UFC Predictions: UFC 278: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 2

Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards headline UFC 278 this weekend
Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards headline UFC 278 this weekend

This weekend sees a big pay-per-view event go down from Salt Lake City, Utah, in the form of UFC 278: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 2.

Can @Leon_EdwardsMMA bring a second UFC belt home to the UK? 🏆He faces the No.1 Pound-for-Pound best this weekend in a rematch with the Champ Kamaru Usman. Join @Bisping, @adamcatterall, and @peety_editor for the UFC 278 Fight Week Preview Show now ▶️

The welterweight title is on the line in the main event of UFC 278, and while the event only has the one title bout, it’s a stacked card nonetheless.

Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 278: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards.

#1. UFC welterweight title: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards

Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards first faced off in 2015, with Usman winning via decision
Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards first faced off in 2015, with Usman winning via decision

Rematches are obviously common these days when it comes to UFC title bouts, but this one is a little more unique. The last time Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards met, it was back in 2015 on the preliminary card of a Fight Night show.

Not only did the fight completely fly under the radar, but at the time, while Usman was considered a high-level prospect, Edwards really wasn’t. The idea of them eventually meeting for the welterweight title would’ve been crazy.

However, both men have developed beyond belief since then, and there’s definitely an argument that this fight represents the world’s two best 170lbers facing off.

Everyone knows what Usman has done over the past few years. Since destroying Tyron Woodley to claim the title in early 2019, he’s beaten Colby Covington twice, Jorge Masvidal twice and Gilbert Burns, finishing three of those five bouts via knockout. In 15 visits to the octagon, he’s still never been beaten.

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Edwards, meanwhile, is on a massively impressive streak of his own. Since that loss to Usman, ‘Rocky’ has not been beaten, reeling off nine wins with a No Contest against Belal Muhammad mixed in for good measure.

More to the point, the product of Birmingham, England, has not been facing scrubs. He’s beaten Donald Cerrone, Vicente Luque, Rafael Dos Anjos and Nate Diaz, and aside from being stunned by the latter in the fifth round, he’s rarely been in trouble.

🇯🇲 𝓡𝓸𝓬𝓴𝔂'𝓼 𝓡𝓸𝓪𝓭 𝓣𝓸 𝓡𝓮𝓭𝓮𝓶𝓹𝓽𝓲𝓸𝓷 🇬🇧@Leon_edwardsmma finally gets his title shot at #UFC278 🏆And we've got something special dropping for you on Monday...📅 15 Aug 📺 BT Sport 1, 9.45PM 🎥 BT Sport YouTube, 10PM

Unfortunately for him, this is still a remarkably difficult stylistic match. Edwards has come on in leaps and bounds in his wrestling, but ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is still the most powerful takedown artist in the division. He’s never been planted on his back and tends to casually overpower even strong foes.

Edwards is still an excellent technical striker, but unlike in their first bout, Usman is no longer a neophyte in the stand-up in his own right. He now fights behind a stiff jab, carries brutal power in his punches, and while he can be sucked into brawling a little too often, his chin is remarkably stout.

It’s also worth remembering that ‘Rocky’ has hardly been active in recent years – he’s fought just twice since July 2019, with one of those bouts lasting just over a single round – while Usman has fought five times in the same period and went five rounds with Covington nine months ago.

Overall, then, Edwards is probably tough enough to last the distance here, but it’s hard to imagine him doing enough to earn a victory, and to be frank, it’d difficult to see him winning a single round against the pound-for-pound king.

The Pick: Usman via unanimous decision

#2. UFC middleweight division: Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold

Luke Rockhold has not won in the octagon since September 2017
Luke Rockhold has not won in the octagon since September 2017

It’s been a long time since we saw former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in the octagon – just over three years, to be exact – and it’s been even longer since we saw him win. His last victory took place in September 2017, when he stopped David Branch via TKO.

When you consider that none of the UFC’s current champions – save for Amanda Nunes, who has lost and regained her title – were titleholders back then, it puts things into perspective in terms of how long ago that was.

Rockhold's BACK!!@LukeRockhold finishes Branch in round 2!!Welcome back, Luke Rockhold! #UFCPittsburgh

So does Rockhold really have anything to offer at this stage? It’s hard to say. With a tremendous striking arsenal and a highly underrated ground game – particularly from the mount position – there have never been questions around him from an offensive point of view.

