Britain’s Edwards stuns Usman with late knockout to win UFC welterweight title

Briton Leon Edwards pulled off a fifth-round head-kick knockout out of nowhere to dethrone Kamaru Usman and win the UFC welterweight title at UFC 278 on Saturday to crown one of the greatest comebacks in mixed martial arts history.

The 30-year-old Jamaican-born British fighter looked to be headed for a defeat on the judges’ scorecards when he faked a jab with his left hand and then landed a left-foot kick to the head that sparked the 35-year-old Nigerian to claim the belt.

“They all doubted me, they all said I couldn’t do it – look at me now!” Edwards roared in his post-fight interview in the cage.

Edwards is only the second British fighter to hold a UFC title, following in the footsteps of Michael Bisping, who won the middleweight tile in 2016.

On a streak of 15 wins in the UFC coming into the bout, Usman struggled in the first round as Edwards, whom he beat in their only previous meeting in 2015, shocked him by taking him down to the mat for the first time in his UFC career.

Edwards threatened to finish the fight with a rear naked choke but Usman, who was making his sixth title defence, survived and came roaring back in the second round as Edwards appeared to stumble early on.

The 35-year-old Usman then returned to the kind of suffocating wrestling that has been the bedrock of his fighting style since he turned pro in 2012, backing his opponent up to the fence and taking him down at will.

He dominated Edwards and looked like he would retain the belt again until the challenger starched him with that kick with just 56 seconds left in the fight.

“I’m from the trenches, I’m built like this, I battle until the battle is done. I’ve been down my whole life, and look at me now!” an elated Edwards said.

Paulo Costa prevailed over former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in a unanimous decision in the middleweight bout. Costa had lost two straight bouts coming into Salt Lake City.

Rockhold (returned to the octagon for the first time in three years and his rust showed as the bout progressed. Costa more than doubled Rockhold in total strikes through the first two rounds and eventually left him with a bloodied mouth in the third round. Rockhold wiped his own blood over Costa’s face in the round’s final seconds while both fighters were locked in a stalemate on the ground.

Merab Dvalishvili prevailed over former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo in a unanimous decision in the men’s bantamweight bout, earning his eighth straight win. Aldo had vocal support from the crowd but wore down under relentless pressure from Dvalishvili over three rounds.

Lucie Pudilova beat Wu Yanan in the main card women’s bantamweight bout for her third straight win. Yanan suffered her fourth straight loss. Pudilova earned a TKO at the 4:04 mark in the second round after dragging Yanan to the canvas and repeatedly smashing elbows into her from a back mount.

Tyson Pedro earned a TKO over Harry Hunsucker 1:05 into the first round in the light heavyweight bout to round out the main card bouts.