Leon Edwards dominated former UFC champion Rafael Dos Anjos on Saturday in San Antonio for all five rounds, winning by unanimous decision. After the bout, he called out current UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman -- the last opponent to beat Edwards -- and Jorge Masvidal, whom he has bad blood with stemming from a backstage altercation earlier this year. Edwards has won eight fights in a row and enters a crowded group at the top of the division vying for a title shot.
Is Edwards ready? Should be instead settle his beef with Masvidal? Our MMA contributors -- Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim -- answer those questions and more from UFC Fight Night in San Antonio.
How impressed were you with Edwards' performance?
Helwani: I was very impressed. Rafael dos Anjos is a tough out, just ask Kevin Lee. And Leon Edwards thoroughly dominated that fight. It was never in doubt. So that's now eight in a row for "Rocky." All he does is win impressively. Will he now get the respect he deserves? Probably not. He's just not flashy enough, and that's unfortunate. I was happy to see him call out Jorge Masvidal afterward. That's the most attainable fight for him, especially if Colby Covington wins next month.
Okamoto: I don't think I could be any more impressed, honestly. Finishes are great, and they go a long way in terms of climbing the ranks and exciting a fan base. But dominant five-round decisions can actually tell you a lot more about a fighter -- and such is the case here. This was such a big fight for Edwards. His claims about struggling to book big fights are not made up. He has taken the long route to title contention, and it could have easily gotten much longer with a loss Saturday. He was calm, composed and extremely well-rounded in this win. He beat dos Anjos everywhere, and shut him out on one of the three scorecards. This was a 10 out of 10 performance by Edwards.
Wagenheim: Edwards made it look easy at times during his five rounds with dos Anjos, and at other times he made things difficult. That is in part because of RDA's resilience, and it also was a byproduct of Edwards' patience -- a virtue when in with a man you don't just rush, but a hindrance when your career's progress is contingent on factors beyond wins and losses.
This was the eighth win in a row for Edwards, a streak that's bettered only by champion Kamaru Usman's current run of 10 straight. And Edwards just won a fight in which he appeared to be in control of a very tough ex-champ for practically the entire 25 minutes. But moving up in the welterweight hierarchy is easier when one is scoring five-second KOs or putting on a pro wrestling act. Fighters who simply fight aren't leapfrogging anyone in the entertainment era of MMA, and that's a shame.
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Greg Hardy says trying to get him to the ground "comes with consequences" after a first-round win over Juan Adams. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Did we learn anything at all about Greg Hardy?
Helwani: Not really. The fight was too quick. I will say, though, I was curious to see if Hardy would fight recklessly and emotionally, considering all that Juan Adams said leading up to the bout, but that didn't appear to be the case, even though he did seem more fired up than usual in his postfight interview. I would have liked to see more out of both fighters, but alas. I know Adams wasn't happy with the call, but it's hard to argue against it when you take that many consecutive shots to the head. I suspect he'll be thinking about his decision to hold on to that leg for a long time.
Okamoto: Adams hasn't wowed the MMA world with his wrestling, but the fact is, he's a former Division I collegiate wrestler. One of the biggest questions about Hardy has been whether he'd stand a chance when someone actually tried to take him down. He hasn't had to showcase a ton of defensive wrestling thus far in his career. Well, Adams definitely tried to take him down Saturday, and it ended very, very poorly for him. That alone doesn't prove Hardy can wrestle, but it's a good sign for him. It was a test, and he passed. He also continues to show he's fine performing under the spotlight. With all the talk Adams did, this fight carried the potential of a different emotional challenge for Hardy. And he rose to it just fine.
Wagenheim: Let me first address Adams briefly, so I can put him out of my mind after this night is done. Adams asked for Hardy, and Adams got Hardy -- for all of 45 seconds, much of it spent on his knees with his arms wrapped around Hardy's leg rather than defending himself against a barrage of winging right hands to the side of the head. You call out someone for months with energy and venom, and that's the best you can offer?
The rap against Hardy -- aside from his personal history -- had been that he was being placed near the top of the bill in fights with guys not of UFC caliber. This time, things were supposed to be different, since Adams was his first opponent with a UFC win and Las Vegas saw the bout as pick 'em. By that measure, Hardy did fine. He defended a takedown and he unleashed the finishing blows.
But we can't go on like this. Hardy's fights are not worthy of the headlines he makes every time he fights. His story needs to move to a new chapter. If he's going to remain near the top of the marquee, he needs to earn his keep up there. I'm not suggesting he be fed to a top-10 heavyweight, but no more slow build, please. Put the man in a fight.
How far can Ray Borg go now that he's back on track?
Helwani: First of all, I must say I was very happy to see Borg win. Considering all he has been through both personally and professionally since his last victory two and a half years ago, that was great to see. Now, as for his future, I'd suggest his best bet would be to consider flyweight again. The division seems to have new life and Demetrious Johnson is gone. I know he has had issues making 125 in the past, but I see a much quicker path to a potential title shot there than I do at 135 for him.
