Woodley v Edwards UFC London preview: Rocky’s road to the UFC

Leigh Copson:

Leon Edwards has enjoyed a rapid rise in the UFC welterweight division, and ahead of his huge UFC London showdown with former champion Tyron Woodley we have been taking a look back at the five fights that put ‘Rocky’ on the radar of MMA’s biggest promotion.

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Leon Edwards v Jonathan Bilton (December 2012)

Having compiled a 3-1 on the regional scene, Edwards made the step up in competition in late 2012 when he signed on with the BAMMA promotion. The Jamaican-born Brit debuted in his adopted hometown of Birmingham and was determined to make an impression, throwing a powerful head-kick in the opening seconds that would have switched off Jonathan Bilton’s lights had he not been focused from the start. Edwards would finish the fights with strikes however, backing Bilton up against the cage early in the second round, dropping him with punches and following up with a couple more that gave the referee no choice but to step in.

Leon Edwards v Adam Boussif (September 2013)

BAMMA were notorious on the UK scene for not running regularly enough for their fighters and that meant Edwards did not fight again for almost a year. He made up for lost time though, much to the delight of the Birmingham crowd. Edwards dropped Adam Boussif with a straight left in the first round and although the finish did not come from that, ‘Rocky’ was not about to let this fight go beyond the opening five minutes. Edwards countered Boussif’s ill-advised spinning backfist attempt to take his opponent to the mat, and from there he worked his way into side control to sink in an am triangle choke that forced Boussif to tap out.

Leon Edwards v Wendle Lewis (December 2013)

Having been made to wait so long for his second BAMMA outing, Edwards made a swift return to action as he fought on the BAMMA 14 card just three months after that win over Adam Boussif. Wendle Lewis provided the opposition and once again ‘Rocky’ was no mood to mess around. Lewis was the aggressor early, but Edwards made him pay for that, showing great poise to trouble his opponent with some heavy strikes. Lewis did not heed the warning though. Edwards landed a flying knee that backed Lewis up against the cage and from there, after a brief pause, he unloaded with a series of fight-ending uppercuts.

Leon Edwards v Wayne Murrie (May 2014)

Edwards’ three-fight win streak earned him a shot at BAMMA Lonsdale British welterweight champion Wayne Murrie, and ‘Rocky’ made sure he would leave London with the belt via another impressive performance. Murrie desperately tried to get Edwards to the mat early on and it was an approach that ultimately backfired as ‘Rocky’ gained control of Murrie’s back against the fence, showed patience and eventually worked in a rear naked choke that caused the champion to conceded defeat. For the first time in his career, Edwards was a champion in professional MMA.

Leon Edwards v Shaun Taylor (September 2014)

By this point the question was being asked – when will Leon Edwards sign with the UFC? Before that could happen he signed on to defend his BAMMA Lonsdale British welterweight title for the first time against Shaun Taylor in Manchester. Edwards thought he had done a quick number on the challenger when he dropped him in the opening round with a knee and left uppercut combination, and it looked like the fight was over when Taylor crumpled to the mat again after a glancing head-kick later in the round. The fight continued however and it became increasingly clear that the challenger could not cope with the power coming his way. Taylor bravely battled on to make it to the third round and overcame another left hook that dropped him, but his resistance was finally broken with 90 seconds to go in the round as Edwards finished him with a simple right-left combination.