MMA Ratings Podcast

July 20, 2019

UFC on ESPN 4: Leon Edwards Looks To Join the Welterweight Elite In San Antonio

By Adam Martin

Leon Edwards might just be the most underrated welterweight in the UFC. The 27-year-old Jamaican-born Brit has a 9-2 record in the Octagon, but when you talk about the top welterweights in the world he's rarely mentioned. However, if he can get by Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of Saturday night's UFC on ESPN 4 card in San Antonio, Texas, he'll join the elite ranks at 170 lbs.

Since 2014, Edwards has quietly moved up the ranks to get this spot against one of the division's best in RDA in the main event of a big ESPN card. After starting his UFC career with a split decision loss to Claudio Silva in his UFC debut, Edwards bounced back with an eight-second KO over veteran Seth Backzynski. He won another fight after that but then lost a decision to future champion Kamaru Usman. That was back in 2015, and Edwards hasn't lost since then.

Since 2015, Edwards has gone a perfect 7-0 inside the Octagon, with notable wins over Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson, and Vicente Luque. But for whatever reason, he hasn't gotten his due yet, and generally is ranked in the tier below Usman, Colby Covington, and Jorge Masvidal. But in many ways, dos Anjos is the gatekeeper to the upper echelon of the UFC welterweight division. So if Edwards wins the fight this weekend, especially if it's an emphatic win, he'll punch his ticket to the division's elite.

It won't be easy, though. Although RDA hasn't achieved the championship levels at welterweight like he did at lightweight, he remains one of the division's most respected and accomplished fighters. Since moving up in weight, RDA is 4-2, but his two losses were decisions to Usman and Covington. In his last fight, he took care of hotshot prospect Kevin Lee in a fight he wasn't expected to win. He's not expected to beat Edwards either, but you can never count RDA out of a fight. He always puts up a good showing, and he's the perfect test for Edwards at this point of his career.

With a win, Edwards would throw his name in the hat to be Usman's next opponent. Right now, it looks like Masvidal is the frontrunner for the title shot after his epic flying knee KO over Ben Askren at UFC 239, but Edwards could make things interesting. The upcoming matchup at UFC on ESPN 5 between Covington and Robbie Lawler also complicates things. Edwards needs to beat RDA and force the UFC to give him a high-profile, title-eliminator matchup his next time out. A loss, though, and he'll be just another guy in the deep and stacked UFC welterweight division. This is a must-win fight for Edwards.

The UFC has been slow to warm up to Leon Edwards, but based on his last couple of bookings the matchmakers clearly like him and are waiting for him to take that next leap in his career. The fight against Cerrone was his first main event, and the hope was that he could become a star there, but the fight largely went unnoticed, as it was on a Fight Pass card in Singapore. This fight against Rafael dos Anjos, however, is on ESPN in prime time. This is Edwards' time to shine. The UFC is giving him all the tools to go out here and be successful, but now it's up to him to prove he's one of the best fighters in the world.

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Leon Edwards

UFC on ESPN 4: Dos Anjos vs. Edwards takes place July 20, 2019 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN 4 Pre-Fight Analysis

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