Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman face off in a trilogy bout for the welterweight championship at UFC 286 tonight.
Edwards shocked the world when he sent Usman to the shadow realm as a massive underdog to claim the title last summer. However, oddsmakers expect the former champ to snag the belt again, with UFC odds opening with Usman as a -250 favorite.
Here are my best free UFC 286: Edwards vs. Usman 3 picks and predictions for Saturday, March 18 from the O2 Arena in London, England.
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman fight odds
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman method of victory odds
|Method of Victory||Leon Edwards||Kamaru Usman|
|To win by KO/TKO||+500||+115|
|To win by Points||+460||+310|
|To win by Submission||+2,000||+1,500|
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook on March 16, 2023.
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman picks
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman betting preview
Leon Edwards is making his first defense of the 170-pound strap after defeating Usman last August. Edwards went into that bout as a +310 underdog and was behind on the judges' cards until late in the fifth round when he landed a head kick and knocked Usman out cold.
That was the 10th consecutive win for Edwards who hasn't lost since the first time he faced Usman all the way back in 2015.
The 30-year-old is a very well-rounded fighter who combines crisp technical kickboxing with solid wrestling technique and excellent work in the clinch. He will no doubt be excited to fight in front of his English fans for the fifth time since entering the promotion.
Kamaru Usman had a 19-fight winning streak snapped when he was starched by Edwards. The "Nigerian Nightmare" had successfully defended the welterweight championship five times before that and was ranked as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.
Usman is still one of the most dominant fighters in UFC history, having compiled a 15-1 record in the promotion. He beat Edwards by decision when they first faced off in the octagon and has also defeated contenders like Rafael dos Santos, Tyron Woodley, Gilbert Burns, Jorge Masvidal (twice), and Colby Covington (twice).
The 35-year-old began his career as a wrestling specialist and cardio machine but has developed into a dangerous striker under renowned boxing coach Trevor Wittman.
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman tale of the tape
|Leon Edwards||Kamaru Usman|
|170 lbs||Weight||170 lbs|
|74 inches||Reach||76 inches|
|20-3 (7 KO)||Record||20-2 (9 KO)|
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman UFC prediction and best bet
Fight prediction: Usman
The previous fight between these two was a competitive bout, with Edwards even getting a trip takedown in the first round and attempting a submission. But as the fight went on, Usman took control with his pressure and wrestling which has typically been his path to victory.
Usman was on his way to a clearcut win until getting caught by a head kick in the fifth round. Many fighters are never the same after being put to sleep like that, so there has to be some concern about whether the almost 36-year-old Usman's chin can keep holding up.
However, I think that he bounces back with a victory due to an even more conservative game plan this time around as he looks to avoid striking exchanges — especially if he gets up on the cards. It's always tough to catch someone with a shot like that more than once, especially from a fighter like Edwards who hasn't displayed much knockout power during his career.
It won't be exciting for the fans, but expect Usman to use his wrestling to wear Edwards down and regain the belt.
Prediction: Usman moneyline (-250 at bet365)
Fight best bet: Usman by decision
What was most surprising about that previous result wasn't that Edwards won, but that he won by KO/TKO for just the second time in his last 13 fights.
Edwards isn't generally known for his finishing power while Usman had never even been officially knocked down. Both of these fighters generally have a tendency to go the distance, with Usman receiving plenty of criticism in the past for pinning opponents against the cage and foot-stomping his way to victory.
Usman's striking has improved over the last few years and he's gotten more comfortable in kickboxing exchanges. That resulted in recent knockout wins against Covington, Burns, and Masvidal, but that approach also led to him standing and banging in the fifth round against Edwards.
Expect Usman to get back to his roots and rely on his stifling wrestling and control to win by points.
Pick: Usman by decision (+115 at FanDuel)