Kamaru Usman’s future is a sea of rematch options

Dec 14, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) reacts after defeating Colby Covington (not pictured) during UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

At UFC 258, Gilbert Burns entered the UFC Apex with dreams of bringing championship gold back to Brazil. Instead, he was the thirteenth straight Ultimate Fighting Championship opponent to face Kamaru Usman, and end up with a nightmarish result. After nearly six years of success, and three title defenses, the welterweight champion’s next fight is going to be a rematch. The question is, which former foe is most likely to win the championship run-back sweepstakes? Moreover, who among them has the best chance to right the wrongs of their previous failure?

Street Jesus and the PPV buy resurrection

Some observers of the sport won’t love this option after how the first fight went. Nevertheless, let’s be real, Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal are on a rematch collision course. If there was any doubt then Usman put that to bed with a powerful attack advert on “Gamebred” during his UFC 258 post-fight press conference, telling the assembled media that the Floridian had ducked the fight a couple of times previously. He expects him to do so again, but if he did take the fight, this time he would finish Masvidal and put the Cuban in “a coffin.”

The UFC is a profit-driven promotion first, and sports organization second. A rematch is too financially beneficial to pass on. Especially, after the pair headlined a UFC 251 card that reportedly earned 1.3 million pay-per-view buys. Pushing the idea that “Street Jesus” was not his best version the first time on six days’ notice is an easy sell to casuals and Masvidal’s congregation of true believers. The odds are Usman mirrors what he did the first time around, but both will trash talk their way into making us all watch it again.

Edwards’ contender-maid’s tale

In the summer of 2019, Leon Edwards was one win away from landing a welterweight title fight. Now almost two years later, he is still one win away from getting that championship bout. That’s because the man hasn’t fought since his main event win over former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos 19 months ago.

The Englishman’s career was snake bit in 2020. The pandemic canceled his “one more win” opportunity against former division titleholder Tyron Woodley last March. Being located in the United Kingdom—a country that’s had several COVID-19 related lockdowns—has made a preferable fight camp impossible. With so much to lose, “Rocky” isn’t jumping into any opportunity given to him, and I respect that. Then at the end of the year, he became the tool of ascendancy for new Dana White favorite fighter Khamzat Chimaev. Yet coronavirus, like some fans, had zero interest in that fight happening, and it’s been cursed and canceled three times.

At this point, if Edwards was booked with any fighter in the top-10, a ninth straight victory should get him a title fight. However, would a rematch go any different than did his bout with Usman in 2015? Both are better, but Edwards has yet to prove he can pass the test of a top-shelf wrestler. Meaning, there’s a good chance the Nigerian would match or surpass the six takedowns he scored the first time around. Unfortunately, it’s unclear when we will see the talented 29-year-old back in the Octagon, and Colby Covington is one man uninterested in taking part in that return.  

Colby “Charity” Covington LLC

When Chimaev versus Edwards was derailed a third time by the scourge of COVID, White revealed the promotion was working on a booking between the Englishman and Donald Trump’s favorite mixed martial artist, Colby Covington. However, during an interview on Submission Radio, “Chaos” called “Leon Scott” (AKA Edwards) an “irrelevant” fighter he would not offer the “charity” of competing against.

Bold indeed, but as a member of the “Nightmare Victims Association” Covington needs another notable win to get a rematch with Usman. He’s the one fighter to push the champion to his limits. Their UFC 245 war was even on the scorecards going into the fifth round, and he may be the best bet to dethrone “Marty.” If Covington chose charity and beats Edwards, a rematch seems guaranteed. If not, he’s likely third in line behind Masvidal, and Edwards.

‘Wonderboy’ wishes and fantasy dreams

Following Usman’s outstanding UFC 258 victory, former two-time title contender, and fifth-ranked welterweight Stephen Thompson took to Twitter to throw his name in the contender hat. He made a solid attempt, and a decent case. However, considering the aforementioned Edwards is in the midst of a far more impressive and longer winning streak while being ranked two spots ahead, “Wonderboy” is on the outside looking in. Unless he were the winner of the Edwards replacement opponent sweepstakes. A win over the No. 3 in the division would certainly help the fan-favorite get one last opportunity at gold. Although, he won’t be the version of himself needed to actually upset the reigning king.

Then there’s the route of fantasy booking. After his win, fight suggestions against welterweight legend Georges St-Pierre, and retired (and somehow still) lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov were thrown around in the MMA media sphere. Nevertheless, the Canadian fighting icon quickly poured cold water on the idea in an interview on Sportsnet 590 The Fan, telling the “The Good Show” hosts that a possible win over Usman “doesn’t get him motivated.” Considering the similar stance Nurmagomedov has taken in being firm about his own retirement, chances are what doesn’t interest “Rush” isn’t likely to pull the “Eagle” back into the Octagon either.

Final Verdict

Expect Usman versus Masvidal II to happen in the summer. However, if Edwards can get in a worthwhile win in the spring, and negotiations fall apart again between “Nightmare” and “Street Jesus,” Edwards gets his six years in the making rematch. While Covington, the best option for those hoping to see Usman’s reign of terror end, waits in line for the title picture to clear up.

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