UFC 278 fight card — Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 2: Five biggest storylines to watch in Salt Lake City

A rematch some seven years in the making — this time for the welterweight title — will headline UFC 278 on Saturday from Salt Lake City, Utah.  

Pound-for-pound king Kamaru (*278*) will search for the sixth protection of his 170-pound title when he welcomes prime contender Leon Edwards, whom he first defeated by unanimous determination in 2015. The card may even characteristic a must-see bantamweight attraction and the return of former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, who hasn’t recorded a win since 2017.   

Let’s take a better take a look at the biggest storylines coming into this weekend’s pay-per-view card.  

1. The extra issues change, the extra they keep the identical 

It’s simple to dismiss the outcomes of the primary assembly between these prime welterweights contemplating it occurred so way back. (*278*) was making his first stroll to the Octagon since profitable “The Ultimate Fighter” in his official UFC debut 5 months earlier. Edwards, in the meantime, was trying merely to make a reputation for himself in his fourth UFC look, which explains why their first bout happened practically out of web site and thoughts on the early prelims. Both fighters are a mixed 22-0 (1 NC) since their first fight, which suggests how a lot every fighter has developed in the aftermath. While that is actually true (and arduous to argue contemplating (*278*) was nearly completely a wrestler in these days), the problem for Edwards just about stays the identical. (*278*) discovered success pressuring Edwards behind the specter of the takedown. Even along with his developed hanging sport, the foundational elements of a possible victory in their rematch stay the identical for the champion. For all of the enhancements Edwards has made all through a painfully lengthy march towards his first title shot, the problem of (*278*) stays simply as daunting the second time round.

2. It’s getting more durable and more durable to deny (*278*) entry into the G.O.A.T. debate 

Too many podcast hours to fill every week has made discussions relating to who’re the best fighters in MMA historical past at any given second a continuing supply of regurgitated materials. Yet the final consensus stays that if there’s a legendary “upper room” containing these with at the very least a stake in the bigger G.O.A.T. dialogue, it possible consists of some variation of Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Demetrious Johnson, Fedor Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov, relying upon your desire. Has (*278*), 35, completed sufficient simply but to warrant inclusion? The fact is he is getting nearer and nearer. If Usman’s 20-1 general report is not shiny sufficient (his lone profession defeat got here in his second professional fight in 2013), the native of Nigeria is driving an absurd 19-fight win streak into the Edwards rematch. A victory would tie him with Anderson Silva for the UFC report of consecutive wins whereas bringing (*278*) inside three title defenses of equaling GSP’s mark at of 9 at welterweight. But one of the best argument in favor of the present P4P king would encompass simply how dominant he has been all through the streak. The solely UFC opponent to give (*278*) legit hassle was Colby Covington, and (*278*) defeated him twice. (*278*) would possible want a follow-up victory after Edwards in opposition to the rising Khamzat Chimaev to absolutely get his due in this class, however his success largely speaks for itself.  

3. At 37, Luke Rockhold’s preventing future hangs in the steadiness 

The fallout of Rockhold’s 2016 upset title loss to Michael Bisping in their rematch hasn’t been type. Including the loss, the previous 185-pound king is simply 1-3 since taking the title from Chris Weidman at UFC 194 and all three losses have come through knockout (together with a failed bid at gentle heavyweight). Rockhold returns in opposition to the damaging but mercurial Paulo Costa in a pairing that gives equal potential for giant reward or a disastrous end result. Rockhold has gone public saying he believes his identify worth would advantage getting a title shot ought to he defeat Costa and mentioned he would settle for no different from UFC matchmakers. Just the identical, it would not be out of the query to see a loss finish — and, in specific, a knockout defeat — finish Rockhold’s time with the UFC altogether. Yes, Rockhold’s chin has betrayed him in every of his three high-profile losses in latest years, however the bigger downside has appeared to be the careless vanity he typically reveals round harmful opponents. Costa has been erratic since developing quick in his title bid in opposition to Israel Adesanya however stays a harmful menace to finish the fight — and presumably Rockhold’s profession — at any given level.  

4. Jose Aldo is not completed discovering out how nice he will be 

At 35 and having already moved down in weight to be part of arguably the deepest discipline in any given division at any level in MMA historical past, the concept of Aldo securing yet one more UFC title shot sounds just like the plot of a film. Aldo, the longtime featherweight king who misplaced a vacant title bout in 2020 at 135 kilos to Petr Yan, seemingly shocked everybody by recording a trio of determination wins in the aftermath in opposition to completed contenders Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz and Rob Font. On Saturday, the duty solely will get more durable for the “King of Rio” when he enters as a slight underdog in opposition to the red-hot Merab Dvalishvilli, who’s driving a seven-fight win streak. The risk of rising star Sean O’Malley incomes a title shot ought to he defeat Yan at UFC 280 stays robust given his recognition outdoors the cage. But a fourth straight win for Aldo may be a greater story. Aldo’s fixed reinvention after troublesome defeats has been startling to behold, particularly for somebody as completed with so many miles on his fight odometer.  

5. Coming sights at heavyweight: Meet Alexander Romanov  

A 31-year-old native of Moldova, the completed wrestler identified merely as “King Kong” has been terrorizing the UFC’s heavyweight division via 5 fights, albeit far underneath the radar of the standard discussions surrounding the division. But whereas the MMA world waits for Jon Jones’ inevitable heavyweight debut, Romanov has rapidly established himself as an attention-grabbing prospect transferring ahead. He has but to go the space in his professional profession and is 16-0 general. Romanov, who faces the battle examined Marcin Tybura this weekend, stays a 4-1 betting favourite to keep unbeaten and has each the dimensions and physicality in phrases of his grappling to be a legit downside for anybody ought to he keep on the profitable path. 

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