Just when it looked like the writing was on the wall, Leon Edwards shocked the world and did the seemingly unthinkable.
In the UFC 278 main event Saturday at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Edwards (20-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) knocked welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (20-2 MMA, 15-1 UFC) unconscious with a Hail Mary head kick at 4:04 of Round 5.
The knockout blow came after nearly four rounds of relative domination by the champion Usman, who stifled Edwards with strong cardio, grappling, and control. Edwards looked noticeably frustrated at times, but ultimately scored the result he wanted in all-time fashion.
A left high kick blocked out of the line-of-sight of Usman by a left jab, slipped up and cranked the champion, who folded in lawn-chair fashion as he gazed blankly at the ceiling lights.
“You all doubted me that I couldn’t do it,” Edwards said in the cage after the fight. “Look at me now. Look at it: pound-for-pound, headshot, dead. That’s it.”
Edwards started UFC 278 strong (though not as strong as he finished it). In Round 1, he became the first man to take down Usman. He mounted and took the back, but wasn’t able to muster up much offense. Usman had largely dominated all facets of Round 2, 3, 4, and the portion of 5 before the knockout blow. In MMA, it only takes one, however, and Edwards is now the UFC welterweight king.
Usman was considered by many, including UFC president Dana White, as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in MMA prior to UFC 278. Usman’s first title reign ends with five defenses, including wins over Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal, and Gilbert Burns. His winning streak was snapped at 18.
Since December 2015, Edwards has not lost. In the nearly seven years since, Edwards has gone 10-0 with one no contest. Other wins included Nate Diaz, Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone.
The December 2015 loss came against none other than Usman. The two met at UFC on FOX 17 in Orlando, Florida. It was Usman’s second UFC bout and Edwards’ fourth. Usman defeated Edwards via unanimous decision.