UFC 286 went down last night (Sat., March 18, 2023) from inside The O2 in London, England (results here), featuring a Welterweight title fight between division kingpin, Leon Edwards, and former title holder, Kamaru Usman. After 25 minutes of back-and-forth action, Edwards retained his title via majority decision (recap here). In UFC 286’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, Justin Gaethje defeated Rafael Fiziev in an exciting Lightweight scrap that took home “Fight of the Night” honors.
Biggest Winner: Leon Edwards
After getting revenge on Usman at UFC 278 in Aug. 2022 via devastating knockout (see it here), Edwards sealed the rivalry by defeating him for a second straight time. While Usman is adamant they will see each other again, it likely won’t be for awhile … or at least as long as “Rocky” is champion. With the win, Edwards improves to 11-0-1 over his last 12 fights and has solidified himself as the best 170-pound fighter in the sport. He will slowly climb the pound-for-pound list and his paychecks will get bigger for as long as he retains the title. It took awhile for Edwards to get to his first UFC championship fight, and now that he has won and defended the strap, we could be in store for a long reign from “Rocky,” who won’t give up the throne so easily considering how long it took him to usurp it.
Runner Up: Justin Gaethje
Another obvious choice here because Gaethje once again put on a spectacular, $50,000 bonus award-winning fight after edging out the aforementioned Fiziev at the conclusion of three rounds of spine-tingling action. The victory puts “The Highlight” back in the win column after losing a second time in a 155-pound title fight to Charles Oliveira at UFC 274. While another title fight likely doesn’t await him next, it does get him closer to his ultimate goal of becoming a UFC champion. Nevertheless, Gaethje’s latest victory reminded everyone that he is far from done and he is still one of the most violent fighters in the game, regardless of weight class.
Biggest Loser: Kamaru Usman
While Usman did win the first fight against Edwards, he has now lost two straight title bouts to the British brawler, leaving him at a crossroads in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. There was a time when “The Nigerian Nightmare” looked unbeatable — which tends to happen when you win 19 straight fights — but Edwards showed once again that it simply isn’t the case. Just like Usman defeated Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal two different times, he himself has now suffered defeats against the same champion on more than one occasion. And like Covington and Masvidal before him, Usman will find out that getting another shot is easier said than done. That said, “The Nigerian Nightmare” is just 35 years old, so it remains to be seen if he still has plenty left in the tank and on the clock to eventually make another run at the division title.
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