Unbeaten in his last ten UFC fights, Leon Edwards is currently making a strong case to be next in line for a shot at the welterweight championship. The Birmingham native can boast wins over Vicente Luque, Donald Cerrone, Rafael Dos Anjos, and, most recently, Nate Diaz.
It’s been over five years since 'Rocky' last tasted defeat inside the octagon, a unanimous decision loss in 2015 to none other than ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ Kamaru Usman, who is now the reigning UFC welterweight champion.
In his poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost talks about how, although we take different paths in life, sometimes the "one less traveled by" can, in the end, prove to make all the difference. While Kamaru Usman went on a path to UFC gold after his victory over Leon Edwards, ‘Rocky’, meanwhile, had to start from scratch and painstakingly work his way back up the UFC rankings.
But, if his record is so good, why hasn’t he been given a chance to win UFC gold yet?
Let’s take a look at three reasons why Leon Edwards is still waiting on a UFC title shot:
#3 Edwards has been very unlucky
From the loss to Usman in 2015, right up until his victory over Rafael dos Anjos over three years later, everything had been going smoothly for the man fighting out of Birmingham. An eight-fight win-streak had led him to the precipice of a UFC welterweight championship bout. Unfortunately, Lady Luck had something to say on the matter.
Leon Edwards was scheduled to face Tyron Woodley on 21 March 2020; however, the brand new restrictions related to COVID-19 forced Edwards to withdraw, and the event was canceled. The pandemic would also scupper his next opportunity in December 2020, a bout against undefeated prospect Khamzat Chimaev, after both fighters tested positive for COVID-19.
Rescheduled for 13 March 2021, Chimaev pulled out due to lingering effects of the virus and was replaced by Belal Muhammad on short notice. The icing on the unlucky cake: Leon Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye, rendering the latter unable to continue. The fight was declared a no-contest and subsequently snapped Edwards' eight-fight win-streak. It is difficult to attempt a serious run at a UFC title shot when the cards are so vehemently stacked against you.
#2 Leon Edwards isn’t marketable
Bad luck notwithstanding, the UFC has found it hard to promote Edwards as a top prospect. Usually, fighters from the UK and Ireland have a natural brashness that is easy to market to the American public. The trash-talking skills of both Michael Bisping and Conor McGregor are now UFC folklore. Yet ‘Rocky’ doesn’t seem to have a distinctive voice or message.
While this, to his credit, reflects Leon Edwards' honesty in competing as a martial artist, it means he remains a name on the tongue of MMA purists and not the majority of UFC fans. Unfortunately, this is the type of fighter that Dana White often struggles to sell to the masses.
#1 Edwards is not a finisher
In his 14 octagon appearances, Leon Edwards has only managed to finish three opponents. Ten decision victories are nothing to be sniffed at in the UFC, but perhaps it is the manner of the victories that make fight fans lose interest in the Birmingham native.
Although welterweight king Kamaru Usman has many decision victories to his name, you always feel he will push for the finish if necessary. With Leon Edwards, however, there is a general consensus that he plays it safe, staying at a distance while scoring points, even though he can often win inside the pocket. The lack of risk-taking has not made him a fan favorite.
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