Leon Edwards proved all of his doubters wrong by defeating Kamaru Usman at UFC 286. Several figures in the MMA world predicted a comfortable win for 'The Nigerian Nightmare' in the pair's trilogy bout. Many were under the impression that his success across three rounds in their prior fight was indicative of their future.
Instead, 'Rocky' silenced his detractors by earning a hard-fought majority decision win against the former welterweight kingpin. After the PPV's end, UFC president Dana White informed the media that the Englishman's next challenger will be former interim champion, Colby Covington.
The combination of wrestling and pressure from a cardio machine like 'Chaos' could prove dangerous for 'Rocky'. This list, however, argues that the reigning welterweight titleholder possesses all of the necessary tools to emerge victorious once the two men lock horns.
#5. Leon Edwards' striking is far superior
While Leon Edwards has improved his wrestling by leaps and bounds, and Colby Covington has tightened up his striking, there is no confusion regarding the distinct approaches favored by either man. The Jamaican Englishman is a striker by trade. Meanwhile, the All-American is primarily a wrestler.
Every fight, however, starts standing. Covington's tendency to charge forward recklessly in a bid to overwhelm his opponents with an avalanche of high-volume strikes could cost him against a lengthy and sharp striker like 'Rocky'. Edwards is a taller man with a reach advantage.
His slick jab and straight left will be punishing blows that will benefit from his length to intercept 'Chaos' as he charges forward. Being repeatedly stung by straight punches on the way inside is what led to Ronda Rousey's shocking KO loss to Holly Holm. If Colby Covington isn't careful, he'll lose rounds on the feet.
#4. Leon Edwards' defensive wrestling
Leon Edwards' defensive wrestling was on full display at UFC 286. Kamaru Usman attempted countless takedowns, but 'Rocky' showed great competence in thwarting him. The welterweight kingpin constantly fought to separate his foe's hands, preventing him from hooking them behind him for double-leg takedowns.
Whenever Usman tried to transition into a single-leg takedown, the 31-year-old secured an overhook before turning him at an angle and breaking away. It was a commendable performance that highlighted how good his defensive wrestling now is. While Colby Covington is a more tenacious wrestler, he'll still struggle.
If 'Chaos' can't reliably take 'Rocky' to the ground, he'll be in unfamiliar territory against a much better striker who will pick him apart from the outside. Furthermore, even if Covington secures takedowns, he offers zero submission threat to dissuade Edwards from getting on all fours to stand up.
#3. Colby Covington's age
Fans took notice of Kamaru Usman's performance at UFC 286. The Nigerian great looked slower and more sluggish than usual. More concerning than that, however, he seemed to tire in a manner that was uncharacteristic of him. 'The Nigerian Nightmare' is a 35-year-old fighter, which is around the age that fighters decline.
Colby Covington is also 35. The only difference between him and the former undisputed titleholder is that he has absorbed more damage than him throughout the years barring Kamaru Usman's KO loss to Leon Edwards. Midway through one's thirties is typically when fighters below 205 lbs start declining.
If 'Chaos' is in any way compromised by his age by the time he and Leon Edwards cross swords, he'll suffer a loss. Edwards is simply too good for Covington to be at less than 100% come fight night. With five years between 'Chaos' and his 40th birthday, his time will come sooner rather than later.
#2. Leon Edwards' size advantage in the clinch
It's easy to forget how small Colby Covington is at 170 lbs due to his successful career. The All-American, however, is smaller than Dustin Poirier, who competes in the promotion's lightweight division. He hasn't cut much weight at all in any of his bouts and is much smaller than Leon Edwards.
One glance at how much larger 'Rocky' looks compared to Kamaru Usman, who outsizes 'Chaos', is telling enough of how big the Englishman is. Due to Covington's habit of barreling into the clinch, he could unwittingly walk into a trap. Given his height advantage, Edwards will have far more leverage in the clinch.
Not only will his leverage render it much easier for him to bully Covington in the clinch, but he'll be well-equipped to slice him open with his patented elbows off the break by stepping across the former interim champion to force him to turn into his razor-sharp elbows.
#1. Colby Covington's recent record
While he is often hailed as the second-best welterweight in the world, Colby Covington hasn't had the most impressive run of form at 170 lbs. The last time he was on a winning streak was in 2019. His last five wins have been against Jorge Masvidal, Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler, Rafael dos Anjos, and Demian Maia.
Masvidal is on a three-fight losing streak and is not currently ranked in the top ten. Woodley is no longer in the UFC after leaving the promotion amid a four-fight skid. Lawler is unranked, 'RDA' is a lightweight and Maia is no longer in the UFC. Before them, 'Chaos' faced Dong Hyun Kim and Bryan Barbarena.
Kim is retired and Barbarena is unranked. In short, Covington has no wins against anyone currently ranked in the top ten. His reputation hinges on the strength of his performances against Kamaru Usman. Unfortunately, the Nigerian's best skill set is wrestling. Neither man wrestled in their bouts.
Instead, he was praised for having two closely-contested kickboxing affairs with a wrestler, not a kickboxer. He has no real experience fighting current top welterweights using their strengths. He might beat Leon Edwards or he might be in for a rude awakening due to being out of a competitive rhythm for too long.