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In the final stretch of his reign as welterweight champion, Usman was on the verge of another unanimous decision victory at UFC 278. He struggled with Edwards in the opening round, then imposed his will in the second, third and fourth. That was the narrative again in the fifth, when Usman dictated the pace for the first four minutes. With only a minute remaining before Edwards's title aspirations vanished, the star-studded broadcast team did their best to provide Edwards with a dignified obituary.
"He may have resigned himself to losing a decision," said UFC analyst Joe Rogan, who also happens to moonlight as one of the world's most popular podcast hosts.
Rogan, Cormier, and Thomas – a cage-side analyst with insight from an extraordinary career of his own – were all speaking the truth. Everyone could see this fight was over. Yet that is when play-by-play man Jon Anik added a piece of poetry to the broadcast about Edwards when he interjected, "But that is not the cloth from which he is cut."
Within seconds, euphoria filled the broadcast. Edwards made himself famous by landing a walk-off kick that, one day, may be engraved on his career tombstone. Despite Usman being only 54 seconds away from a 20-fight winning streak and tying Anderson Silva's streak of 16 straight UFC wins, his world turned upside down when Edwards knocked him out with that left high kick.
The moment was captured in exquisite fashion by Anik.
"It's odd to be on this side of the stage," Anik says. "I'd rather take the bullet than the flowers, but I am very grateful for everyone's kind words. I've tried to maximize my opportunities as best I can. I pride myself on putting in the work, but it's sort of weird when you put a lot of work into something, and then something climatic like that happens (and I'm getting the attention).
"I did the post-fight show, got back to my hotel room and opened social media, and only then did I realize that this particular call resonated with people to the extent to which it did."
There is no better broadcaster in mixed martial arts than Anik. His brilliance was on full display this past Saturday at UFC 278, particularly during his call of the main event as he foreshadowed one of the greatest knockouts in the history of the sport.
"It's humbling and it's flattering," Anik says. "When I think over the past 11 years, it's as memorable as any championship moment. Whether it's Brandon Moreno or Jan Blachowicz breaking through and having their moment as champion, I'm doing everything I can to make that as special as I can in an organic way.
"This one is unique. I was thinking about the narrative of the fight, and Leon Edwards certainly isn't the guy who would take any measure of solace in a moral victory. And that's why I said, that's not the cloth from which he was cut – and the knockout happened shortly thereafter."
Completely enamored with his profession, Anik's calls are on a different level. His preparation plays an integral role in his effectiveness, and he pours himself into the research that ends up in tidy penmanship on his fighter notecards. We have reached the point where it is noticeable when Anik is not calling a fight, and few broadcasters across sports rival his knowledge, passion or respect for the audience. He is also part of one of the most compelling three-man broadcast booths, making magic on the air with Rogan and Cormier.
"Those are two legends, and I get to work with them," Anik says. "We've struck a chord, and it is rooted in mutual respect and friendship. The three of us very much look forward to a time when we can do Rogan's podcast, and it looks like the stars might actually align for that this year. At the end of the day, Joe says we are professional fans at our core. Hopefully that translates.
"We're trying to be as listenable as we can for eight hours when you're judged on every utterance. The fact that the broadcast resonates and that we're enhancing it to any degree means a lot. We're looking to keep that same momentum into 279, as you're only as good as your last show."
Anik's call from 278 deserves to be remembered as an all-time great piece of sports commentary. Delivering a better line will be a tall task, but Anik's mastery as a storyteller is always worth the listen. He never distracts or steals the spotlight, always placing the emphasis on the fighters.
"The way I was groomed by Craig Borsari and Zach Candito and others helped me when I got the No. 1 job in 2017," Anik says. "To be able to impart my style on these moments means a lot to me. There's a certain obligation behind that. I want it to mean something, and that's why I am putting in the work to be as ready and prepared as possible. So when I feel that love, it's very special for me and my family.
"And when you think about that knockout kick from Edwards, moments like that are why this sport has kind of ruined others for me. That's why this is the greatest sport in the world."
Big weekend ahead for ONE Championship
ONE Championship has its first chance for a breakout moment this weekend.
ONE makes its Prime Video debut on Friday with "ONE on Prime Video 1: Moraes vs. Johnson II." The event takes place in Singapore, but airs at 10 p.m. ET. There are a host of fighters that can make the first show their own, with the most notable candidates Adriano Moraes, Demetrious Johnson and Rodtang Jitmuangnon.
After an iconic run in UFC as flyweight champion, Johnson ripped off victories in his first three ONE fights. That ended when Moraes knocked him out in April 2021, taking the ONE flyweight title in the process. This is Johnson's chance to even the score and regain the belt, but this is an extraordinarily tough matchup. Moraes is longer, and, at this stage in his career, more versatile, and he looked outstanding in his first title defense in March against Yuya Wakamatsu. Johnson can still play an important role for ONE, but it is unlikely to be as champ.
Another breakout performance could come from Rodtang. Only 25 and overflowing with charisma, he is fluent in the universal language of fighting. He has had remarkable success in muay Thai, winning 268 bouts. He is coming off a muay Thai-MMA showcase, where he lost by submission to Johnson in March at "ONE Championship: X." His winning ways should resume Friday, and hopefully in spectacular fashion.
This is ONE's chance for a memorable first impression on Amazon Prime Video Sports. If it goes well, it means even more opportunities for fighters.
The Pick 'Em Section:
ONE flyweight title bout: Adriano Moraes (c) vs. Demetrious Johnson
- Pick: Adriano Moraes
ONE bantamweight muay Thai title bout: Nong-O Gaiyanghadao (c) vs. Liam Harrison
- Pick: Nong-O Gaiyanghadao
ONE flyweight muay Thai bout: Rodtang Jitmuangnon vs. Savvas Michael
- Pick: Rodtang Jitmuangnon
ONE heavyweight bout: Marcus Almeida vs. Kirill Grishenko
- Pick: Marcus Almeida
ONE heavyweight bout: Amir Aliakbari vs. Mauro Cerilli
- Pick: Amir Aliakbari
Last week: 2–3
2022 record: 93–57
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.