Thirty-one-year-old Edwards, using a variety of kicks, knees and elbows, seemed to pull ahead in a tense first two rounds, before the playing field appeared to level out after Round 3. It was in that third frame that Usman began to find his grappling form, while Edwards was docked a point for holding the fence to stand – although the champion also employed effective defensive wrestling to stand fairly on numerous occasions.
In any case, Edwards seemed at risk of losing further points, as referee Herb Dean warned him about holding the glove of Usman, who also complained of multiple alleged kicks to the groin.
However, Edwards’ quality held up where his composure at times faltered. Although a close Round 4 left the result no clearer, Edwards produced an impressive final frame at a crucial juncture.
Edwards (left) outstruck Usman for much of the fight and employed effective defensive wrestling
“Rocky” denied his challenger multiple takedowns, while intermittently stinging the 35-year-old with uppercuts and leg kicks, as Usman continued to press forward – unperturbed – in pursuit of a decisive moment.
In the end, the only decisive moment was the revelation of the judges’ scorecards, which read 48-46, 48-46, 47-47 in Edwards’ favour.
In the co-main event, Usman’s teammate Justin Gaethje was on the right end of a majority decision, beating Rafael Fiziev 29-28, 29-28, 28-28 in the fight of the night.
Full UFC 286 results
Justin Gaethje (left) narrowly outpointed Rafael Fiziev in the co-main event
Leon Edwards (C) def. Kamaru Usman via majority decision (48-46, 48-46, 47-47)
Justin Gaethje def. Rafael Fifiziev via majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
Gunnar Nelson def. Bryan Barberena via first-round submission (armbar, 4:51)
Jennifer Maia def. Casey O’Neill via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Marvin Vettori def. Roman Dolidze via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Jack Shore def. Makwan Amirkhani via second-round submission (rear naked choke, 4:27)
Chris Duncan def. Omar Morales via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
Yanal Ashmoz def. Sam Patterson via first-round KO (punches, 1:15)
Muhammad Mokaev def. Jafel Filho via third-round submission (rear naked choke, 2:42)
Lerone Murphy def. Gabriel Santos via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Christian Leroy Duncan def. Dusko Todorovic via first-round TKO (knee injury, 1:52)
Jake Hadley def. Malcolm Gordon via first-round TKO (body punches, 1:01)
Joanne Wood def. Luana Carolina via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Jai Herbert vs Ludovit Klein ends as majority draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
Veronica Hardy def. Juliana Miller via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
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