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Leon Edwards: The UFC’s Forgotten Welterweight Threat.

The main event of UFC San Antonio features a pivotal welterweight clash between former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and surging contender Leon Edwards, who’s looking for his eighth straight win since his last loss, a decision against current champion Kamaru Usman. Edwards now gets his highest-profile matchup against Dos Anjos, and a win will all but definitely put him in a prime position to try and avenge that 2015 loss.

A post shared by Leon "Rocky" Edwards (@leon_edwardsmma) on Jul 1, 2019 at 12:11am PDT

Edwards has been a name in the welterweight division for some time now, since joining the UFC in 2014, evolving from former champion on the European scene (BAMMA), to promising prospect, to contender, to now, potentially, top contender with a win. His evolution as a fighter since the loss to Usman has been nothing short of drastic. On his current win streak, some of the notable names Edwards has beaten are the likes of Albert Tumenov, a former top 15 welterweight, Vicente Luque, a current top 15 welterweight with a lot of momentum (*Luque’s last loss actually came to Edwards), Donald Cerrone, a legend in his own right, and most recently Gunnar Nelson, one of the division’s slickest grapplers and a perennial top 15 contender, back in March that has set up this matchup with Dos Anjos.

A post shared by Leon "Rocky" Edwards (@leon_edwardsmma) on Jul 14, 2019 at 1:01pm PDT

Rafael Dos Anjos presents the toughest test that Edwards will have faced by a substantial margin. Dos Anjos, as aforementioned, is the former lightweight champion and has as much experience with the upper echelon of the welterweight division as any other fighter on the roster. Dos Anjos is making a quick turnaround after submitting Kevin Lee back in May and currently sits at a cozy number four ranking in the division. Dos Anjos brings a sprawl and brawl style to the Octagon, holding a base of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but also a pension for getting into slugfests with his opponents. Edwards will be the physically larger man in this fight, so if Dos Anjos decides to brawl with him, it may actually work out in his favor. While Edwards does seem to prefer a distance affair, he certainly has short-range power, as evidenced when he knocked out Seth Baczynski in 8 seconds.

Leon Edwards chillin’ days before UFC San Antonio with Unknown MMA.

Stylistically, Edwards has been shown to be extremely well rounded himself. This was apparent in his most recent bout against Nelson, but also in prior bouts with Peter Sobotta and Bryan Barberena, two large welterweights themselves, where he dominated the majority of both fights with his grappling. Interesting, considering most critics would label him as just being a kickboxer. Edwards has shown to have a very diverse skill set; he’s a great striker and an above-average grappler. Against Dos Anjos, it’ll be interesting to see what his game plan will be and what he’ll want to utilize against the dangerous former champ. Will he wait for Dos Anjos to come forward and then blitz him with the grappling? Will he come forward and try to overwhelm Dos Anjos with his size and speed? Will he be content to brawl with the smaller man? Those questions are why this fight is so much fun to break down, but also why it’s so hard to accurately predict what we’ll see. These are two of the most well-rounded welterweights on the planet, and that alone makes this an apparent must watch.

Edwards taking the time out to acknowledge the fans at Open Weigh-Ins.

Edwards has frequently lamented about the lack of opponents the promotion has been able to lock down for him, obviously due to his status as a rising contender, but also due to his seeming lack of notoriety within the division. This can be attributed to a number of things; his apparent lack of promotion, not even a great many UK fans seem to be very familiar with him. It could be due to the fact that the UK had another welterweight contender that the UFC found better as a marketing piece to build on in Darren Till, whom Edwards has called out numerous times which has drawn the ire of many Till fans who possibly could’ve been Edwards fans as well. It could be due to the fact that he typically fights on smaller shows; four of his last five fights have been on UFC Fight Pass, and the fifth was on ESPN+, early on in its UFC days (also because the UFC is seemingly content with letting Fight Pass go the way of the dinosaurs). This will be Edwards’ second UFC main event, but I’d be willing to bet that most people probably think it’s his first.

One thing that’s for certain is that Edwards’ seeming lack of notoriety isn’t due to his lack of talent. Anyone who wins seven straight bouts in the UFC is as obvious an elite fighter as there ever was, but perhaps a victim of circumstance in this case, in a division like Welterweight, seven straight wins doesn’t guarantee anything. But a win over Dos Anjos would launch Edwards into that illustrious title contention that has eluded him up to this point.

Follow Johann on Twitter: @thejohanncastro

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