On March 18, former pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman makes his bid to reclaim the welterweight throne he emphatically held onto for two-and-a-half years as he challenges Leon Edwards at UFC 286: Edwards vs Usman 3. This time, the rubber match takes place on Edwards’ home soil of London, England, adding another bit of adversity for “The Nigerian Nightmare.”
Before Usman attempts to become a two-time champion, take a look at these bouts to remind yourself why he was well on his way to legendary status:
Usman vs Jorge Masvidal 2
When Usman fought Jorge Masvidal for a second time at UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida, the tension was quite palpable. In the shadow of their initial fight on Fight Island at UFC 251, many people figured Usman would implement the same grapple-heavy attack that left fans a little wanting, given all the beef between the two.
“Gamebred” said as much, too, and it only fed into Usman’s hunger to slam the door shut on their saga. What followed was perhaps the best knockout of Usman’s career in front of a full arena for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Usman’s celebratory roar on top of the cage might be the most iconic moment of his decorated career.
Usman vs Colby Covington 1
If Usman’s knockout of Masvidal represented the most dominant performance of his career, his first fight with Colby Covington is certainly the most thrilling.
Ahead of the first fight, Usman and Covington were roundly considered mirrors of each other down to the 15-1 records they carried into the Octagon at UFC 245 in Las Vegas. In a back-and-forth, razor-close contest, there was everything to fight for entering the fifth round. As champions do, Usman stepped up and provided a capstone finish in the waning minute of the fight.
Usman vs Gilbert Burns
What makes a champion memorable is excellence, of course, but also the storylines that accompany the accomplishments. Against Burns, it was the classic friends-turned-foes storyline. Although the heat behind the fight wasn’t ever that vicious, the competitiveness between the former (and rekindled) training partners led to a fascinating matchup aided by Burns’ supposed perfect skillset to counteract Usman’s talents.
After a disappointing performance in his unanimous decision win against Masvidal, Usman faced immediate adversity against Burns, who rocked him early. Usman showed a champion’s resolve, however, as well as the lessons learned from Trevor Wittman, who Usman trained under once the fight with Burns was booked.
Usman vs Colby Covington 2
Once Usman closed the Masvidal chapter of his career in spectacular fashion, the only clear challenger left was Covington. “Chaos” made plenty of noise about the gripes he had surrounding the first fight and the nature of the stoppage, and so the two settled their score under the lights of Madison Square Garden at UFC 268.
Although some sequels can’t live up to the heights of the original, Usman-Covington 2 provided another classic back-and-forth bout with evolved versions of both men. The judges were needed this time, however, and Usman once again slammed the door shut on another rivalry.
Usman vs Tyron Woodley
You can’t talk about Usman’s run as champion without including its initiation.
After a nine-fight winning streak, Usman could no longer be denied a shot at Tyron Woodley, who was fresh off a dominant submission win over the then-undefeated Darren Till. That set the stage perfectly for a blowout unanimous decision victory for Usman, who made Woodley look like little else than a roadblock in his way to the title.