The Film Room: Leon Edwards

By Kevin Wilson Mar 13, 2019
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Former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion Leon Edwards will climb into the cage for the first time since he took a five-round decision from Donald Cerrone in June, as he meets Gunnar Nelson in the UFC Fight Night 147 co-headliner on Saturday in London. “Rocky” finds himself on a six-fight winning streak and in position to perhaps challenge the welterweight division’s elite.

Edwards provides the material for this edition of The Film Room.

Edwards is one of the more tricky and diverse strikers in the welterweight division, and he is looking to make a name for himself with a win over Nelson. Whether he works on the lead or the counter, Edwards has proven to be effective wherever the fight takes him. On the lead, Edwards likes to throw a simple jab-straight or lead hook-straight down the middle, and his constant feinting and deceptive, range-setting jab allow him to land it with ease. In one sequence against Vincent Luque, he threw two jab-straights that were partially blocked and switched to the lead hook-straight. The lead hook slightly pushed down Luque’s lead hand, allowing the rear straight to land between his guard. This is also known as a hand trap and is commonly used in English and Dutch kickboxing, but it is not seen much in MMA since a high guard is less effective with smaller gloves.

Edwards’ other go-to leading attack is a rear-leg kick to the body that he sets up with a variety of hip, jab and upper-body feints that are reminiscent of Lyoto Machida. These feints throughout the fight allow him to throw the kick with almost no setup or tell, which makes it incredibly hard to see coming and block. It would be nice to see Edwards use these kicks in combinations instead of single strikes, but so far, he has been able to land them with no problem, and his opponents have not been able to see them coming to counter.

Edwards will often walk down opponents with feints, footwork and 1-2s but he sometimes he will play it patiently and look for counters. He possesses a beautiful, slapping counter left hook that he can land in a variety of positions. Against Cerrone, he switched between taking inside and outside angles to set up his counter left hook. Constantly changing the angles of your strikes makes it difficult for the opponent to block and keeps him guessing. Something else to notice about his counter left is how he sets it up similar to Conor McGregor. Edwards will “show him the left” by turning his hips inside in a half-cocked position. This allows him to see how the opponent will react to the left, and with his hips half-cocked, he can obtain the same amount of power in both hands when he decides to throw.

The five-round decision over Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 132 allowed Edwards to show off every aspect of his game. If you have not seen Edwards in action, the fight with “Cowboy” is all you need to watch. Edwards enjoyed some stellar moments in the clinch -- a tactic we had not seen from him previously. Cerrone is one of the best clinch strikers in MMA history, but Edwards managed to routinely land knees to the body in the over-under position.

All fighters are flawed, and Edwards has some glaring holes in his defense that will be exploited as he reaches the higher levels of the 170-pound weight class. His stance is an odd mix of muay Thai and karate, and he seems to constantly switch between the two. Sometimes, he stands with a wide base, upright torso and low hands like a karateka, while at other times, he stands with a shorter stance with his hands high like a Nak Muay. Both of these stances leave him open for strikes up the middle, including uppercuts and front kicks.

Edwards is predominantly a striker, but he has won fights on the ground before. Against Peter Sobotta, most observers thought Edwards had the clear advantage in the striking exchanges and would spend the fight defending takedowns and picking apart Sobotta on the feet. Instead, he initiated the grappling and dominated the submission specialist on the ground for much of the bout. At only 26, Edwards is already well-versed in every aspect of MMA and has emerged as a sleeper contender in the welterweight division. Advertisement


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