UFC 286 marked the promotion's first return to the United Kingdom in 2023. The card was headlined by a trilogy bout between reigning divisional kingpin Leon Edwards and former titleholder Kamaru Usman. Meanwhile, the co-main event was a lightweight clash between Rafael Fiziev and Justin Gaethje.
As with every pay-per-view (PPV), several noteworthy things took place. Some fights proceeded in a way that wasn't expected, while certain incidents were brought to light. With the event all but wrapped up and several potential matchups on the horizon, there is much to talk about when it comes to UFC 286.
Some controversy surrounding the main event has become a hot topic, as is the identity of the UFC's next choice for the welterweight title challenger. This list goes over five of the biggest things that happened in the promotion's return to the UK.
#5. Muhammad Mokaev survived a terrifying kneebar to score a win
Undefeated sensations are hot commodities in MMA. Muhammad Mokaev is one of the UFC's newest unbeaten phenomenons. At UFC 286, 'The Punisher' faced Jafel Filho in the opening bout of the preliminary card. It was a fairly competitive bout for the Dagestani-born grappler, with a scary moment in the third round.
During a grappling sequence on the mat, Filho secured a slick kneebar that was as tight as could be. Despite being in excruciating pain, Mokaev refused to surrender. Instead of tapping out, he fought through the submission before securing a neck crank in the final minute of the third round.
With too much pain for him to bear, Filho tapped out to award his opponent a submission win after nearly scoring an upset moments ago.
#4. Justin Gaethje now has the second-most Fight of the Night honors in UFC history
While former interim titleholder Justin Gaethje may have failed in his two attempts at capturing undisputed UFC gold, there is a title that he holds with absolute dominance: the most exciting fighter in the sport. His fights are guaranteed entertainment. At UFC 286, he lived up to his moniker, 'The Highlight'.
He faced Muay Thai specialist Rafael Fiziev in a thrilling kickboxing affair. While Gaethje initially struggled with his foe's speed, he eventually readjusted by focusing on jabs and uppercuts up the middle. Meanwhile, 'Ataman' faded down the stretch as the momentum shifted in Gaethje's favor.
While there was no finish, Fiziev was bloodied and sliced open by his foe's combinations. The former interim champion was awarded with a win and his seventh Fight of the Night bonus to bring him within touching distance of equaling the promotional record of eight.
#3. Dana White grants Colby Covington his third title shot
At the weigh-ins for UFC 286, Colby Covington left the MMA world abuzz by marking his first appearance since defeating former friend Jorge Masvidal in March last year and becoming embroiled in legal issues from the subsequent physical assault. 'Chaos' served as the backup fighter for the main event.
This got fans talking and wondering if he would be awarded a title shot against the winner of the main event. The former interim titleholder sat cage-side for the bout and in the aftermath of the headliner, UFC president Dana White announced in the post-fight press conference that 'Chaos' will be the next title challenger.
According to White, the title shot is a reward for Covington's willingness to cut weight and serve as a backup fighter for the main event. Thus, it appears that 'Chaos' has earned the next title shot and will be next in line to try and claim the throne.
#2. A main event rife with controversy
Kamaru Usman is typically a fighter who is accused of cheating. Whether it's Colby Covington accusing him of using EPO to enhance his cardio or fans taking note of the numerous times he's grabbed the fence, it's a reputation that has followed him for most of his career. This time, however, things were different.
While Leon Edwards emerged victorious in the main event to retain his welterweight title, his win was not spotless. The Englishman grabbed the fence, depriving 'The Nigerian Nightmare' of what could have been a fight-changing takedown. Furthermore, he landed two low blows and grabbed Usman's glove.
Eventually, Edwards was deducted a point by referee Herb Dean, which could have cost him the fight. Fortunately for 'Rocky', he emerged victorious with a majority decision from the judges.
#1. Leon Edwards proved his doubters wrong by successfully defending his UFC welterweight title
A large portion of the conversation prior to UFC 286 revolved around Kamaru Usman's dominant performance in their previous bout prior to Leon Edwards landing the KO blow. The Englishman and his camp, however, were adamant that the reason he lost three rounds in their prior fight was due to the elevation.
Their previous fight took place in Salt Lake City, where the high-altitude demands of the city were taxing on every fighter on the UFC 278 card. Many, however, dismissed such statements as an excuse. After all, their first encounter years ago was similar to most of their clash in Salt Lake City.
But the trilogy was much different. Edwards was well-prepared for his foe's wrestling onslaught and managed to defend most of his takedowns while brutalizing his legs and midsection with kicks. Additionally, he occasionally rocked the former champion throughout the bout en route to a majority decision win.