Leon Edwards stops Kamaru Usman late in the 5th to win the welterweight title – San Bernardino Sun
Leon Edwards stops Kamaru Usman late in the 5th to win the welterweight title – San Bernardino Sun

Leon Edwards stops Kamaru Usman late in the 5th to win the welterweight title – San Bernardino Sun

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By JOHN COON

SALT LAKE CITY — Leon Edwards dropped Kamaru Usman with a head and neck kick in the final minute of the fifth round to win the welterweight championship at UFC 278 on Saturday night.

Usman appeared to be seconds away from a UFC record-tying 16th straight victory before Edwards came up with the stunning finish in time.

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Edwards (20-3) is undefeated since his previous bout with Usman in 2015. The British fighter climbed to No. 2 in the welterweight division while amassing nine wins in that span leading up to the title fight.

Usman (20-2) lived up to his reputation as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world for much of the bout. The Nigerian withstood a delay in the first round and turned the game around with a delay in the second round. Usman controlled the position during the third round, scoring two more takedowns. Usman appeared on his way to a unanimous decision victory before Edwards rallied in the final round.

Paulo Costa defeated former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in a unanimous decision in the middleweight bout. Costa (14-2) has lost two straight coming into Salt Lake City.

Rockhold (16-5) returned to the Octagon for the first time in three years and his rust showed as the match progressed. Costa more than doubled Rockhold in total strikes in the first two rounds and finally left him with a bloody mouth in the third round. Rockhold wiped his own blood on Costa’s face in the final seconds of the round as both fighters were locked in a stalemate on the ground.

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Merab Dvalishvili prevailed over former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo in a unanimous decision in the men’s bout for his eighth straight victory. Aldo (31-8) had vocal support from the crowd but wore down under relentless pressure from Dvalishvili (15-4) in three rounds.

Lucie Pudilova defeated Wu Yanan in the women’s bantamweight main event for her third straight win. Yanan suffered his fourth straight defeat. Pudilova scored a TKO at 4:04 of the second round after dragging Yanan to the canvas and repeatedly elbowing her from a back mount.

Tyson Pedro earned a TKO over Harry Hunsucker at 1:05 of the first round in the light heavyweight bout to round out the main card bouts.

Marcin Tybura handed Alexandr Romanov his first UFC career loss in the heavyweight bout, winning via majority decision. Romanov (18-1) hit Tybura (23-7) several times in the first round, but ran out of steam in the next two rounds.

Sean Woodson and Luis Saldana fought to a rare draw in a featherweight preliminary match earlier in the evening. It was the first draw of their careers for both fighters.