However, the Californian’s chin has always been a question mark, he’s been knocked out on three of his last four visits to the octagon, and he’s also 37 years old now and has been hugely injury prone.

Add in his various spats with the UFC, and it’s probably fair to question his motivation coming into this fight. Does he really believe that he can climb back to the top of the middleweight division? Or is he simply here for a payday?

To be fair, a number of questions can be levied at Paulo Costa, his opponent this weekend. Two years ago, ‘The Eraser’ was the hottest contender in the division thanks to his big wins over the likes of Uriah Hall and Yoel Romero.

Many fans even picked him to beat Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title – but since falling to ‘The Last Stylebender’, times have become hard for the Brazilian.

After withdrawing from two bouts due to apparent health issues – and getting into a spat with the promotion over his pay – he was beaten by Marvin Vettori in an odd bout that also saw him miss weight badly.

Can ‘The Eraser’ make weight for this one successfully? Judging by his recent Instagram posts, he seems far leaner now and more like the fighter who rose to claim a title shot in the first place.

Were both men in their primes, stylistically, this would’ve been a fascinating bout. Costa’s style is very straightforward in that he loves to walk his foes down and hammer them with heavy blows while shelling up to avoid return fire, but Rockhold’s range and kicking ability could definitely have given him some issues.

However, quite what the former champion has left in the tank is anyone’s guess, and his chin looked delicate even before his lengthy layoff. With that in mind, it’s difficult not to pick Costa to win this one, probably via knockout.

The Pick: Costa via first-round KO

#3. UFC 278: The Main Card

Living legend Jose Aldo is set to star on this weekend's main card
Living legend Jose Aldo is set to star on this weekend's main card

In a hugely interesting bantamweight bout, Jose Aldo faces Merab Dvalishvili. Depending on what else happens in the division, this could well decide the next title challenger.

The big question here is whether Dvalishvili can walk through Aldo’s strikes to get him down and do some damage. Aldo’s ground game is vaunted, but his defense there didn’t look too hot against Petr Yan, and ‘The Machine’ is ruthless with his ground-and-pound.

What a comeback victory for @MerabDvalishvil 🔥[ #UFC266 | Live on @ESPNPlus & ESPNews ]

It’s a difficult fight to pick, as Aldo has looked great in his last three bouts, chaining his combinations together as well as he did in his prime. However, it’s hard to shake the fact that he’s 35 years old, has taken plenty of damage over the years, and Dvalishvili is a young, hungry fighter who seems remarkably durable.

It’s a close call, but the pick is Dvalishvili via decision.

In a heavyweight bout, Marcin Tybura takes on Alexandr Romanov. This is the first big test for Romanov, who has destroyed everyone he’s faced thus far, living up to his ‘King Kong’ nickname by bullying his foes on the ground.

Tybura is undoubtedly a step up for him, as he’s a proven fighter who has wins over the likes of Stefan Struve, Walt Harris and Andrei Arlovski. He’s also excellent in all areas, even if he’s not that explosive.

However, ‘Tybur’ is also 36 years old, isn’t very quick, and has struggled with heavy hitters before. It’s a difficult pick because Romanov hasn’t fought anyone on his level yet, but the pick is ‘King Kong’ via TKO.

Finally, Tyson Pedro takes on Harry Hunsucker in a light-heavyweight clash. This is some strange matchmaking, as Pedro looked excellent in his return bout earlier this year after spending over three years on the shelf thanks to a bad knee injury, while Hunsucker has never won a UFC bout and is dropping to 205lbs for the first time.

Tyson Pedro threw some HUGE shots 👊 #UFCVegas52

Overall, ‘The Hurricane’ simply isn’t quick enough to deal with the kind of striking assault that Pedro can bring, and it feels like a gimme for the Australian to allow him to continue his climb back up the division. Pedro via TKO is the pick.

#4. UFC 278: The Prelims

Picks in bold

UFC lightweight division: Leonardo Santos vs. Jared Gordon

UFC bantamweight division: Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova

UFC featherweight division: Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldana

UFC flyweight division: Miranda Maverick vs. Shanna Young

UFC welterweight division: AJ Fletcher vs. Ange Loosa

UFC flyweight division: Francisco Figueiredo vs. Amir Albazi

UFC bantamweight division: Aori Qileng vs. Jay Perrin

UFC flyweight division: Daniel Lacerda vs. Victor Altamirano

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Edited by C. Naik
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