At UFC 278 Leon Edwards made history by defeating Kamaru Usman with a crushing head kick with less than a minute to spare in the fifth and final rounds. Had the fight gone the distance it is almost certain that Usman would have won a judges’ decision and continue on as champion and men’s top pound-for-pound fighter.
The kick represented the climax of a seven year journey for Edwards, whose last loss in the UFC was a unanimous decision to Usman back when both men were just starting out in the Octagon.
The kick itself was a thing of beauty, set up with a deft feint and delivered with frightening accuracy and devastating power. The result saw Usman fold and then flatten on the canvas.
There have been lots of famous head kick KOs in the UFC, some of which won and defended titles. However, UFC commentator (and former double champion) Daniel Cormier thinks Edwards’ recent entry has to go down as the best we’ve ever seen in the promotion.
He gushed about the move over on his YouTube channel.
“I can honestly say, and so did my broadcast partners, we all agree, this was the greatest head kick knockout that we’ve seen in the UFC, especially because of the circumstances,” he said (ht MMA Fighting). “Leon Edwards was down. He was losing to Kamaru Usman. He was down three rounds to one and he was going to lose the fifth. But he found the perfect head kick to make him the champion...
“We wrote Leon Edwards’ obituary, and I want to apologize for that. But I don’t see anything wrong, because of the way that it was going and what we’ve seen Kamaru Usman has done prior, I felt like Usman was going to cruise to the finish line and retain his championship. Now this changes everything. Usman has to restart his run...
“Keep in mind, Kamaru Usman was up three, four rounds to one. We have to remember that. But just a great night overall, and what I do believe was the greatest [head kick] knockout in UFC [history]. Ronda Rousey-Holly Holm was great, but nothing has matched this. This was the greatest comeback, the single greatest comeback in UFC history, because Leon Edwards snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. He was well on his way to getting beat by Kamaru Usman and he got the job done. So congrats to Leon Edwards and his entire team.”
After giving Edwards his flowers, Cormier addressed how ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ might be feeling after losing both his consciousness and his 170 lbs crown.
“For Kamaru Usman, how much did this change? As a guy who has been knocked out before, everything changes once you realize that it’s possible. When you have that aura of invincibility, that belief that you cannot be put out clean, you are willing to do a lot of things. Usman went out today for the very first time in his career, and I wonder how that’s going to affect him going forward.
“But if you think about the matchup and how it was going, and you have to bet the third fight, you’ve got to think that Usman’s going to be the favorite, because he was cruising. He was doing a really good job of pressuring Leon Edwards, bullying Leon Edwards — those are Leon’s coaches words — and really making Leon fight on his heels. But it was the moment that he didn’t that back him up is when Leon Edwards found that beautiful high kick. He went right hand, left hand straight. He didn’t throw either of those strikes to connect. He threw them just in order to get Usman’s hands up so that he could land the head kick that ultimately won him the championship. It was perfect.”
In addition to Holm vs. Rousey, the UFC has been blessed with a bevy of epic head kick KOs over its history. Some of this writer’s favourites include the finishes from Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes 2, Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko Cro Cop, Lyoto Machida vs. Vitor Belfort, Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim and Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold.
What do you think? Where does Edwards head kick rank and what are some of your favourites?