On March 18, Leon Edwards will look to defend his welterweight championship against Kamaru Usman in UFC 286. This will be the second rematch between these two fighters, the third meeting all-time. Back in August 2022, Kamaru Usman entered the cage with the belt, and looked to be dominating the fight.
He had lost round one due to being taken down for the first time in his UFC career, but controlled rounds 2, 3 and 4. But in the 5th, with under a minute to go, Edwards caught Usman with a dead kick and knocked out the champion, taking the title for himself.
This rematch is highly-anticipated. Usman held the belt for a long time before losing it to Edwards, and so gained many adversaries in both the octagon and the public. Edwards taking the belt from him felt like a win for the people. He wasn’t the best fighter in the octagon that day, but caught Usman at the right time. March 18 is sure to be a classic.
Across the Pond
There’s one huge difference between this upcoming fight and the last. UFC 278, where Edwards took the belt, was in Salt Lake City, Utah. The altitude played a huge factor that night and was most noticeably draining fighters quicker than normal. There’s always a chance that played a factor in Usman’s loss to Edwards.
Altitude won’t be a factor in Edwards vs. Usman 3. However, there is one big variable at play in this bout, and it’s on Leon’s side. The fight is going to be hosted at The O2 arena in London, England. Edwards, having grown up in Birmingham, is one of the most popular fighters to come out of England.
There will absolutely be a home advantage for Edwards with the crowd on his side. On top of that, Usman is booed pretty much everywhere he sets foot in the octagon, so this crowd would be on Edwards’ side regardless of his childhood country.
We saw how much of a jolt a home advantage can have in UFC 284. That event was in Australia and saw the native Alexander Volkanovski take on Islam Makhachev for the lightweight title. Though Volk lost the fight, it was a neck-and-neck bout from start to finish, and he gave himself every chance he had despite being a heavy underdog. It’s likely that was, in part, due to the thunderous crowd almost entirely rooting and chanting for him.
It’s clear that, although mixed-martial arts fighting is very different from other sports, home advantage can definitely play a role. Seeing as Leon Edwards now heads into this fight as the reigning, defending champion of the welterweight division, I could see him fighting better than ever before. Usman will likely be the favorite heading into the fight, but don’t be surprised if the England-native shocks the world once again and retains his championship.
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