Leon Edwards made the first defence of his welterweight belt after outpointing Kamaru Usman in their trilogy. UFC 286 was the setting in Edwards’ home country of England. After an action-packed undercard, a banger co-main event and multiple close fights, Edwards out-pointed Usman 48–46, 48–46 and 47–47 in the main event to notch the majority decision. Edwards’ striking, clinch work and his ability to defend the takedown of Usman are what really allowed Edwards to shine in this one.
Naturally, after a title defence, we must ask who is next up for Edwards?
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Who’s next for Leon Edwards?
In a sport where there are no secrets, the best-kept secret of UFC 286 fight week came on weigh-ins day. Former interim champion and multiple challenger, Colby Covington weighed in as the back-ups fighter for the main event. Covington has two losses to Usman and has never competed against Edwards. He’s a ticket seller without a doubt, however, it’s questionable if he deserves the shot at gold.
Covington is 2-2 in his last four fights, gaining wins over Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal last time out. He dominated a Masvidal who was coming off two straight losses and has been out of action since. Realistically, to be considered the true #1 contender, Chaos should get another win under his belt, then it would be hard to deny him the shot.
With that being said, UFC president, Dana White claimed that it’s Covington who will get the next shot at Edwards. It’s worth noting, however, we can’t always rely on what White says post-fight!
Dana White says Colby Covington will fight for the title next "no matter what" happens between Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns 🏆 #UFC286 pic.twitter.com/Bd1MouGDOh
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) March 19, 2023
Remember the name is arguably the forgotten man at 170lbs. He’s one of the most avoided men in the division for the reason that he’s a tough fight for anyone due to his relentless wrestling style and aggressive stand-up game. Last time out, he knocked out the previously undefeated Sean Brady in emphatic fashion, cementing himself as one of the top contenders.
The fight between Muhammad and Edwards makes sense too. The two have a previous bitter rivalry stemming from their 2021 bout where Edwards (accidentally) poked Muhammad in the eye, leading to a no-contest being called. Prior to the eye poke, Edwards was dominating Muhammad and piecing him up on the feet. Muhammad has made vast improvements since that bout, however. He’s enjoying an impressive nine-fight winning run, including two wins over former title challengers and is more than deserving of a chance to fight for the belt.
White announced that the UFC are working on a fight for Muhammad against the phenom, Shavkat Rakhmonov, however, so he’ll have his hands full before he can get a title shot.
Belal drawing the short straw tonight. Gotta feel for him.
Second longest win streak in the division. https://t.co/VbsoyJ6SGV
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) March 19, 2023
This is the only one without a clear, concrete outcome. As of yet, we don’t know how that one will play out. Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal will meet at UFC 287 in the co-main event in what some are seeing as a #1 contenders fight. Burns competed for the belt in 2021, losing to Usman in his effort. He then returned against Stephen Thompson and getting the decision nod faced off with Chimaev next. Although he lost that one, it was an extremely close fight. He rebounded from that loss with a first-round submission of Neil Magny in January. If he beats Masvidal, he’ll be enjoying a two-fight winning run… hardly title-challenging form.
Masvidal is the money fight for Edwards. Not only is he the biggest PPV draw in the division, but he also has the ‘three-piece and a soda’ history with Edwards. He attacked Edwards backstage after they shared a card in 2019. The two, simply put, don’t like each other.
The fight is a tough sell to the hardcore fans. Yes, they have the history and we as an MMA community love a storyline. However, Masvidal is on the decline… in a big way. He’s 0-3 in his last three fights, being dominated in two of them and brutally knocked out in the other. Logically, it doesn’t make sense. Even if he defeats Burns, he’d only be on a one-fight-winning run…
Khamzat Chimaev is a man who hasn’t quite been in the question as of late for a welterweight title shot. The undefeated smashing machine sits at 12-0 with an impressive 11 finishes. He’s ranked #3 in the welterweight division as it stands, however, had an awful fight week last time out.
He was scheduled to make 170lbs and headline against Nate Diaz, however, clearly didn’t take the fight seriously, weighed in at 178.5lbs and threw the card into turmoil. It lead to Chimaev being matched with Kevin Holland at late notice. Although he won that fight, he lost a lot of fans in the process.
White claimed that he doesn’t trust Chimaev to make 170lbs again and that he’ll compete at middleweight next. We’ve heard very little from Chimaev and it would come as a surprise if he got the shot next but stranger things have happened in this crazy sport.