Last week we witnessed a resounding knockout win for rising star Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera, a contender for Fight of the Year between Nate Landwehr and David Onama and two very promising debuts from Yazmin Jauregui and Iasmin Lucino in sunny San Diego. This Saturday, the UFC travels to Salt Lake City for a rematch seven years in the making as the pound-for-pound top dog Kamaru Usman defends his welterweight crown against the formidable Leon Edwards, who looks to become the second UK athlete in history to become a UFC champion.
Excitement brews with every title bout, but there’s nothing like the roster’s pound-for-pound best defending his title against a long awaited and hungry opponent looking to make history. Kamaru ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ Usman takes on Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards once again after both athletes faced off early in their careers. Since then, both have earned seismic wins and now meet again with experience in spades.
Usman holds an indominable record of 19-1 which paints a picture of him as one of the greatest welterweights of the modern era. Coming from an elite wrestling pedigree, he transitioned into MMA and was the winner of season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter. A well-rounded martial artist, he holds nearly half of his wins by knockout, including a highlight finish against Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal. A win on Saturday night will make it 19 straight victories and five title defenses in a row, The Nigerian Nightmare could well be on his way to joining the pantheon of UFC hall of famers. Before turning professional, he worked as a tour guide at the Olympic Training Centre.
Leon Edwards is the no.2 ranked welterweight and holds a record of 19-3 with six knockouts and three submissions. Hailing from Birmingham, England, a victory on Saturday night would not only mean redemption but would crown him as only the second ever UFC champion from the UK. Edwards is unbeaten in his last 10 bouts and holds victories over UFC stalwarts such as Nate Diaz, Rafael Dos Anjos and Gilbert Burns. He began martial arts to stay disciplined and it has now taken him to the biggest stage in MMA with everything at stake.
The co-main event is a middleweight bout between the no.6 ranked Paulo ‘The Eraser’ Costa and former champion Luke Rockhold in what is sure to be an exciting bout between a striking specialist and a well-rounded mixed martial artist.
Paulo Costa has a record of 13-2 and is an elite striker with a 59% success rate. He holds 11 knockouts and one submission. His opponent’s former champ status is unlikely to phase the Brazilian who has earned victories over legends like Johny Hendricks and Yoel Romero. The Eraser’s entry into the UFC came as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, prior to that he worked as a realtor.
Luke Rockhold is a veteran in the UFC with a record of 16-5 displaying his fully equipped martial arts skillset with six knockouts and eight submissions. Some of his notable wins have been over Vitor Belfort,the mythical Lyoto Machida, Chris Weidman and his old rival Michael Bisping. When he’s not preparing for a bout, the 37-year-old enjoys surfing and skateboarding and has also traded the Octagon for the catwalk having dabbled in modelling.
The bantamweight division is one of the most exciting to watch this year due to its depth of talent. The iconic Jose Aldo, who has thrived since joining the division, will take on ranked Merab ‘The Machine’ Dvalishvili with both athletes eyeing up a title shot.
Jose Aldo is one of the greatest featherweights of all time and has been making his mark in the bantamweight division, currently ranked no.3. He has had an illustrious career in MMA and holds a professional record of 31-7 with 17 knockouts, one submission and seven title defences. The Brazilian has taken on the very best in the division and is on a three-fight win streak. Outside of mixed martial arts, Aldo played football competitively.
Merab ‘The Machine’ Dvalishvili is the no.6 ranked bantamweight and holds a record of 14-4 with three knockouts and one submission. He is on a seven-fight win streak and a victory on Saturday night will edge him ever closer to title shot contention. The 31-year-old comes from Tbilisi, Georgia and has been a professional since 2014. Dvalishvili will share more than just the Octagon with Aldo as both men have the same hero – Iron Mike Tyson.
Women’s bantamweight battle
Two women’s bantamweights will face off with both athletes eager to return to the win column as Wu ‘Mulan’ Yanan takes on Lucie Pudilova in the prelims. In a match up of strikers, the balance could swing in either direction.
Wu ‘Mulan’ Yanan has a record of 12-5 with many tools at her disposal demonstrated by six knockouts and five submissions with eight first round finishes. The 26-year-old hails from Liaoning, China and has been a professional since 2013. Yanan takes her nickname ‘Mulan’ from the famous female warrior who inspires her.
Lucie Pudilova has a record of 8-6 with two knockouts, two submissions and four decision victories. The 28-year-old comes from Pribram, Czechia and is looking to return to winning ways on Saturday night. This marks Pudilova’s second stint as a UFC athlete.