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The UFC 286 trilogy fight between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman will be the biggest MMA fight ever hosted on British soil. Josh Gaillard previews this and more from the UFC 286 card.


The UFC 286 trilogy fight between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman will be the biggest MMA fight ever hosted on British soil. Josh Gaillard previews this and more from the UFC 286 card.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Main Event

Leon Edwards 37/20 | Kamaru Usman 38/100 

Leon Edwards puts his welterweight title on the line for the first time against former champion Kamaru Usman. UFC 286 is the first UK PPV event since Michael Bisping defended his middleweight belt in Manchester back in 2016 – surely this is a good omen?

Last August, ‘Rocky’ shocked the world to steal victory from the jaws of defeat with a round five head kick that sent shockwaves through the MMA community. However, their rivalry goes all the way back to 2015 where the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ dominated the first matchup – now, this third and final fight will settle the score.

UK-born and bred Edwards (20-3, 1NC) is playing on home soil fresh off the biggest victory this contest has to offer. The 31-year-old holds the longest active win streak (10) in the welterweight division and the trajectory of the 6’2” fighter has been impressive to say the least.

The Englishman’s striking continues to shine utilizing a 74” reach to great effect, but since the loss against Usman his wrestling ability has grown leaps and bounds. I expect him to mix and match his game a lot more than the previous two meetings as he brims with more confidence.

Usman (20-2) had five successful defences of the welterweight championship before Edwards arrived, and their UFC 278 match favoured the 35-year-old before an unprecedented knockout.

UFC Stats said 6’0” Usman had 10 minutes and 36 seconds of dominance and scored 83 crucial strikes with his 76” reach, while Edwards had a mere two minutes and 55 seconds of control and scored 55 noteworthy hits.

A fuss needs to be made over the mental fortitude of the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’, always composed in the highest-pressure moments the sport has to offer, but this will be his toughest mental battle to overcome.

Verdict: Kamaru Usman Win 38/100

A 10-fight win streak and a fifth-round head kick to be crowned champion over arguably the most dominant fighter the UFC has seen, coupled with the home-soil advantage is still not enough to make Edwards the favourite right now over Kamaru Usman – that is the threat the former champion poses.

The last fight took place in Salt Lake City, Utah and we must remember that the altitude played a huge part. Leon got off to a great start in round one, but Usman was able to smother the challenger and not allow him to recover at any point. This time, they fight at sea level. Usman is going to have to work much harder to wear his opponent down. Still, I only see this fight going one way. 

Co-Main Event

Justin Gaethje 7/4 | Rafael Fiziev 4/10 

All eyes will be on the main event of UFC 286, but nobody would be foolish enough to forget about the co-main event that features an absurd lightweight scrap between two of the best strikers in the division. Former interim UFC lightweight champion Justin Gaethje is back in the octagon to face fellow striker Rafael Fiziev in a bout with all the makings for a ‘Fight of the Night’.

Gaethje (23-4) was arguably the best fighter outside of the UFC before making his debut in 2017. The 34-year-old has only faced the best that the promotion and division has to offer from former champions Khabib Nurmagomedov, Charles Oliveira, and Eddie Alvarez to former interim champions Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier. 

The Arizona-born fighter stands at 5’11” with a reach of 70.0″ is known for his striking ability but do not let sleep on his wrestling accolades. This is his time to state that he still belongs at the top of the lightweight division.

An extremely well-travelled striker, Fiziev (12-1), has flung his name among the ‘top guns’ in the UFC’s lightweight division. For a long time, the top of the division has not had a fresh face, and the 30-year-old is ready make his mark.

His UFC debut fight did not go to plan, losing to Magomed Mustafaev via a spectacular knockout. Many pundits and fans questioned whether he was too small to compete among lightweights but his six-fight win streak says otherwise.

After knocking out former champion Rafael dos Anjos in the final round of a five-round war, the Kyrgyz fighter will happily go back to three rounds and up the output.

Verdict: Justin Gaethje Win 7/4

If Gaethje and Fiziev go the full 15 minutes, then expect a bloody, brutal battle that will be on most people’s list for ‘Fight of the Year’. However, I don’t expect that to be the case for this bout as I strongly believe someone is going to get knocked out relatively quickly.

Fiziev is a beast and has the potential to fight for a title at some point. However, I still think Gaethje has enough about him to land a flurry of decisive blows.

Top Treble for UFC 286:

Usman Win 38/100
Gaethje Win 7/4
Duncan Win 91/100

Treble to win at 6/1

Full card predictions

Main Card: 23:00 CAT, Saturday 18 March

  • Welterweight (C) Leon Edwards (37/20) vs Kamaru Usman (38/100): Usman
  • Lightweight Justin Gaethje (7/4) vs Rafael Fiziev (4/10): Gaethje
    Welterweight Gunnar Nelson (23/100) vs Bryan Barberena (11/4): Nelson
  • Flyweight (w) Jennifer Maia (27/20) vs Casey O’Neill (52/100): O’Neill
  • Middleweight Marvin Vettori (34/100) vs Roman Dolidze (2/1): Dolidze

Prelims: 21:00 CAT, Saturday 18 March

  • Featherweight Jack Shore (2/11) vs Makwan Amirkhani (33/10): Shore
  • Lightweight Chris Duncan (91/100) vs Omar Morales (8/10): Duncan
  • Lightweight Sam Patterson (1/3) vs Yanal Ashmoz (2/1): Patterson
  • Flyweight Muhammad Mokaev (1/9) vs Jafel Filho (46/10): Mokaev

Early Prelims: 19:00 CAT, Saturday 18 March

  • Featherweight Lerone Murphy (53/100) vs Gabriel Santos (13/10): Murphy
  • Middleweight Christian Duncan (43/100) vs Dusko Todorovic (33/20): Duncan
  • Flyweight Malcolm Gordon (26/10) vs Jake Hadley (24/100): Hadley
  • Flyweight (w) Joanne Calderwood (52/100) vs Luana Carolina (27/20): Calderwood
  • Lightweight Jai Herbert (14/10) vs Ľudovit Klein (5/10): Klein
  • Flyweight (w) Juliana Miller (21/100) vs Veronica Macedo (29/10): Miller
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