UFC

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR MMA PREVIEW: UFC 286

Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards shocked the world last August when he knocked out Kamaru Usman in the fifth and final round to claim the UFC welterweight strap.

Heading into that fight, Usman already held a victory over Edwards and had firmly established himself as one of the best welterweights of all time.

When these two first met, Usman emerged victorious by decision but they were both young inexperienced mixed martial artists so it was tough to take anything from it. By time the second fight rolled around, Usman was a dominant champion and Edwards was the outstanding number one contender in the welterweight division.

Despite a strong opening round from ‘Rocky’, Usman dominated large parts of the rematch and was cruising towards yet another decision victory over the Brit. Then the kick landed. It is now arguably the most famous head kick in UFC history and by rendering Usman unconscious, Edwards changed the game and became the poster boy for British MMA.

In the months that have passed, the war of words between these two has gradually heated up and what started as two competitors with genuine respect for each other has now turned to a heated rivalry. Usman arrives in the UK looking to remind everybody he is the best 170lb fighter in the world and Edwards will be keen to prove the head kick was no fluke.

Usman will start as the (2/5) favourite and will be confident he can regain his title but at 36 and coming off the back of a brutal knockout, he now has a lot to prove. This is the first time he has had to adopt the challenger mentality and although Edwards is the home fighter, all the pressure lies on the former champion who needs to prove he is still capable of competing at the top of this division.

At this level, it’s the fine details that usually dictate the outcome and it’s hard to imagine Kamaru Usman isn’t mentally scarred from that fight back in August. He is capable of beating Leon Edwards, he has already proven that, but away from home and with so much pressure on his shoulders, he is a risky favourite this weekend.

Edwards will know he has power to stop this fight but he may adopt a more cautious approach and look to minimise the risk in this fight. This will be incredibly close but Leon Edwards is a very tempting underdog at (2/1).

The co-main event between former lightweight title challenger Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev stands out above the rest. Known as ‘The Human Highlight Reel’, Justin Gaethje is guaranteed entertainment whenever he fights and whether he wins or loses, he always brings a style that excites the paying fans.

For Fiziev, this is the biggest name and opportunity of his career. He has been a revelation in recent years and his knockout victories over the likes of Rafael Dos Anjos and Renato Moicano have earned him a shot like this.

This fight is guaranteed entertainment as neither fighter likes to take a backwards step. They both possess genuine knockout power and are happy to put themselves in danger to land their best shots. Gaethje is a legend of the UFC but he has a lot of miles on the clock here and he could be vulnerable against what is essentially a younger, fresher version of himself.

Many are predicting Fiziev to be a future champion and a win here would take him one step closer to realising that dream. He never settles for decision victories and if he handles the occasion, he could gain the biggest victory of his career inside the distance. (11/8).

JORDAN NEILD


RECOMMENDED BETS
BACK Leon Edwards to win 1pt at 2/1 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Rafael Fiziev to win by KO/TKO 2pts at 11/8 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)


PROFIT/LOSS (MAR 2023): LOSS -28.78 points


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