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How Long Can Leon Edwards Rule the Welterweight Division?

Leon Edwards UFC
Leon Edwards shocked the world with a fifth-round head kick against Kamaru Usman to win the UFC welterweight title. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

How Long Can Leon Edwards Rule the Welterweight Division?

Leon “Rocky” Edwards shocked the world at UFC 278. After going down three rounds to one on the judges’ scorecards, Edwards was a minute away from losing to UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. With less than 60 seconds left in the final round, Edwards flipped the script, landing a perfect head kick to put the champion out cold. Rocky knocked out the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and took his championship belt in the process. Fittingly, his performance seemed like something straight out of a Rocky movie. Now, the question to be answered is, how long can Edwards rule the welterweight division?

Leon Edwards’ Strengths and Weaknesses

When determining how long Edwards can rule the UFC welterweight division it is important to evaluate his skill set. It’s safe to say that Edwards will have a striking advantage against every welterweight ranked in the top five. On the flip side, Edwards will have a massive grappling disadvantage against the same fighters. This difference in grappling prowess was evident in his matchup with Usman. In fairness, with UFC 278 taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah, the altitude may have affected his performance. That is impossible to tell from a viewer’s perspective. Nonetheless, that aspect of his game needs to be on point if he wants to sit atop the welterweight division for a long time.

What’s Next For Edwards

To secure his place on top, Edwards will have to do the impossible and defeat Usman again. Traditionally, when a champion of Usman’s caliber loses, an immediate rematch is booked. Barring Usman switching divisions or needing a long period of time off, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Edwards will fight Usman next — which will not be an easy fight for Rocky. In theory, Usman should be able to control Edwards in grappling exchanges like he did at UFC 278 and could end up making Edwards’ title reign a short one.

The Rest of the Division

If Edwards can get the job done against Usman a second time, there will be several tough tests ahead. No more notable than Khamzat Chimaev, who looks destined to be a UFC champion. He is a relentless grappler that would present Edwards with a laundry list of issues. Outside of Chimaev, Gilbert Burns and Colby Covington may work their way back to a title shot. Once again, Burns and Covington can both grapple. Burns is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace while Covington is a high-paced wrestler. The UFC may also look to book Edwards against Jorge Masvidal. Edwards and Masvidal have beef — the pair even got into a backstage altercation back in 2019. The potential rivalry here is too much for the UFC to ignore. In all honesty, Edwards likely wins this fight easily as Masvidal is not a great fighter.

The Verdict

If you cannot sense the theme, Edwards will have to fight a lot of grapplers as the UFC welterweight champion. Most are terrible stylistic matchups for Rocky. With that being said, if he can prove to have strong defensive grappling in the trilogy fight with Usman, his chances of being an elite champion skyrocket. All in all, I think Edwards will lose his belt to Usman. However, if he makes grappling improvements and beats Usman again, I have no reason to believe he cannot do the same to the rest of the welterweight grapplers.

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