UFC 286 preview: Edwards vs Usman 3
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UFC 286 preview: Edwards vs Usman 3

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is returning to London’s O2 Arena on March 18 for its first numbered event in the UK since UFC 204 in 2016.

UFC 286 will be headlined by British fighter Leon Edwards as he seeks to defend his welterweight crown in a trilogy bout against Nigeria’s Kamaru Usman.

UFC 286 betting

With a thrilling night in prospect, we have listed the current champions in each weight class and analysed the bouts we can look forward to.

What is the current state of UFC?

Several divisions on the men’s side are seeing a change of the guard.

Alex Pereira recently handed Israel Adesanya his first middleweight defeat, while undisputed featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski relinquished his belt by stepping up to lightweight in a loss to Islam Makhachev.

Two-time defending bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is now the only title holder to have defended his belt more than once.

On the women’s side, Alexa Grasso upset the odds by beating Valentina Shevchenko – the longest reigning women’s champion – to take the flyweight title at UFC 285.

Amanda Nunes remains the only fighter (male or female) to hold title belts in two divisions.

Edwards vs Usman 3 at UFC London

Edwards and Usman – rated as the fourth and fifth-best pound-for-pound fighters in UFC – first met all the way back in 2015.

Usman won on that occasion, but Edwards gained revenge in 2022 by taking the welterweight belt that Usman had held since 2019.

Despite being the younger man by four years, Edwards has fought 23 times to Usman’s 22, although only one of those was a UFC title bout, compared with seven for Usman.

The two rivals are evenly matched otherwise, with both standing on 20 wins in total, including one apiece against each other.

In terms of style, Usman is the busier fighter, landing significant strikes and takedowns at a faster rate than Edwards.

The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ is especially effective when grappling – he averages three successful takedowns per 15 minutes (one of the highest rates in the UFC) and has repelled 97% of his opponents’ attempts.

Usman’s domineering approach allowed him to overpower Edwards in their first fight, winning by unanimous decision, having attempted a greater number of significant strikes than his opponent and landing a higher percentage of them.

However, the British fighter – nicknamed ‘Rocky’ – upped his game in the second bout by landing almost three in four of his most telling blows, including a spectacular knockout kick in the final round.

Edwards increasingly targeted Usman’s body and legs in his second effort, having mainly aimed at his head in defeat the first time.

The Briton’s tactics paid dividends as he won the welterweight title for the first time and was awarded Performance of the Night at UFC 278.

UFC London betting

Who else is on the main card at UFC 286?

Justin Gaethje returns to the octagon for the first time since losing out to Charles Oliveira in a lightweight title bout last May. His opponent Rafael Fiziev is on a run of six straight wins.

Scotland’s Joanne Wood is likely to enjoy plenty of crowd support when she faces Brazilian Luana Carolina in a women’s flyweight fight, although she is coming off the back of three successive defeats.

Meanwhile, Icelandic welterweight Gunnar Nelson has won four out of five previous fights in London and will start as favourite when he meets late replacement Bryan Barberena.

The first main-card fight could be one of the most intriguing, with former middleweight title challenger Marvin Vettori up against the in-form Roman Dolidze.

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