Leon Edwards will end a near two-year exile from the Octagon when he faces Belal Muhammad – can the Jamaican-born Brit cement his status as a leading contender for a UFC welterweight title shot or will the stand-in opponent throw a spanner in the works?
The best way to describe Edwards’ 2020 professionally is ‘frustrating’. ‘Rocky’ overcame an early misfire in his UFC career to storm up the welterweight ladder over a five-year period, going 10-1 during an 11-fight run to surge into the top five, but after beating Rafael dos Anjos for the victory of his career in July 2019 his career stalled. A fight with former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley had to be shelved in March, like many other major sporting events and competitions, and despite spending the next several months calling out the best and biggest names in the division, none of those call-outs resulted in a high-profile scrap for Edwards.
So how did Edwards respond? By agreeing to take on arguably the fastest-rising star in the UFC right now in Khamzat Chimaev – man who boasts a perfect 9-0 record and has already notched a couple of UFC records in the early stages of his career. Unfortunately, this fight will now not go ahead after quite a few bumps in the road. The original bout was scheduled for December last year, but it was postponed, and Chimaev has since pulled out of their March 13 fight through illness.
Edwards then set his sights on facing Colby Covington, but a deal could not be agreed. That means Edwards will now face Belal Muhammad in the Octagon. It is always difficult for a fighter to step in a such shirt notice, and although he has won his last four fights, he shouldn’t really be a match for Edwards who looks ion the best shape of his career.
Edwards might not feature on a lot of knockout highlight reels, having claimed just two knockout victories since making his UFC debut in 2014. But he can last the distance, and he will clearly be fitter than his opponent, so I am going for the British-Jamaican fighter to win this be decision.