It looked like Kamaru Usman was going to successfully defend his welterweight title for the sixth time until Leon Edwards shocked the world with a devastating head kick to turn the sport on its head in the UFC 278 main event.
Up to that exact moment, Edwards was down on the scorecards with Usman less than a minute away from victory, but it all changed in the blink of an eye.
“I thought that Usman fought the perfect fight,” UFC President Dana White said at the UFC 278 post-fight press conference. “It was crazy, because I was listening to the commentary and [Joe] Rogan and [Jon] Anik and [Daniel Cormier] were dead on with everything they were saying on what Edwards needed to do and what he should be doing. As soon as they were saying it, he literally lands the head kick.”
While Usman did drop the opening round after Edwards became the first fighter to record a takedown against “The Nigerian Nightmare,” the momentum in the fight changed dramatically afterwards. Usman started putting pressure on Edwards, planting him on the canvas with multiple takedowns. The champ started to dish out some punishment as the fight faded into the final round.
“You think of everything that was on the line for Usman tonight, and Usman fought with absolute and total confidence all night,” White said. “He fought the perfect fight.
“It might not be the most fan friendly style, but he was landing big shots to the body, big shots to the head, elbows. Couldn’t have fought a more perfect fight until the last minute.”
The unpredictable nature of how that fight ended only strengthened White’s resolve when it comes to matchups where it appears an underdog is doomed to fail.
“It’s how crazy this sport is,” White said. “It’s what makes this sport the greatest sport in the world. That you can sit through four rounds and four minutes and that can happen in a fight. Anything’s possible in this sport. Every time we make a fight and it’s like ‘this is one-sided, lopsided’ — there are no lopsided, one-sided fights in this sport. Anything is possible. I said this week talking to you guys, the problem is people won’t give Leon enough credit and he’s a very dangerous opponent. Wow.
“We’re probably in a situation, there was a minute left in the fight, we probably had people getting up and walking out because it was looking like this was going to be a shutout for Usman and boom, a head kick. It’s what makes this sport so great, so exciting and why it’s so fun. You can never take it for granted and think that something’s over until it’s over.”
The win crowns Edwards as the undisputed champion, but he’s also now tied 1-1 with Usman after they previously clashed in 2015. Add to that, Usman was a long reigning champion with less than one minute remaining to another successful title defense. That’s why White says a trilogy between Edwards and Usman is almost a certainty once the dust settles from UFC 278, and he doesn’t expect any major delays in making it happen.
“How do you not [do a trilogy]? Yeah [I want to do it in England],” White revealed. “I don’t think [Leon would] have to sit and wait anyway. He wouldn’t have to wait that long. He’d have to go back into camp and start training anyway.
“First of all, we’d have to have the date. I think we’re booked up into January now. There will be no waiting for him, even if it’s a rematch.”