On Saturday, March 18th 2023, the UFC hosted its fourth pay-per-view of the year, UFC 286, in the historic O2 Arena in London, England. The card is built around the Welterweight Championship of the World, the trilogy bout between Leon “Rocky” Edwards and Kamaru “Nigerian Nightmare” Usman. After Edwards’ late heroic head kick knockout of dominant champ Kamaru Usman, the UFC crowned Edwards as the new Welterweight champ in what was arguably the greatest moment in UFC history.
Usman had dominated Edwards in the second, third, and fourth rounds and entered the fifth round coasting to victory and seemingly set on successfully defending his belt yet again. Many believed Leon Edwards had resigned himself to losing a decision as he looked flustered and defeated for almost the entirety of the contest. With only 59 seconds left in the fight, Edwards landed a perfectly timed roundhouse kick as he feinted his jab and knocked Usman out cold. Play-by-play broadcaster Jon Anik timed his call brilliantly as milliseconds before Edwards landed the kick he stated “But that is not the cloth from which he is cut”, in reference to Edwards resigning himself to defeat. The moment was jaw-dropping. Leon Edwards had done it. The unthinkable had happened in a moment that seemed insurmountable. Through all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, Leon Edwards was the new Welterweight champion of the World.
Color analyst and UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier kept repeating “We were writing his obituary”, referring to their commentary on Edwards. This comeback for the ages stands as arguably the greatest moment in UFC history, considering the circumstances surrounding the fight. Usman was on a 15-0 run in the UFC, he had dominated the majority of the fight, and the fight was seconds away from concluding.
One thing is certain, Leon Edwards’ head kick will stand as one of the greatest achievements in mixed-martial arts history. The two rivals are set to duke it out in their grudge match this Saturday, March 18th, at the 02 Arena in London, England with the Welterweight title on the line.
Before we get to the main event of the evening, an explosive co-main event Lightweight showdown is set as rising sensation Rafael Fiziev will take on legend Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje. This fight is the epidemy of a striker’s delight, as Fiziev brings with him a violently powerful Muay Thai game while Gaethje possesses a vicious boxing attack combined with destructive leg kicks. Fiziev is on a six-fight win streak in the UFC, standing at 6-1 with the promotion since his debut in 2019. His last four wins have come against notable names in the lightweight division. In his most recent performance, Fiziev TKO’d MMA legend Rafael Dos Anjos in the fifth round of their fight. The fight before he put on a stunning performance as he landed a brutal Wheel Kick KO over New Zealand striker Brad Riddell. His two previous victories came against dangerous vet and lightweight mainstay Bobby Green via unanimous decision and fan favorite Renato Moicano via first-round TKO. Fiziev is set to put his skills to the test and show the world what he is capable of against a formidable opponent like Justin Gaethje. Gaethje is coming off his UFC 274 Lightweight title fight with Charles Oliveira in which he was defeated by a rear-naked choke submission in the first round. Gaethje had his moments in the fight as he knocked down Oliveria and wobbled him on several occasions before he succumbed to Oliveira’s world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Previous to his bout with Oliveira, Gaethje fought “Iron” Michael Chandler in what turned out to be the 2021 Fight of the Year. Both he and Fiziev are seeking to put on a Fight of the Year contender this Saturday in what is guaranteed to be a thrilling and lethal fight.
UFC 286 is stacked from top to bottom with the main event headliner, co-main banger, and a series of prospects ready to display their skills to the world. A few fighters and fight to keep an eye out for include undefeated English prospect Lerone Murphy on the early preliminary card who returns to the octagon after his brutal lead knee KO over Makwan Amirkhani. Also on the early prelims, slick Slovakian striker Ludovit Klein faces off against English technician Jai Herbert. Moving up to the preliminary card, undefeated flyweight sensation Muhammad Mokaev returns to take on debutant Jafel Filho, Chris Duncan makes his debut after his unreal KO comeback on Dana White’s Contender Series, and talented Welsh contender Jack “Tank” Shore makes his featherweight debut. Opening up a five-fight main card, Italian powerhouse and former title challenger Marvin Vettori returns as he takes on dangerous Georgian finisher Roman Dolidze. Before the co-main event, undefeated women’s flyweight contender Casey O’Neill makes her return from injury against former title challenger Jennifer Maia. These are just a few among many exciting fights and fighters to look out for on Saturday in what should be a raucous return to London.
The action will begin with the early preliminary card which begins at 10 am PT, followed by the preliminary card at 12 pm PT, and finally the main card at 4 pm PT. The action will take place at the 02 Arena in London, England this Saturday, March 18th, on ESPN+ and ESPN+ PPV.