Okamoto: First off, it's worth reminding ourselves Borg is only 25. He already has been through so much in his career, it feels as if he should be 30. He has a lot of time left in this sport. That said, I don't know how I feel about his ceiling at bantamweight. I'm happy he's not at 125 anymore because it was pretty obvious that needed to stop. Borg missed weight as a flyweight twice, and has even missed at bantamweight as well. I don't want to see him move back down ... but I also acknowledge he faces an uphill battle at 135 pounds.
There are some very tough stylistic matchups for Borg at this higher weight -- guys who aren't as easy to out-grapple and carry a lot of power on the feet. I think Borg can be a contender at 135, just as he was at 125, but I think the cards will have to really fall right for him to win a championship.
Wagenheim: One of the most beautiful moments of the night was when Borg, overcome by emotion during his postfight interview in the Octagon, dedicated his win "to all you NICU parents." His wife was in the crowd smiling and holding their young son, Anthony, who spent much of his infant life in a neonatal intensive care unit because of two brain surgeries. Only the coldest of hearts could have not been moved by that scene.
Borg deserved his moment after a dominant victory, which ended a two-fight losing streak and made him look like someone who suddenly has a future of possibilities. He's the latest fighter who, after struggling to conquer the scale in a lower-weight division, looked stronger and not at all outsized in a new division. This was his second bout at bantamweight, and the challenges at 135 pounds will only get stiffer. Who knows if Borg can make a run up the rankings? But he sure looks as if he has found a home.
Harris: Left-handed TKO vs. Oleinik was 'a monster!'
Walt Harris says his TKO victory vs. Aleksei Oleinik feels "amazing," and the left-handed jab he landed is "just different" than anyone else's. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Did the record-setting early run of decisions derail the card, or did the late KOs save the night?
Helwani: It's not how you start, it's how you finish, right? If the card would have started with quick knockouts and ended with a slew of decisions that would have been way worse. But this was a tale of two cards, and since it ended with an entertaining main card, all was not lost.
Okamoto: The nine early decisions did not ruin the card for me, but I wasn't a paying customer. I mean, if we're being honest, the prelims Saturday were brutal. Brutal. It's not just that the fights went the distance. Great fights go the distance all the time. There were just some really slow fights mixed into the prelims. It's not the first or last time that will happen. And I have to say, I tend to forget about bad prelims, when the main card delivers (which, I thought this one did for the most part). But again, my perspective is probably a little different from the fans who paid to be there. If I had attended Saturday as one of them, I probably would have gone home a little disappointed.
Wagenheim: I'm not a "just bang, bros" guy. I can appreciate a tactical fight that's light on snarling violence. But Saturday's event, with its record nine decisions to start the show, did not have much going for it until Dan Hooker broke the spell with his knockout of James Vick. And even that didn't send the San Antonio crowd into a frenzy, since Vick is the local product, not Hooker.
Everything seemed off, really. The one toe-to-toe fight was Andrei Arlovski vs. Ben Rothwell, but they're heavyweights aged 40 and 37, so despite their willful engagement, it was a slow three rounds. Ray Borg had a dominant performance, and a finish there would have been the icing. But too many fights turned into circle dances and staring contests. Three quick KOs in a row got the blood circulating, and the main event was a decision but by no means a snoozer. So all's well that ends well?
Is it time for James Vick to move up to welterweight?
Helwani: Absolutely. Vick has never missed weight as a lightweight, but at 6-foot-3, he is one of the tallest lightweights in the history of the UFC. After losing three in a row, I'd like to see him try 170. Not having to cut those extra 15 pounds could work wonders for Vick, who I still believe can right this ship.
Okamoto: He needs to do a better job of defending himself. Does he need to move up in weight, as well? Maybe. It's no secret Vick cuts a lot of weight to be at 155. Maybe it has a negative impact on his ability to take a punch. It probably has a negative impact on his health in general, right? But if you watched the broadcast, you even heard commentator Dominick Cruz mention this. Vick's hands are very low, defensively.
We've seen enough of it at this point: Especially against elite competition, Vick eats too many big shots. He has four losses on his professional record, and three of those are knockouts inside the first round. Vick needs to tuck his chin and protect himself better. If he doesn't, he'll struggle -- regardless of what division he's competing in.
Wagenheim: At 6-3, Vick always has looked big for a lightweight. But who could question his choice of weight division as he was rolling along with a 13-1 record? He was rising in the 155-pound hierarchy, and he was looking like a tall order for anyone in the top 10 to handle. But then he was knocked out by Justin Gaethje last August. Then came a loss to Paul Felder in February. And now comes another KO defeat, this time by Dan Hooker.
This would be a good time for Vick to reinvent himself as a welterweight. It's not that he cannot make the lightweight limit -- he has never missed weight -- but rather that he simply needs a clean slate. At 170 pounds, he might even find himself newly energized. Fighting bigger guys comes with its perils (ask former big middleweight Luke Rockhold), but it also can bring opportunity (ask Michael Chiesa). Vick needs to change the direction of his career, and a move up might just steer him out of this skid he's on.