Leon Edwards retained his welterweight title as he beat challenger Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 by majority decision to extend his unbeaten streak to 12 in his first defence of the title.
Judges scored the trilogy fight at the O2 Arena in London 48-46, 48-46, 47-47 in favour of the Briton, who landed the cleaner blows as their third fight went the distance.
“I knew I could go out there and take his shots,” Edwards said. “Even when he was pressuring, not much happened.”
This was their third meeting, more than seven years after the first fight won by Usman.
Edwards made an encouraging start, connecting with two heavy body kicks in the opening round. The 31-year-old’s greater speed unsettled Usman, but the challenger took Edwards down briefly in round two before both fighters traded some heavy blows.
Usman grappled Edwards to the floor again early in the third and the latter was docked a point for grabbing the fence, which led many to believe the points were tied 28-28 heading into the fourth round.
A similar pattern unfolded in the fourth, which was just as tight, with Edwards looking to keep his distance as Usman tried to get in close.
Edwards evaded two more takedown attempts in the final round and caught Usman with an uppercut, but took a hit to the body as his title defence went down to the wire.
Edwards had ended Usman’s long reign as champion with a kick to the Nigerian’s head and neck in the fifth round in Salt Lake City in August at UFC 278.
“I think I did enough to win the fight,” Usman, 35, told BT Sport after the defeat. “I’m not done.”
He also showed good sportsmanship when talking about Edwards’ win: “I knew it was a close fight. Great game plan. I’ve always said it from the start, I knew I’d see Leon again and I’m not done. I’ll see him again.
“I’ve always given him props for everything he’s been able to accomplish. He’s just like me. It’s in his blood. Much respect, London. You’ve got yourself a great champion and a hell of a guy.”