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The Weekly Takedown: Adli Edwards has career-making opportunity at Bellator 277

Entering Friday's bout as a massive underdog vs. Aaron Pico, the rising featherweight says 'a lot of people are going to be surprised.'

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Less than two weeks ago, Adli Edwards ripped off his seventh straight win in the cage.

An absolute technician, it took him just over four minutes to finish Josh Harvey, his opponent at the XMMA 4 card on April 2 in New Orleans – even less time than it took to pack his bags for the flight.

Following the fight, Edwards had one priority: get back home to his pregnant wife and their two girls.

"We found out my wife Maggie was pregnant literally the day before I took that fight," Edwards said. "It was a rough first trimester for her, but she was so supportive while I trained. That whole camp, I said, 'As soon as this fight is over, it's all about you.'"

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With his MMA odyssey temporarily on pause after that fight, Edwards relished the thought of extended time with his family. There was a trip to the beach with his two daughters, and a save-the-date worthy gender reveal party at his in-laws' house. During the fiesta-themed celebration, he learned his wife is carrying a boy. As he attacked his piece of cake with buttercream icing – his wife got the good stuff –Edwards had a passing thought. Without a fight until August or September, and no need to make weight, the timing was perfect to bulk up and get big.

Then, within what seemed like the blink of an eye, his manager called.

Jeremy Kennedy dropped out of Bellator 277.

Rising stud Aaron Pico needed an opponent on the star-studded 277 card, one featuring the likes of AJ McKee and Vadim Nemkov.

Just like that, it was time for Edwards to pack his bags – this time for an opportunity he's been scratching and clawing his whole life to seize.

"I'm all in," said Edwards (9-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), who fights Pico in a featherweight bout this Friday. "This is what I have always wanted. I'm really excited to grow with Bellator, and I'm ready to start off with a bang."

The 25-year-old Pico is one of the top rising stars in the sport. Edwards believes that description also fits him perfectly.

"I'm not coming for the show money," Edwards said. "I'm here to get my hand raised. I'm coming to get the 'W.'"

Accepting the fight with only eight days' notice, the past few days have been a whirling dervish of nonstop chaos for Edwards, who has been training furiously to make up for lost time.

"The logistics, like travel and medicals, that have been more stressful than the fight itself," said Edwards, who enters the bout an astronomical underdog. "Ideally, I would have had a full fight camp. That's OK. I know people are already counting me out, but I'm a fighter. I'm excited. This is my chance to show the world what I can do."

Pico (9-3 MMA, 0-3 BMMA) just re-signed with Bellator, and there are few featherweights in the world with more raw skill or potential. An extremely skilled wrestler and striker, the easy prediction is that Pico wipes out his 32-year-old journeyman opponent.

Except that isn't the way Edwards envisions this playing out.

"A lot of people are going to be surprised," Edwards said. "We have the strategy and technique to go out and win this fight."

On the verge of stepping into a spotlight brighter than he has ever before encountered, Edwards has remained relentless in his preparation. As he seeks to climb new heights and do the unthinkable, he has stayed grounded by holding on tightly to who he is fighting for on Friday night.

"This fight is dedicated to my wife and children," Edwards said. "That's more important than anything. For me, it's all about my family."

Khamzat Chimaev on a collision course with Colby Covington

Khamzat Chimaev wants a fight against Colby Covington.

Good luck to him.

Chimaev went to battle in the cage this past Saturday in an epic encounter with Gilbert Burns at UFC 273. The fight went the distance, and there were moments when Chimaev struggled to stay alive. The closing sequence of the second round was a showcase for Burns, who nearly sunk the supposedly unstoppable Chimaev with some ferocious shots to the skull.

The thought of Chimaev treating Burns like a rag doll, as he did in his last fight against Li Jingliang, quickly became unrealistic. This isn't to imply that Chimaev cannot compete against top contenders. He won the fight via unanimous decision and was in control for a hefty portion of it. But Chimaev is not the second coming of Jon Jones. His holes were exposed by Burns, and a fight against Covington will be an entirely different puzzle to solve. This is an elite opponent, one Chimaev cannot simply steamroll.

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Kamaru Usman is the top welterweight in the world. Not far behind him is Covington, who possesses a rare combination of wrestling and power. Cardio is also a distinct advantage for Covington. Chimaev will need to evolve in the cage to defeat top-five opponents, and there is no better test for him than Covington.

This would also be a significant fight for Covington. Having already lost twice to Usman, he is in an odd position – likely better than everyone else in the division, but not near the top of the list for a third title shot. After out-classing Jorge Masvidal in the cage, Covington called out Dustin Poirier for a fight. So far, Poirier has no interest whatsoever in that fight, which is a weak look for Covington.

A win against the 27-year-old Chimaev would be a positive outlier for Covington. The last four victories for Covington, which date back to October of 2017, have all been against older opponents. Demian Maia (39 at the time), Rafael dos Anjos (33), Robbie Lawler (37), Tyron Woodley (38), and Masvidal (37) comprise that list–clearly, there was no rising force quite like Chimaev. If Covington wins this fight, it would be hard to argue he is not deserving of another title shot.

I'd favor Covington, slightly, against Chimaev. If it happens, it would be a fight critical in determining the top contender in the division.

The Pick 'Em Section:

Here are my picks for the UFC on ESPN 34 main event and Bellator 277:

UFC on ESPN 34 welterweight main event: Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad

Pick: Belal Muhammad

Bellator 277 featherweight title bout: AJ McKee (c) vs. Patrício Pitbul

Pick: AJ McKee

Bellator 277 light heavyweight title bout: Vadim Nemkov (c) vs. Corey Anderson

Pick: Vadim Nemkov

Bellator 277 featherweight bout: Aaron Pico vs. Adli Edwards

Pick: Adli Edwards

Bellator 277 light heavyweight bout: Rafael Carvalho vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov

Pick: Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov

Last week: 4-1

2022 record: 48-17

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.