UFC 286: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3 preview and prediction

Aug 20, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) fights Leon Edwards (blue gloves)
Aug 20, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) fights Leon Edwards (blue gloves) / Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Who will win the trilogy and what will happen when Leon Edwards faces off with Kamaru Usman at UFC 286?

Headshot! Dead! The head kick heard around the world capped off one of the biggest comebacks in the sport’s history to give the UK its second UFC champion of all time.

UFC 286 is returning to London, England at the O2 Arena for a trilogy and welterweight championship fight between the champion, Leon “Rocky” Edwards (20-3), and “The Nigerian Nightmare” Kamaru Usman. Edwards will defend his title for the first time and if successful will have a homecoming of a lifetime, on the other hand, Usman is eager to capture his belt back and start another historic run.

Edwards is coming off arguably one of the greatest knockouts in a title fight and will look to seize the moment once more this Saturday in front of his people to prove he can defeat the likes of the best welterweights in recent memory and become a king himself in the division. He is currently on a 10-fight winning streak and if victorious would be the second Englishman to defend his title since UFC 204 when Michael Bisping defended his middleweight title for the time in 2016.  

After being at the receiving end of the 2022 knockout of the year, Usman is determined to regain his status as champion and avenge his first-ever loss in the Octagon. Before losing to Edwards, Usman was 56 seconds away from his 20th consecutive win and tying Anderson Silva’s record for UFC consecutive wins at 16. This is unfamiliar territory for him because it’s the first time he’s been out cold and it’s the first time he is fighting across the pond on British soil.

Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman prediction

The second fight between Edwards and Usman that took place in UFC 278 started with Edwards surprising everyone by being the first fighter to successfully takedown Usman, but as the fight played out in the later rounds Usman was controlling and dominating the fight in both striking and grappling up until being knocked out. I envision this fight playing out in a similar way where Usman is dictating the fight and is ahead in the scorecards, but doesn’t make a costly mistake and gets caught this time.

Edwards will need to be ready to anticipate a grappling-heavy contest against Usman and immediately hold his ground by not backing up and maintaining position at the center of the octagon. If taken down, Edwards has shown much-improved wrestling defense, but he cannot play into Usman’s game and settle for a position, especially early on. Distance and footwork are essential for his fighting style and for him to have success with combinations, leg kicks, and his excellent-timed elbows.

Usman will attempt to rinse and repeat his previous performance but with a lot more wrestling and grappling to tire out and frustrate the champ. The striking of the former champ has much improved with technique due to the coaching of Trevor Wittman, and he will engage with Edwards in striking exchanges to hurt or set up takedowns. In their previous matchup, Usman was outstriking Edwards convincingly with a margin of 83-55 in significant strikes and grounded him five times due to takedowns. 

Unless another perfectly executed knockout arises from the unknown or a sneaky submission catches Usman around the neck, then I believe Usman will retain his belt once more and edge Edwards in this chapter of the trilogy.  

Prediction: Kamaru Usman via unanimous decision.

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UFC 286: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3 takes place on Saturday, March 18 2023, live from the O2 Arena in London, England. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your live results and highlights throughout fight week.