Real Life Rocky Story: Kamaru Usman Dethroned

Written by: Aarav

Edited by: Justin

Visual by: Nicholas

On August 20, the UFC held their first pay-per-view event in Salt Lake City. Due to Dana White’s need to impress the local fans in order to make sure a return would be profitable, the card was headlined by Nigerian-American superstar champion Kamaru Usman. Usman came into the bouth looking to defend his belt against No. 2 championship contender Leon “Rocky” Edwards in their second bout.

In the first fight, Kamaru Usman comfortably defeated Leon Edwards 29-28 on two scorecards and 30-27 on the third judges scorecard. Due to the prior exposure of a matchup between these two fighters, Usman came into the second fight as the heavy favourite. It was evident that oddsmakers saw very little risk in betting on him, a sentiment shared by the majority of fans and fighters. 

Going into the fight, the champion was chasing history. Riding a 14 fight win streak, if he successfully defended against Edwards, he would be only 1 win away from matching the UFC record for most wins in a row. This record is held by Anderson Silva, who amassed a whopping 16 fight win streak, one that fans only gave retired legend Khabib Nurmagomedov a chance of beating. However, after the early retirement of Khabib, many fans concluded the record would stand forever.

The Nigerian star has been touted by many to go down as the greatest of all time when all was said and done. Leon started the first round very strong by becoming the first fighter in UFC history to secure a takedown on the champion. However, in rounds 2, 3, and 4 Usman showed the world why he was champion. Edwards was getting tagged on the feet and manhandled in grappling exchanges by Usman. So the world was left shook when Leon Edwards came from behind and knocked out the champion with less than a minute left in the final round, when the champion had previously been cruising to a points victory. 

This Edwards win left a bigger shockwave because of his backstory and the fact that the  only previous champion of British nationality is Michael Bisping. However, Bisping won this belt training with a gym in the U.S. This created a view in many MMA fans that winning a belt whilst training in a UK gym was impossible. Which makes Leon the first British champion ever to win it with a team out of the U.K.

Aside from a difficult childhood, Leon also did not have an easy path to this UFC title. Leon began his MMA career as a bright young prospect, however, after the loss to Usman in his first bout he was quickly written off by fans especially due to the dominant manner in which Usman had defeated him. However, Leon did not let this deter him as after this loss Leon Edwards went on a 9 fight undefeated run stretching 4 years. 

However, the setbacks had not finished for Leon. In 2020 the coronavirus saw the complete shutdown of all sports and travel. As a fighter based in the U.K., this made it almost impossible for Leon to find a fight. After a hard 2020 which saw Leon unable to secure any fights, Leon also saw three fights with Khamzat Chimaev cancelled, setting him back almost another year before getting a fight. 

Leon was finally given an opportunity to be in the octogon again with Belal Muhammad. When Leon finally found fights, he had a fight with Belal Muhammad end via no contest in the second round a heartbreaking result for a fighter who had spent 2 years preparing for a fight that got called off in just 5 minutes, He was given another fight against fan favorite Nate Diaz, which he won by unanimous decision, but was also almost knocked out in the last round on the way to his win. As a result, many fans discredited him.

Nonetheless, he did get another shot at fighting Kamaru Usman. This was not a chance he was going to let slip. Even when it looked like Leon was out of the fight and Usman was going to cruise to another win, Leon made sure to keep his never-say-die attitude, and in true Rocky fashion, found a way to comeback and knockout Kamaru. This perfectly sets up a trilogy which no doubt will garner massive pay per view numbers; and more significantly, enormous effect on the legacies of both Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards.