got a huge reaction from Gaethje at the start of the third round. Fiziev was really going on the attack in the third round, hurting Gaethje with some big strikes, but Gaethje was able to weather the storm, and he started to fire back bombs in an attempt to relieve the pressure. Fiziev defended a takedown attempt to keep the fight on the feet, and Gaethje began to work his jab as Fiziev attempted to close the distance. Gaethje was landing strong uppercuts whenever Fiziev got too close and seemed to be pulling away in the final minutes of the fight. The uppercuts from Gaethje continued to add up, and he ended the fight with a big takedown. 29-28 Gaethje.
WINNER: Justin Gaethje by majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
Justin Gaethje’s fights are always fantastic, and this was no exception. Fiziev was clearly the quicker fighter, and his speed was giving Gaethje a ton of problems early in the fight, but as the fight progressed, Fiziev began to slow down, and Gaethje started to pull ahead. Gaethje’s leg kicks did significant damage, and once Fiziev started slowing, Gaethje was able to close the distance and land these huge uppercuts that were just landing at will. Both fighters showcased remarkable durability throughout this fight, and I do not think anyone would have been upset if this was a five-round fight as opposed to the three-rounder we got. One judge saw this fight as a draw, and while personally, I did not think that any round even approached a 10-8, the fight would go down in the record books as a majority decision, and in the end, Justin Gaethje, deservedly, had his arm raised. In his post-fight interview, Gaethje made it clear that his goal is still UFC gold, but he is rapidly approaching the end of his remarkable career.
LEON EDWARDS (20-3, 1 NC, 170) VS KAMARU USMAN (20-2, 170) – UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
The first fight between these two fighters took place in December of 2015, a fight that Usman won by decision. They would rematch in August of 2022, where Edwards would mount a historic comeback to knock Usman out in the fifth round, taking his UFC Welterweight Championship.
The fighters did not touch gloves to begin the main event. Edwards connected with an uppercut as Usman changed levels early in the round. Usman began to pressure forward, attempting to press Edwards into the cage. Usman landed a solid shot on his way in, but Edwards stopped a level change from Usman. Edwards landed a kick to the body, and a second one generated a big reaction from Usman. Usman fought his way into the clinch, where Edwards successfully defended another takedown attempt with the help of a glove grab that resulted in a warning. The bodywork from Edwards was the difference maker in this opening round. 10-9 Edwards.
An inadvertent low blow from Edwards resulted in a short pause in the action to start the second round. Edwards landed another body kick and was finding success attacking the lead leg of Usman with kicks as well. A knee up the middle found its target for Edwards, and Usman responded with a big right hand, before taking Edwards down. Edwards escaped to his feet, but ate a number of hard shots in the process, and shot for a takedown of his own, which was stuffed by Usman. A left hand from Edwards found its target, and he landed another kick to the body as well. This was a close round, but I gave the edge to Usman. 19-19.
Usman took Edwards down with a single leg at the start of round two. Edwards grabbed the fence to avoid a takedown from Usman as he attempted to return Edwards to the ground, and a point was deducted from Edwards as a result. Usman landed a sharp jab as the fight resumed, and the fighters traded leg kicks. Another low blow from Edwards resulted in another pause in the action, but he was not deducted a point this time. Edwards landed a knee up the middle, as Usman attempted to close the distance, doing his best to defend Edwards’ kicks to the body. Usman attempted a late takedown, but Edwards defended the attempt. I gave Edwards a slight edge in the round, but the fight was still tied as a result of the point deduction. 28-28.
Usman pressed forward to land a short combination, as he tried to back Edwards into the cage. Usman slipped momentarily, and when Edwards attempted to capitalize, Usman popped right back up and attempted a takedown of his own, which was defended by Edwards. The leg kicks from Edwards continued to add up, while Usman was aiming for the head with the majority of his big strikes. The fighters traded jabs, before Usman took him back to the ground momentarily. Edwards returned to his feet quickly, and he landed a big hook as the fighters broke away. Edwards defended another takedown but ate a few late shots from Usman. Yet another tough round to score. 38-37 Edwards.
Edwards began the final round with a head kick, which was partially blocked by Usman, who pressed forward and shot for another takedown. Edwards defended another attempt and landed a short combination as the fighters broke apart. Both fighters landed some solid shots as they exchanged in the pocket, but Edwards seemed to be landing the better shots. The takedown defense from Edwards continued to hold up, and he started working his jab to keep Usman at range. The pressure from Usman was giving Edwards problems late in the fight, and he recorded a late takedown as a result of that pressure, but Edwards continued to pop back to his feet, and the round was up for the taking with a minute remaining. Edwards stopped another takedown attempt from Usman, but Usman ended the round on the attack. 47-47 on my scorecard, as a result of the point deduction.
WINNER: Leon Edwards by majority decision (48-46, 48-46, 47-47) to retain the UFC Welterweight Championship
This was a very competitive fight. Edwards did terrific work attacking the body and lead leg of Usman, while Usman landed more shots to the head, often pummeling his way into the clinch. Edwards showcased some remarkable takedown defense throughout the fight, and even when Usman was able to take Edwards down, Edwards was able to pop right back to his feet every time. This was Edwards’ best performance throughout his trilogy with Usman, and if not for the point deduction, I do not think there would be any controversies regarding the fights victor at all. After the fight, it seemed as though the UFC was pushing for Colby Covington to challenge Edwards for the title next, but Edwards did not seem overly interested in the bout. Usman also confirmed that he will not be retiring after the loss, and plans to return to the octagon quickly, as he still hopes to regain his welterweight championship. It was a great fight, and in the end, Edwards cemented his status as the top welterweight in the world today.