UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards raised the roof at The O2 Arena as he defeated Kamaru Usman for the second time in a row to retain his title on home soil in London, England.
Edwards outpointed Usman after five tense, tough rounds to earn a majority decision with scores of 48-46, 48-46, 47-47 to hold on to his title and claim bragging rights in their fighting trilogy in a raucous atmosphere in the English capital.
Edwards started the bout well and immediately set to work on his kicking attack, punishing Usman’s lead leg and body with thumping kicks, mixing up his targets throughout the round. Usman continued to walk forward to pressure the champion, but Edwards fended off the former champion expertly, stuffing a late takedown attempt and appearing to briefly hurt him to the body with a kick.
Edwards continued his kicking attack in Round 2 then, as Usman looked to close the distance to nullify the threat, the champion stung him with a big counter left that briefly stunned “The Nigerian Nightmare”. Usman then turned to his wrestling as he looked to rough up the Brit against the cage, gut Edwards covered up well, worked his way out of danger, then connected with a head kick similar to the one that knocked out Usman in their second fight.
After being outstruck in the first two rounds, Usman looked to turn the tables at the start of Round 3 as he landed an early takedown. But after Edwards battled back to his feet via the cage, referee Herb Dean penalized the Brit with a point deduction for a fence grab. Usman continued to push forward for the remainder of the round, but Edwards connected with some thumping kicks to the legs, plus one errant shot that connected with Usman’s cup.
Following the disappointment of the point deduction in the third round, Edwards recomposed himself well in the fourth and returned to his constant movement and powerful leg kicks as he kept Usman at bay for the majority of the round. Again, Usman pushed forward, but it was Edwards whose strikes were finding their mark.
And, in the final round, with The O2 Arena crowd roaring him on, Edwards turned up the power and connected early with some big shots, including a head kick that landed clean. The champion was making Usman miss and making him pay, and seemed more confident than ever as he pot-shotted the advancing Usman and mixing in his low kicks for good measure. Usman attempted to fire back with a knee and a takedown attempt, but Edwards stuffed it. Usman tried again and got the champion to the mat, but Edwards fought his way back to his feet once more. Usman desperately tried for another takedown as the final minute ticked down, but an exhausted Edwards stayed upright and the pair traded shots until the final horn.
After five closely-contested rounds, there was a tense wait for the judges’ scorecards. And, when they were announced and Edwards’ name was read as the winner, the 18,000-strong crowd exploded with joy. Edwards’ undefeated record on UK soil was maintained, and his title was retained on a night to remember in London.
Gaethje edges Fiziev in wild battle
After a brief feeling-out period, the pair started to stand and trade big shots, with Fiziev looking a touch sharper and cleaner than the former title challenger. But Gaethje was throwing plenty of heat of his own, and looked to be noticeably trying to have the last word in exchanges. Then, in the final minute of the round, we saw a rarity, as Gaethje attempted a takedown, but Fiziev easily stuffed the attempt as an entertaining first round came to a close.
Gaethje loaded up on his shots in Round 2 in a bid to slow Fiziev’s relentless pace and fast combinations. But, despite connecting with some heavy punches, “Ataman” continued to land with fire and frequency. With the pro-Gaethje London crowd chanting his name, Gaethje continued to throw big shots, but Fiziev remained unmoved as he fired back in kind, and stopped a knee-tap attempt from the American contender.
The final round saw Gaethje pour on the pressure while Fiziev continued to punish him on the counter. But, as the final round started to wind down, Gaethje found an extra gear and connected with big shots before punctuating his best round of the fight with a last-gasp takedown.
After a wild three rounds of action, the crowd eagerly awaited the judges’ verdicts, and it was Gaethje who took the victory with scores of 29-28, 29-28, 28-28.
Nelson shows his class on the mat with slick submission
Icelandic grappling ace Gunnar Nelson gave another showcase of his technical mat skills as he submitted Bryan Barberena in the first round of their welterweight main card bout.
