Anyone who only watched the first four rounds of Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz last Saturday at UFC 263, would be forgiven for thinking that Edwards was about to cruise to an easy and obvious decision victory. And, at least on the scorecards, they wouldn’t be wrong. Edwards racked up a 49-46 from all three judges for the win.
But, the narrative coming out of the fight wasn’t one of Edwards’ dominance, rather Nate Diaz’s remarkable fifth round comeback stole the show. Stockton’s own mounted a remarkable late charge, hurting Edwards multiple times with strikes in the final round, leaving ‘Rocky’ on rubber legs as the final bell sounded.
And it’s that turn of events that has former middleweight champion Michael Bisping feeling some sympathy for Edwards. On a recent episode of his Believe You Me podcast, the ‘Count’ talked about the Team Renegade talent’s early dominance and the narratives that fans walked away with (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“It’s so Leon Edwards,” Bisping said. “I feel for the guy. He’s just kind of—it’s not bad luck. You can’t call going out there and beating Nate Diaz by a dominant decision, 49-46, that’s not bad luck. That’s a great night at the office. It is! It’s so Leon Edwards, it’s unfair! The guy is on a 10-fight unbeaten streak, he’s got all the momentum, he’s beaten great fighters and he just beat Nate Diaz but at the end, people are talking about Nate Diaz and how tough he is.
“He needs a finish. He’s got to get a finish. And I can’t say that, I had plenty of decisions. I’m not saying that from a negative standpoint, but it would have shut up a lot of people. It would be a very different discussion right now had he finished Nate Diaz. I just feel for him because it’s almost not fair, which you don’t say that in fight sport. Everyone is talking about Diaz and how tough he is and the rest of it and they’re not talking about Leon who kicked the sh-t out of him for four and a half rounds!”
As for possible solutions to finally get Edwards over the hump with fans and primed to be a true title contender, once and for all? To Bisping’s way of thinking, the only fight that makes sense is one against Jorge Masvidal. ‘Gamebred’ and Edwards got into a scuffle back stage during UFC Fight Night: Till vs. Masvidal in 2019. After trading barbs from distance during a post-fight interview, Masvidal approached Edwards and popped him with the now infamous ‘three piece and a soda’ combo.
It seemed like obvious fuel for a grudge match at the time, unfortunately the bout never came to be. However, with Edwards looking for another high profile victory and Masvidal coming off a pair of losses to the champ, could this finally be the moment the fight gets made?
“Masvidal has to take that fight as well,” Bisping explained. “Far be it from me to be talking sh-t about Masvidal. I’m not talking sh-t, but the reality is this, if you go out there and crack another man in the face who is in your weight class and you both work for a company that matches their employees against one another and puts them in an octagon to fight, the pieces of the puzzle are there. It doesn’t take a championship puzzle maker to put the final piece of this jigsaw into place. You both fight for the UFC, you’re in the same weight class, you’re both riding high in the division, and the last time they saw one another, Masvidal hit him with a three-piece and the soda. That absolutely, unequivocally has to be the next fight for both of those men.”
In the meantime, Dana White has already said that a rematch with Colby Covington will likely be next for welterweight king Kamaru Usman. Usman defeated Covington via TKO back in 2019. ‘Chaos’ bounced back from that defeat with a TKO win over Tyron Woodley in September of last year. Usman picked up a victory over Gilbert Burns, sandwiched between his two title defenses over Jorge Masvidal in the last year.