Leon Edwards is looking to claim the biggest scalp of his career when he faces former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in the main event of UFC London on March 21, but can the British star delight the home crowd and potentially earn himself a shot at the 170lb crown this year?
Tyron Woodley v Leon Edwards UFC London Tips
Road To UFC London: Tyron Woodley v Leon Edwards
Leon Edwards is in the best form of his career as he prepares for his biggest challenge. Having established himself with a stellar run on the UK scene, Edwards signed with the UFC in late 2014 and got off to the worst possible start as he dropped a split decision to Claudio Silva in his debut. ‘Rocky’ bounced back with a couple of victories before Kamaru Usman halted his rise, but that December 2015 loss to the man who now holds the welterweight title is the last time that the 28-year-old has left the Octagon as a loser. Edwards has reeled off eight straight victories to storm into the welterweight division’s top five and his last three success have all come against notable opposition.
Edwards stepped up his game to out-do Donald Cerrone over five rounds in June 2018 and then followed that up with a split decision win over the tricky Gunnar Nelson in London last March – a victory that was overshadowed by a backstage incident involving Edwards and Jorge Masvidal. The two men exchanged words while Masvidal was conducting an interview following his surprise win over Darren Till, and the man now officially crowned as the UFC’s ‘baddest mother**ker’ ended the incident by throwing punches at Edwards.
The war of words continued in the weeks and months to come, but no fight between the pair was signed and instead it was announced that Edwards would next face former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos as the main event on an ESPN card. RDA proved to be a good test for the in-form Jamaican-born Brit as the two men battled over 25 minutes, but ‘Rocky’ produced an impressive performance and showcased an all-round game as the two men went the distance and he was deservedly given the nod by the judges.
Following the contest Edwards once again called out Masvidal, and although ‘Gamebred’ is certainly not a man to shy away from a challenge he told ‘Rocky’ that he would have to wait. Why? Because if reports are true, he is getting a shot at welterweight champion Kamaru Usman on International Fight Week later this year. That probably suits Edwards down to the ground – if he is victorious on March 21 he will either get the chance to avenge those backstage punches by challenging Masvidal for the 170lb crown and if it is Usman who is victorious in his next defence, then ‘Rocky’ will have the chance to avenge one of the two defeats that he has suffered inside the Octagon. But before he can even thing about title shots he must negotiate his biggest test yet.
Standing opposite Edwards in London will be former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. ‘The Chosen One’ only lost that belt in his last outing so this is definitely not a case of the UFC handing Edwards a ‘soft’ big-name to dispatch, but it is fair to say that Woodley’s run at the summit of the welterweight division was hardly awe-inspiring due to his lack of activity. In fact, this bout on March 21 will be only the fifth time that he has stepped inside the Octagon in the past three years!
Having shockingly knocked out Robbie Lawler in little over two minutes to win the belt in late 2016, Woodley’s run atop the division was massively underwhelming. He drew with Stephen Thompson before narrowly beating ‘Wonderboy’ in a rematch several months later, and he then turned back the challenge of Demian Maia before submitting an outmatched Darren Till who, quite frankly, should not have been fighting in the welterweight division to begin with. In his very next outing Woodley was bested over five rounds to drop the belt to Usman, and that March 2019 meeting with ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ was the last time that we saw ‘The Chosen One’ step inside the Octagon.
Woodley will finally end his exile in London though, and if he can rebound at the first attempt then the former champion would surely be next in line to face the winner of the rumoured Usman-Masvidal title fight. The question is will he get back on track and silence that British crowd, or will he be the next man to lose to a surging Edwards? Read on for our free Tyron Woodley v Leon Edwards UFC London tips…
Tyron Woodley v Leon Edwards UFC London Tips
It is not often that a former champion will be considered an underdog in his very next fight, unless he is facing the man who dethroned him, but that is what has happened to Tyron Woodley in this one. While the bookmakers have not written him off at all, they have made Leon Edwards the slight odds-on favourite here. Have they disrespected Woodley, who is hardly on some epic fall from grace in the welterweight division? Or do they simply have confidence that an in-form Edwards can continue the hottest run of his career so far? I tend to believe it is the latter because this really is a ‘pick ‘em’ fight that could go either way. You really can make a strong case for either man having his hand raised in London and I have gone back and forth about the winner of this one, but after much deliberation I am siding with Edwards.
Woodley has a devastating right hand and if the man who dethroned Lawler turns up then he could earn himself a crack at Usman, but the problem is we have not seen that man inside the Octagon over the past few years. And for much of that time he has probably spent more time moaning about money and working on his side ventures than he has on honing his craft. Edwards, meanwhile, has been actively fighting twice a year to surge up the welterweight rankings and during this time he has shown improvements every time that he has stepped inside the Octagon. He has excellent technical striking and good counter-wrestling – that should help him stay out of trouble and outwork Woodley for five rounds to get the nod from the judges.
But if you are still on the fence about the winner, why not look at the Total Rounds and Will The Fight Go The Distance markets? Woodley has hardly been racking up stoppage wins over the past six years and Edwards has never been stopped, so whoever is the winner here, the chances are that they will need the judges’ assistance to come out on top.
Woodley v Edwards Tips: Experts Offer UFC London Predictions
UFC analyst & former welterweight title contender Dan Hardy talking to MMA Junkie: “I think the timing’s right because at this point, they’re both annoyed – there’s needle between the two of them. So I just think it’s going to add a bit of spice and a bit of flavour to the fight. I think it’s going to allow Leon to come out of his shell a little bit more and for the fans to see the kind of person and the kind of fighter he really is. He’s not reached his potential yet, and I think this could be the fight that would help him to do that. Tyron Woodley’s a very dangerous fighter. He’s got that piston of a right hand. He’s got a hell of a wrestling game. We saw him run through Darren Till. There’s a lot to be gained for this for Leon, and I think that’s a motivating factor for him. Leon motivated is dangerous, and I’m excited for him.”
Woodley v Edwards Tips: UFC London Fighter Predictions
Leon Edwards talking to MMA Junkie: “Tyron was trying to make excuses of why he shouldn’t come overseas and why he didn’t want to come to London. The UFC had to force him into it. They gave him no choice but to take the fight. He was forced into it. He knows it’s a dangerous fight for him, and after I beat him, where does he go? He knows the risk. I went to Vegas and I had a meeting with Sean Shelby and Dana White and they were saying, ‘You’ve got no other options.’ He would fight me or they were going to move him out of the rankings. He had no choice. He had to take the fight.”
Tyron Woodley talking to the Evening Standard: “Leon says a lot of stuff. He needs to focus on how he is going to get back to the drawing board after he loses and what is going to be the next fight to get him back in the mix. All the other s**t, I’ve been guilty in the past of looking too far down the road. How are you going to talk about a title shot when you are about to face the greatest welterweight of all time? He needs to re-shift his focus because he is about to get hurt. I don’t plan on doing it quick, I want to put a beating on him to the point where people are thinking ‘Why is he even in the Octagon?’ Dana White, you’re going to be ashamed of yourself for doing this.”