After a period of cagey stand-up action, Nelson finally managed to close the distance and take “Bam Bam” to the mat with two minutes left in the round. Once he had his man on the ground, it was all “Gunni.”
With the London crowd inside the O2 Arena doing the Icelandic Skol clap, Nelson moved to side control and methodically worked to isolate an arm. He briefly threatened with an Americana but, after Barberena defended, Nelson switched techniques and, after a quick adjustment, locked up an armbar to force the tap at the 4:51 mark.
It was a performance of slick submission excellence from Nelson, who improved his career record to 19-5-1 and put the Icelandic ace on his first win streak since 2017.
Maia outstrikes O’Neill for decision win
Former women’s flyweight title challenger Jennifer Maia halted the momentum of Casey O’Neill with a unanimous decision victory in their 125-pound matchup. Maia outstruck O’Neill through the opening two rounds, beating the Scottish-born Australian prospect with scores of 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 to hand her opponent the first defeat of her professional MMA career.
For Maia, it was a hugely valuable victory in a women’s flyweight division that recently got a new champion in the form of Alexa Grasso, who defeated Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 285. And with a crucial victory to protect her No. 8 ranking spot, the Brazilian will be looking to fight up the rankings list in a bid to earn another shot at the title a little further down the line.
Vettori outpoints Dolidze to claim crucial win
The main card kicked off with a middleweight war between Marvin Vettori and Roman Dolidze that ended with a unanimous decision win for Vettori, and a less-than-impressed London crowd.
The two middleweight contenders traded big shots in a 15-minute war that saw both men enjoy their successes on the feet. But it was Vettori’s work that impressed the judges more, as he earned scores of 29-28, 29-28, 30-27. However, Vettori’s win didn’t impress the London crowd, who booed the judges’ verdict, seemingly in support of Dolidze, who matched the Italian through three rounds, and appeared to have the stronger opening round after landing several big shots on “The Italian Dream.”
But the judges were unanimous in their verdict, as the Italian bounced back into the win column to keep him in the upper echelon of the UFC’s 185-pound division.
Shore makes winning start at featherweight
In the featured preliminary card bout, Jack Shore produced a superb second-round display to finish Makwan Amirkhani via rear-naked choke and announce his arrival in the UFC’s featherweight division.
After a first round that saw Amirkhani score a takedown and maintain top position, but with little offense, Shore pushed the pace in the stand-up in Round 2. Twice he cracked “Mr. Finland” with stinging punches, before stuffing a takedown from his opposite number, who was starting to slow down. Shore, meanwhile, was just getting into his stride, and he controlled the range well, using his boxing, body kicks and smart takedown defense to keep Amirkhani in position for his punches. Then, after stuffing another Amirkhani takedown, Shore made a statement by putting the Finn on his back with a takedown of his own.
Shore then went to work as he moved into side control, then into mount, before attempting an arm-triangle choke. But, with the fence preventing him from moving to the side to apply full pressure, he abandoned the attempt and switching to a rear-naked choke to force the tap.
It meant that Shore made a successful switch to featherweight after previously campaigning in the UFC’s bantamweight division. It also improved his record to an impressive 17-1.
Ashmoz makes explosive debut
There was a huge knockout finish from a debutant as Yanal Ashmoz claimed a heavy-handed first-round finish of fellow debutant Sam Patterson. Ashmoz missed with a big overhand right, but did enough to put Patterson off balance, and a follow-up left hook caught the Englishman clean and sent him crashing to the canvas. Ashmoz then followed up with some vicious ground strikes to knock out the Brit, who needed a lengthy period of time before he was fully recovered from the brutal KO.
The finish extended Ashmoz’s perfect professional career to 7-0, and added a fourth knockout to his resume.
Mokaev survives kneebar to claim dramatic win
The preliminary card kicked off with a brief light outage, then a remarkable come-from-behind win by Muhammad Mokaev, who claimed a dramatic third-round submission victory over debuting Contender Series graduate Jafel Filho. Mokaev scored an early takedown in the first round and maintained a dominant position throughout as he landed heavy ground strikes while looking for an opening for a submission.
