Kamaru Usman is “more human than I thought” after a stunning knockout loss to Leon Edwards and the British star should find “more moments” to pull off another destructive victory, says MMA expert Mark Weir.
Edwards defends his UFC welterweight title against Usman in a trilogy clash at UFC 286 in London on Saturday night after he sensationally stopped the Nigerian with a head kick in their rematch from August.
But can the Birmingham man produce another explosive win this weekend?
UFC trainer Weir and UFC middleweight contender Christian Leroy give their verdict….
Reflecting on the dramatic climax of their last fight, with both men fighting fatigue, Weir told Sky Sports: “I was very surprised to consider Usman’s rest potential.
“You can tell Leon did his job!”
“Caught Usman off guard, similar to Khabib [Nurmagomedov] against [Connor] McGregor,” Leroy added.
“When Khabib hit him with the overhand, I didn’t expect that from him. Leon did something similar to Usman!”
Edwards was defeated by unanimous decision in their first fight in December 2015, but Weir believes the 31-year-old fared much better with Usman’s physique in their second fight.
“I think Leon’s confidence will grow as a result of his grip work on the ground,” Weir said.
“Everybody believes in soil and Usman’s pound, but Usman is probably realizing that he’s a little more human than he thought.
“Although Usman came back stronger with each round, he realized that he can be taken down and controlled.”
Leroy was equally impressed with Edwards’ greatly improved running game, but insists Usman remains a threat if he can cope with a hostile atmosphere in London.
“Leon is going to be very confident that he can be successful with his wrestling and grappling,” he said.
“Now that he’s on his home soil, I think it’s going to be a completely different fight.
“The thing is, Usman comes back after a loss and everyone wants to see how this trilogy ends. What makes me think it’s more in Leon’s favor is that he’s on his home turf.”
“Usman is not in the United States where he feels comfortable, this is Leon’s territory. He will feel unknown.”
“In any case, it does [Usman] more dangerous because now he knows which shot could knock him out, so he’ll be ready for that.
“He’s also going to come with a chip on his shoulder like he has something to prove. He’s going to be a hit!”
Weir also believes that Usman is fully capable of regaining his UFC title.
“No matter how old you are, I think you always have a good fight left,” he said.
“He has something to prove, from what I hear he’s a warrior, and he’s been here before.”
Edwards appeared to be tired before the fifth round, but his corner team let out battle cries.
“He might have been questioning, ‘Why am I so tired?'” Leroy said.
“I personally trained in Albuquerque, where we are training at 5,500 feet above elevation. The first day of training, I felt like I was struggling to breathe, it took me almost three weeks to adjust to that.
“I think Leon was there for a week, maybe two? Not long enough to adjust, it’s a different kind of feeling. So, he must have been in his own thoughts, and he must have made it come true when his corner was saying him off.” “.
Weir was surprised by the strong-worded approach of Edwards’ coaches.
“For me, if someone is tired, it’s important to allow them to relax and calm down. You don’t want them to hyperventilate because the more their heart beats, the more tired they get.”
“You want to talk to them calmly but sternly, and tell them what to do, yelling might make them worry more. Maybe it worked, but I’m not sure if it was the right way or the wrong way, it would.” I do not recommend it to anyone!”
With the title and the reputation of the UFC on the line, Weir has suggested that both men maintain their strengths.
“If I was training in Edwards’ corner, I would be trying to get him to have more moments where he would catch Usman’s chin,” he said.
“Knowing he knocked him out like that with a kick last time, I’d go with the leg kicks first to soften him up and then when he least expects it, switch from low to high.
“Maybe take him down too, since he controlled it when he took him down. He just has to make sure he has a specific technique when he does it.”
“For Usman, I would say, focus on wrestling like it worked for him last time, but I would say don’t do it from distance. If someone has good speed, the last thing you want to give them is distance.” . That’s where speed is effective.”
Leroy agreed with Weir on Edwards’ winning formula, adding: “Leon needs to go back to what was successful and use it again, with a takedown here and there.
“It makes sense. Usman may be less athletic, but the technical side is improving, which offsets that.”
A repeat win for Edwards could set up a fight against a more fearsome opponent, Leroy says.
“If Leon wins, it would be nice to see him fight [the undefeated] Khamzat [Chimaev] sometime.
“They were set to fight each other, but then it got canceled due to Covid, so he hopes to see it go ahead, at least for publicity purposes.”
Sky customers can watch Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman 3 on BT Sport Box Office on Saturday 18 March 2023. Visit https://www.sky.com/boxoffice/btsport/ for details.