Leon Edwards returns at UFC 263 in what will be a history making bout. Taking on fan favourite, Nate Diaz, the two will compete in the first ever five round co-main event. Although this was scheduled to be the only co-main event at UFC 262, the fight has been delayed, meaning that it now shares the co-main event slot with the flyweight title fight at UFC 263. Riding a phenomenal nine fight unbeaten run, including eight wins, Leon Edwards is well on his way to becoming #1 at 170lbs.
Will Leon Edwards become #1 at Welterweight?
Other than the champion, Kamaru Usman, Leon Edwards is the form man at 170lbs. Unfortunately for Edwards, he doesn’t cross over into the mainstream and therefore hasn’t been close to a title shot in recent years. Edwards’ last loss came at the hands of the current champion back in 2015, a unanimous decision for Usman. Since then, Edwards has recorded wins over Vicente Luque, Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson and Rafael dos Anjos amongst others. Having dominated each and every opponent since losing to Usman, Edwards is more than deserving of a title opportunity.
Most recently, Edwards returned after over a year out in March, fighting Belal Muhammad in a main event slot. Unfortunately for Edwards, it didn’t go to plan. He dominated Muhammad early, looking sharp, quick and switched on. However, as the second round started, Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye, rendering him unable to continue and leading to a no contest.
If Leon Edwards can overcome the gritty Nate Diaz at UFC 263, he is without doubt deserving of the next title shot. You would have to assume so, after all, there is a reason that this is a five round bout.
Nate Diaz to Ruin the Party?
Nate Diaz is certainly a fan favourite. Even before his two fights with megastar, Conor McGregor, Diaz crossed over into the mainstream. The ‘anywhere, anytime’ mentality of the Diaz brothers has always excited fans. His walk forward, take one to land one style excites fans and keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. Love him or hate him, Diaz is PPV whenever he fights.
Ironically, Diaz and Edwards fought on the same fight night card back in 2015 (when Usman beat Edwards). On this occasion, Diaz dominated the in-form Michael Johnson. Since then, however, Diaz has gone 2-2, whereas Edwards has gone 8-1. Diaz has wins over McGregor and former champion, Anthony Pettis with losses to McGregor and most recently Jorge Masvidal in the BMF title fight.
Should Nate Diaz turn up like he did against Pettis, it could be a long night for Edwards. With a win, his name alone puts him right in the title picture, however, for Edwards, a loss puts him further away from a shot than ever before. This is a pivotal fight at welterweight.
Other Contenders at 170lbs
Unfortunately for Leon Edwards, there are plenty of contenders at 170lbs. Former title challenger, brutal rival of Usman and loudmouth, Colby Covington is looking likely to be the next title challenger. Despite being finished by Usman back at UFC 245, Dana White confirmed that Covington will be next for Usman, however, nothing is official yet. Following the loss to Usman, Covington finished Tyron Woodley, but other than that, Covington has been out of action. The rivalry, close first fight and storyline sells the fight and it will likely happen next.
Stephen Thompson and Gilbert Burns are set to throw down at UFC 264. Thompson is 2-0 in his last two bouts, dominating both Luque and Geoff Neal. His elite striking could provide the classic striker vs. grappler bout against Usman, however, he must get through Burns first.
Burns competed for the belt in his last fight but came up extremely short. Even with a win over Thompson, he was well beaten against Usman the first time around and he would certainly need another win or two before another title shot.
Both Luque and Michael Chiesa are on the edge of the title picture. Ranked #5 and #6 respectively, each man has been on an impressive run as of late. Luque has finished his three most recent fights and Chiesa is undefeated at welterweight, going 4-0. We likely won’t see either man in a title shot this year, however, with another win each (or a win over one another), a welterweight title shot for either man could be on the cards in early 2022.
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