Round 2 was mostly spent on the feet, with Mokaev looking to counter Filho’s forward aggression as the Brazilian gained a foothold in the bout. It meant the third round was crucial, and Filho looked close to victory when, during a grappling exchange on the mat, the Brazilian locked up a kneebar that appeared to have Mokaev in big trouble.
Somehow, Mokaev managed to survive the hold, then escape Filho’s clutches before locking up a rear-naked choke to claim a submission victory of his own as The O2 Arena crowd roared their approval at Mokaev’s gutsy comeback win.
It was a dramatic turnaround for “The Punisher,” who looks like he’ll need some time out to let his knee heal after he collapsed in pain after the initial adrenalin-fueled celebration had worn off.
Also on the preliminary card, Scotland’s Chris Duncan earned a split-decision victory on his Octagon debut, as he edged Omar Morales on the scorecards. In a bout that didn’t quite catch fire as some expected, Duncan’s work rate and ability to mix takedown attempts into his approach helped him earn scores of 27-30, 29-28 and 29-28 to get his UFC career off to a winning start.
The undoubted highlight of the early prelims was the featured bout between undefeated featherweights Lerone Murphy and Gabriel Santos, as the pair went back and forth through three non-stop rounds of high-intensity action.
LFA featherweight champion Santos, who was drafted in on a little over one week’s notice, started fast and won a thrilling opening round on all three of the judges’ scorecards. But Murphy maintained his work rate through the second and third rounds to narrowly outwork the Brazilian and earn a split-decision victory, with scores of 28-29, 29-28, 29-28. That win improved Murphy’s professional record to 11-0-1, while Santos fell to the first defeat of his career.
The much-anticipated UFC debut of Christian Leroy Duncan ended with a win, but in unfortunate circumstances after his opponent Dusko Todorovic appeared to suffer a nasty knee injury mid-way through the first round of their middleweight bout.
Duncan looked comfortable early as he connected with clean strikes and hammered Todorovic’s leg hard with kicks in the opening exchanges. And it’s possibly one of those kicks that did the damage as, as the fighters looked to disengage from the clinch, Todorovic collapsed to the mat in agony, forcing the bout to be waved off before the former Cage Warriors champion could really open up with his strikes. The victory means “CLD” is off and running in the UFC, but he’ll be keen to make a swift return to the Octagon to showcase more of the skills that made him a must-see talent on the regional scene here in the UK.
And the night began with a successful return to the Octagon for Veronica Hardy, who ended a three-year hiatus with a dominant unanimous decision win over Contender Series graduate Juliana Miller. Hardy comprehensively outstruck Miller on the feet, and bossed the grappling exchanges on the mat to earn scores of 30-27 on all three scorecards.
UFC 286: Official results
- Leon Edwards def. Kamaru Usman via majority decision (48-46, 48-46, 47-47) – for welterweight title
- Justin Gaethje def. Rafael Fiziev via majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
- Gunnar Nelson def. Bryan Barberena via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 4:51
- Jennifer Maia def. Casey O’Neill via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Marvin Vettori def. Roman Dolidze via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Jack Shore def. Makwan Amirkhani via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:27
- Chris Duncan def. Omar Morales via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
- Yanal Ashmouz def. Sam Patterson via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:15
- Muhammad Mokaev def. Jafel Filho via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 4:32
- Lerone Murphy def. Gabriel Santos via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Christian Leroy Duncan def. Dusko Todorovic via TKO (knee injury) – Round 1, 1:52
- Jake Hadley def. Malcolm Gordon via TKO (body shot and punches) – Round 1, 1:01
- Joanne Wood def. Luana Carolina via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
- Jai Herbert vs. Ludovit Klein scored a majority draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
- Veronica Hardy def. Juliana Miller via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)