Checked out, however not tuned out. That will be the easiest way to explain my mindset because the struggle clock ticked down through the Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards bout on Saturday evening.
I doubt I used to be the one one in that specific headspace when the welterweight matchup marched into its ultimate 60 seconds.
Because the fifth and ultimate spherical opened, UFC commentator Joe Rogan stated of Edwards’ dimming hope of turning into a UFC champion, “That is do or die for Leon Edwards… He’s gotta do one thing large. He’s gotta do one thing actually large. He’s gotta open himself up.”
With that, Rogan’s accomplice, Jon Anik, threw the dialogue to Din Thomas, who was offering further commentary on the printed. The previous UFC fighter was blunt in his evaluation of what he noticed from the challenger.
“If it wasn’t apparent sufficient, Leon is damaged,” stated Thomas with 4:09 left within the struggle.
The previous American High Staff coach revealed that he had come to this conclusion based mostly on what he noticed as Edwards sat on the stool in his nook through the one-minute break between the fourth and fifth spherical.
“He doesn’t give his coach eye contact within the nook,” stated Thomas. “When [fighters] don’t give [coaches] eye contact, they’re ashamed and he’s embarrassed proper now along with his personal efficiency. That is how you recognize a fighter is damaged, and Leon is damaged.”
Edwards added that not getting completed and making it to the ultimate bell could be a “ethical victory” for Edwards.
With 90 seconds left within the contest, Rogan and his co-commentator—former two-division UFC champion Daniel Cormier—started (to cite Cormier) to jot down Edwards’ “obituary.” Because the clock ticked right down to 60 seconds remaining within the bout, Cormier recalled Thomas’ evaluation that Edwards was damaged. Anik was in the course of pushing again on that analysis of Edwards, saying, “That isn’t the material from which he’s reduce,” when Usman made what might need been his first mistake in 19 minutes. If it wasn’t his first error — it was his largest.
Edwards feinted a brief proper hand and a left jab to get Usman to maneuver his head — and the champ bit—placing his unguarded jawline straight within the line of fireside for a head kick. The impression of Edwards’ shin showered the canvas with a waterfall of sweat from Usman’s head. It additionally left him a ‘former’ champion earlier than he got here to relaxation, eyes open however unseeing, on the canvas.
Edwards knew the struggle was over and the title was his. He didn’t look ahead to referee Herb Dean to name it. As Dean scrambled to get between Edwards and his downed opponent, the freshly minted champion had already thrown his palms within the air in celebration and stepped away to take his victory lap across the cage.
Along with his wonderful come from behind win, Edwards reminded even essentially the most jaded amongst us why we love fight sports activities.
After a rocky begin to the struggle that noticed him drop the primary spherical on all three scorecards, Usman got here again to placed on a virtually flawless efficiency. He restricted Edwards’ offense to 42 landed vital strikes after the primary spherical, virtually doubling up along with his personal output. As well as, the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ racked up 9:15 of management time after the primary spherical—together with 4 profitable takedowns.
However MMA is an unforgiving sport. There’s no place to cover contained in the cage. A fighter—as Usman seemingly had—can make use of an strategy that has the precise correct mix of assault, aggression and protection and nonetheless find yourself staring into the sector lights earlier than the ultimate bell has sounded.
It’s exhausting to not really feel some sympathy for Usman in that unenviable place, having entered UFC 278 with a 2015 choice win over Edwards, a 15-fight unbeaten streak, 5 UFC title defenses and the highest spot of the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings.
On the similar time, it’s inconceivable to really feel a contact of the elation that should have coursed by Edwards. ‘Rocky’ was 9-0 (and one no contest) since that UFC on FOX 5 early prelim loss to Usman in 2015, and appeared possible simply 56 seconds away from by no means getting one other alternative to struggle for UFC gold once more.
In fact, now, one of many issues that makes fight sports activities great is that followers will get to see these two meet for a 3rd time to settle their rating. With that, we’ll learn how resilient Usman could be, and the way a lot coronary heart he possesses. Concurrently we’ll get to know a complete lot extra about simply what sort of champion Edwards could be. I can’t wait to see it.