Make it a great eight for Leon Edwards.
Facing arguably the stiffest test of his career, “Rocky” convincingly out-struck, outwrestled, and outworked Rafael dos Anjos in the welterweight main event of UFC on ESPN 4 on Saturday at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
After five rounds, the judges scored the fight in Edwards’s favor with cards of 50-45, 49-46, and 49-46.
With his eighth straight victory, Edwards trails only current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (10) for the longest winning streak in the division. He is now 10-2 in the UFC.
Post-fight, Edwards did not campaign for a title shot, instead aiming to settle a longstanding beef with fellow contender Jorge Masvidal.
“I’m on an eight-fight winning streak in one of the hardest division’s in the sport,” Edwards said. “There’s a little weasel called Jorge Masvidal. Accept the fight and let’s do it.
“You’re not on my level. Let’s make the fight happen. Me, Jorge Masvidal. Let’s make the fight happen.”
From the start, Edwards (18-3) made it clear that he would be dictating the pace of the fight. A perfectly-timed takedown put dos Anjos on his back and while “RDA” stifled Edwards’s attempts to advance or score with ground-and-pound, Edwards stayed heavy. With two minutes remaining, dos Anjos stood the fight back up, and Edwards showed he could do more than hang with dos Anjos on the feet. While the former UFC lightweight champion stung Edwards’s body with punches, Edwards landed the more damaging shots with fast 1-2 combinations and a slicing elbow whenever dos Anjos got too close.
Edwards showed preternatural calm in rounds two and there, not withering under the speed of dos Anjos’s punches and defending well against the Brazilian’s takedown attempts. Dos Anjos’s strikes were on point, but the elbow of Edwards proved to be a reliable weapon especially after separation.
However, the bout was never out of hand, and “RDA” closed the second round with a low kick that tripped Edwards, allowing him to drop right down into Edwards’s half guard. He landed elbows of his own from top position before Edwards could slip out. Then Edwards resumed tagging dos Anjos with punches as a cut noticeably opened on dos Anjos’s right eye.
Everything was working for Edwards through three rounds and whenever dos Anjos looked to build momentum, Edwards would smartly clinch with him and then attack after working for separation. He continued to control the distance beautifully in round four, both scoring from range and standing in the pocket with dos Anjos. The round was highlighted by Edwards catching a flying knee attempt and dumping dos Anjos to the mat.
The fifth and final frame proved to be more of the same. A comeback would not be in the cards for dos Anjos despite his best efforts and Edwards sealed the deal with another round of steady control and smart defense.
Dos Anjos falls to 4-3 as a UFC welterweight and he has now lost three of his last four fights, all by five-round unanimous decision. Overall, his career record stands at 29-12.