Leon Edwards ended the reign of Kamaru Usman as the welterweight world champion, claiming a stunning knockout win in the main event of UFC 278 at the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday morning.
Usman was comfortably ahead on the scorecards with one minute of the final round remaining, but Edwards landed a brutal left kick to put the lights out for the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ and end his reign as champion which stretched back to March 2019.
The first round went the way of the challenger, with Edwards becoming the first man to land a takedown on Usman in the latter’s UFC career, and the champion had to work hard on the ground to prevent his opponent from sinking in a submission attempt.
Round two saw Usman dial up the pressure, landing more significant strikes throughout and also securing a takedown, while the third round was truly dominant for the champion, who bossed it throughout and twice took Edwards to the ground.
The fourth round followed a similar pattern, with Usman dominant in the clinch and on the ground, and also landing some notable blows before the buzzer, while the fifth again saw Usman in charge until the four-minute mark, when Edwards feinted a left straight and then landed a massive head kick which put the champ down cold.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m in the trenches, I’m built like this,” said Edwards in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. “I go till the bell is done, that’s it. I’m been down my whole life, look at me now! Look at me now!”
The co-main event saw a heroic but ultimately futile effort from UFC legend Luke Rockhold, who was outpointed by Paulo Costa over three rounds in their middleweight clash. Nonetheless, 37-year-old Rockhold – who appeared to confirm his retirement from the sport – received a rapturous reception upon completion of his first fight in over three years.
The rest of the card featured a unanimous decision win for Merab Dvalishvili over another legend, Jose Aldo, in the bantamweight division; Lucie Pudilova stopped Wu Yanan in a women’s bantamweight clash; and Tyson Pedro needed just over a minute to TKO Harry Hunsucker in a light heavyweight battle.
The next UFC event is a Fight Night at the Accor Arena in Paris, France on the evening of Saturday 27 September and headlined by a heavyweight bout between Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa.