Leon Edwards retained his welterweight title by defeating challenger Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 by majority decision to extend his unbeaten streak to 12 in his first title defense.
The judges scored the trilogy fight at London’s O2 Arena 48-46, 48-46, 47-47 in favor of the Briton, who landed the cleanest blows as their third bout went far.
“I knew I could go out there and take his punches,” Edwards said. “Even when he was pressing, not much happened.”
It was their third meeting, more than seven years after Usman won the first fight.
Edwards made an encouraging start, connecting with two heavy kicks in the first round. The 31-year-old’s greater speed unsettled Usman, but the challenger briefly took down Edwards in the second round before the two fighters traded big punches.
Usman grabbed Edwards to the ground again early in the third and the latter earned a point for grabbing the fence, leading many to believe the points were tied at 28-28 heading into the fourth round.
A similar pattern unfolded in the fourth, which was equally tight, with Edwards looking to keep his distance as Usman tried to close in.
Edwards escaped two more takedown attempts in the final round and caught Usman with an uppercut, but took a hit to the body as his title defense fell to the wire.
Edwards had ended Usman’s long reign as champion with a fifth-round head and neck kick to the Nigerian in Salt Lake City in August at UFC 278.
“I think I did enough to win the fight,” Usman, 35, said. bt sports after the defeat. “I’m not finished.”
He also showed good sportsmanship when talking about Edwards’ win: “I knew it was a close fight. Great game plan. I always said that from the start, I knew I I’ll see Leon again and I’m not done. I’ll see him again.
“I’ve always given him props for everything he’s been able to achieve. He’s like me. It’s in his blood. Lots of respect, London. You’ve got yourself a great champion and a heck of a guy.”