Leon Edwards shocked the world on Saturday night, scoring a last-minute head kick knockout against Kamaru Usman to become the new UFC Welterweight Champion.
Edwards’ win headlined UFC 278, which took place from the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Edwards erased a massive difference on scorecards in the 25th minute of their fight, flooring Usman with a clean left head kick. No follow-up shots were needed from Edwards, as the referee stepped in immediately to end their fight and solidify history.
Usman had a strong lead on scorecards prior to the finish, using his striking along with grappling skills to take numerous rounds and set himself up for a decision victory.
Edwards notably gave Usman trouble early in the fight, becoming the first person to take him down in the UFC cage. But despite some struggles in the first round, it was mostly Usman succeeding in the cage prior to the sudden finish.
Saturday’s main event put an end to Usman’s long reign as champion, spanning six fights and four years. He entered this weekend as one of the most successful recent champions in the promotion, having retained his belt more than most current titleholders.
Edwards was given a title opportunity after stringing together nine wins throughout a multi-year campaign.
The fight on Saturday also avenged a loss for Edwards. His most recent loss was in 2015 when he first met Usman, losing a three-round bout via unanimous decision at that encounter.
Edwards was valued as a fairly large underdog heading into this weekend, as he was equipped with the task of ending a champion’s dominant run.
Rockhold Signals End of MMA Career After Damaging Loss To Costa
Luke Rockhold had a tough return to the UFC cage in Saturday’s co-main event, losing a three-round brawl to Paulo Costa in a unanimous decision result.
Costa got ahead on scorecards early, piecing together shots on the feed to cause visible damage through bruising and cuts.
Cardio became an issue for Rockhold quite early in the fight, struggling in the first and second rounds of the fight. Visible fatigue on the fighters along with a few unintentional fouls early in the fight set the tone for the bout as a messy battle.
Surprisingly, Rockhold showed life late in the fight and was able to cause problems for Costa in the closing minutes. He was able to land strikes on the feet, and close out the frame with ground control.
An emotional Rockhold seemingly signaled that he has reached the end of his career following the fight.
“I can’t do this s*** anymore,” said Rockhold in his post-fight interview. “I gave it my all. I’m f****** old.”
Rockhold, 37, was returning to competition in MMA for the first time since 2019. The former middleweight champion has now suffered three consecutive losses in the sport, with his last win dating back to 2017.
Costa broke his sole losing streak as a pro with the victory on Saturday. Before this weekend, he had losses against high-profile names Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori.
Dvalishvili Keeps Run Alive With Victory Over Aldo
Merab Dvalishvili picked up a big win in his campaign up the bantamweight rankings, defeating former champion Jose Aldo via unanimous decision.
Dvalishvili’s win over Aldo was a tough test, as the veteran was able to shut down parts of his well-documented game plan.
Dvalishvili was never able to score a takedown during the fight, as Aldo stopped all of his attempts. But this didn’t stop Dvalishvili from doing a dozen attempts during the fight, often putting Aldo against the cage and using those positions to land strikes.
“[Aldo] was very technical against the cage,” said Dvalsihvili in his post-fight interview. “Usually, I take down everybody … But his footwork and the takedown defense against the wall was amazing. I was surprised.”
Aldo was quite gunshy during the fight, being picky with the strikes that he threw. His output notably dropped in the final round, seemingly due to fatigue in the fight. Dvalishvili engaged in striking exchanges with Aldo at points, being able to periodically connect with a blow.
Dvalishvili is now on an eight-fight winning streak since early 2018. His previous wins came against other notable opponents, beating Cody Stamann and Marlon Moraes in 2021.
Aldo also entered the fight with momentum. His previous fight, a late 2021 main event appearance, saw him beat Rob Font via unanimous decision.
Despite the long streak making him one of the top names at bantamweight, Dvalishvili proclaimed that he won’t ever fight fellow gym mate and current UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling.
Pudilova Kicks Off Second UFC Run With Finish Victory
Lucie Pudilova earned a stoppage win in her return to the UFC roster, finishing Wu Yanan in the second round with ground and pound shots.
Pudilova unloaded with a quick flurry of punches and elbows from full mount, causing the fight to end in the second round. She was dominant on the ground before then, attempting submissions and earning numerous minutes of control time.
The fight marked the beginning of Pudilova’s second UFC run. She previously fought on the roster as a flyweight from 2017 to 2020, departing the promotion after suffering four consecutive losses.
Pudilova moved up to bantamweight when she returned to the regional scene in recent years. She re-joined the UFC roster after scoring five wins through six appearances in OKTAGON.
Wu is now on a four-fight losing streak since 2019. Her previous fight was in April, when she lost a decision to Mayra Bueno Silva.
Pedro Earns Second Win Since Return
Tyson Pedro spoiled the light heavyweight debut of Harry Hunsucker in the opening bout of the main card, shutting him down in the first round with strikes.
Pedro dropped Hunsucker with a front kick to the body after pressing forward with a combination of punches early on. Pedro was then quick to follow up with ground and pound shots, putting the fight to an end.
Pedro has now scored two victories since ending an extensive layoff from the UFC cage. His previous appearance, a first-round finish victory over Ike Villanueva in April, was Pedro’s first fight since late 2018.
Hunsucker is winless through three UFC appearances. His two previous bouts, both also first-round finishes, were up at heavyweight.
The Rest of the Card
Marcin Tybura pulled off an upset victory in the final prelim, handing Alexandr Romanov his first pro loss in a majority decision result. The fight was Romanov’s first time going the distance as a pro and ended a 16-fight winning streak.
Jared Gordon returned to the win column on Saturday night, going the distance against veteran Leonardo Santos for a decision victory.
In a bizarre result, Luis Saldana settled with a split draw against Sean Woodson. Saldana nearly finished the fight in the first round but had the bout paused and later suffered a point deduction due to an illegal knee strike.
Ange Loosa prevailed in a tiring and close brawl against AJ Fletcher, winning via unanimous decision in the end. The fight was Loosa’s first UFC win since joining the roster earlier this year.
Amir Albazi had a strong showing on Saturday night, submitting Francisco Figueiredo early via rear naked choke.
Aoriqileng picked up his second consecutive win, earning a scorecard nod after a back-and-forth striking battle against Jay Perrin.
Victor Altamirano had a violent performance for his first UFC victory, scoring a knee strike knockdown and then landing a long series of ground and pound shots to stop Daniel da Silva in the first round.
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 8:00PM MDT) (PPV)
Bout 12: Leon Edwards def. Kamaru Usman via TKO, Strikes (RD 5, 4:04) (UFC Welterweight Championship)
Bout 11: Paulo Costa def. Luke Rockhold via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 10: Merab Dvalishvili def. Jose Aldo via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 9: Lucie Pudilova def. Wu Yanan via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 4:04)
Bout 8: Tyson Pedro def. Harry Hunsucker via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 1:05)
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT / 6:00PM MDT) (ESPN / TSN 2)
Bout 7: Marcin Tybura def. Alexandr Romanov via Decision, Majority
Bout 6: Jared Gordon def. Leonardo Santos via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 5: Luis Saldana vs. Sean Woodson via Decision, Split Draw
Bout 4: Ange Loosa def. AJ Fletcher via Decision, Unanimous
Early Prelims (6:30PM MDT / 4:30PM MDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 3: Amir Albazi def. Francisco Figueiredo via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 1, 4:34)
Bout 2: Aoriqileng def. Jay Perrin via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 1: Victor Altamirano def. Daniel da Silva via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 3:39)