On the 2019 night after he scored an impressive win over Gunnar Nelson, a fighter whose style was completely wrong for him, Leon Edwards’ moment was stolen when Jorge Masvidal walked out of an interview and hit Edwards with a combination which he dubbed “A”. Three-piece and a soda.”
The video went viral, helped make Masvidal a bigger star and eventually led him to fight Nate Diaz for the so-called BMF title at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Edwards got lost in the shuffle. He could not retaliate because of so many people around. Masvidal punched him and then trash-talked him during an interview with ESPN’s Laura Sancho.
Edwards had just defeated Nelson, a highly regarded submission ace, but much of the post-fight talk about him centered on Masvidal cracking him on the chin. Edwards had to overcome a lot in his young life, including the murder of his father when he was only 14 and living on the streets in Jamaica when drugs and violence were everywhere.
Things seemed to be going against him everywhere, but he prevailed in the cage. He had to sit out two years due to injuries and the pandemic, and then got another 14-month stint after returning.
But now, after defeating Kamru Usman via majority decision in the main event of UFC 286 at the O2 Arena in London, England on Saturday, the skeptics have nothing left to say. Skeptics, if they still exist, are willfully ignorant.
This is a guy who hasn’t lost since dropping a decision to Usman in 2015. Since, he has racked up 11 consecutive victories and cemented his place as MMA’s top welterweight with a pair of wins over Usman in a span of seven months.
He headlined a card in his adopted home of England and with 17,588 fans in attendance not only did the venue sell out, he set a gate record for the O2. UFC president Dana White said the $8.6 million pay gate was four times better than any UFC show in England.
The judges scored it 48-46 twice and 47-47 for Edwards, seven months after Usman landed the head kick heard around the world in the waning seconds of UFC 278 on August 20 in Salt Lake City.
Usman was still the heavy favorite in the rematch, but Edwards took out the stars and did the job with a virtuoso performance. Without a point deduction for grabbing the cage, Edwards would have won four out of five rounds on two cards and three out of five rounds.
It was finally his moment, as he was greeted in the cage by the home fans like a victorious hero. And during the fight, fans were chanting “Head kick! Head kick! Head kick,” urging him to finish it off in style again.
Edwards was overwhelmed afterwards when he told of his moment in the sun.
“It meant the world to me,” Edwards said. “To be able to achieve so much in my career, I took the toughest route to get here. I think you all know this, but I took the longest route to get here. Took the road. To finally be able to earn my respect the hard way, knowing that no one owed me anything, makes it even more satisfying for me and my team.”
He is clearly one of the best fighters in the game now, and that can’t be argued. Perhaps after Usman’s head kick knockout it was argued that Usman had dominated that match for a long period of time. However, on Saturday, Edwards completely shut down that argument.
He nullified Usman’s wrestling – Usman landed only four of 15 takedown attempts and did little with them – and Edwards connected on an astonishing 74% of his critical strikes. Usman was only in the fight in the fifth round because he is one of the greatest players of all time who has an indomitable will to win. Several rounds were close, but Edwards proved that he was the better fighter from start to finish.
The only downfall on the day from Edwards’ perspective came when he followed White into the post-fight news conference. White told the media that Colby Covington would get the next title shot. This did not sit well with Edwards, who pointed out that Covington had not fought since defeating Masvidal on March 5, 2022, in Las Vegas.
Edwards wanted to get his hands on Masvidal, not because Masvidal has earned a shot, but because of the 2019 “three-piece and a soda”.
“I don’t like him,” Edwards said of Masvidal. “I think he’s weird. … I’ll give him a title shot because I don’t like him. … It’s an easy fight for me. … He’s just a damn weirdo.”
Edwards has proved that he is the champion of champions. He has beaten one of the best twice in a row and there was little argument about the outcome of both.
For those who may still doubt Edwards, remember this: It says a lot more about him than it does about Leon Edwards.