Is ‘Rocky’ A ‘Dirty Fighter?’

MMA News

Is ‘Rocky’ A ‘Dirty Fighter?’

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

There were at least 13 fouls during the Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman title fight at UFC 286, most of them committed against ‘The Nigerian Nightmare.’

As the old sports saying goes, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

Well, we aren’t about to call Leon Edwards a cheater. But he sure was trying awful hard to beat Kamaru Usman during their third fight at UFC 286.

The Edwards vs. Usman welterweight title fight was full of fouls, both called and uncalled. Referee Herb Dean eventually took a point from Leon Edwards after “Rocky” used a fence grab to stop Usman from taking him down. That didn’t stop Edwards from holding onto his title and beating Usman via majority decision with 48–46, 48–46, and 47–47 scores.

The amount of fouls being committed certainly struck a chord amongst fighters and fans. As the bout progressed, perennial welterweight contender Belal Muhammad called Edwards out for being a ‘dirty fighter.’ Rafael dos Anjos chimed in to say both Usman and Edwards had held his gloves ‘the whole fight’ when he fought them.

So how dirty of a fight was this? YouTube analyst The Weasel broke the fight down in a new video, documenting all of the fouls and how they affected the fight. The total count stands at:

  • 3 glove grabs from Leon Edwards
  • 1 glove grab from Kamaru Usman
  • 5 low blows from Edwards (2 of which the referee called)
  • 2 eye pokes from Leon Edwards (not called)
  • 2 fence grabs from Leon Edwards (one of which resulted in a point deduction)

The glove grabs may just seem like a minor annoyance, but they actually helped Edwards escape from Usman’s control and takedown attempts against the cage. Edwards would trap Usman’s hand with the glove hold and then slide out from the fence, escaping a position that Usman had used in their first two fights to great advantage. Edwards managed it without fouling during the fight as well, but it’s obviously easier when you’ve got a good grip on the cuff of your opponent’s glove.

The low blows were a result of Edwards’ extensive kicking strategy during the fight. They probably knew Usman would be prepared for another kill shot to the noggin and instead focused on blistering inside leg and body kicks. Some of those kicks ended up in-between: right to the groin of “The Nigerian Nightmare.” There was also a knee to the groin against the cage, and a straight soccer punt up the middle in the fourth round.

As for the eye pokes, Edwards started throwing his hands out with fingers extended in the second half of the fight, which we like to call the Jon Jones special. That stops an opponent from being able to step in without having to worry about taking a finger to the eye. That particular technique started picking up in popularity to the point where the rules had to be changed to disallow fighters from extending their fingers outwards … but of course it still happens a lot. Not only was Edwards not warned about extending his fingers, the eye pokes weren’t even noticed.

Last but not least, there were the fence grabs. We won’t spend too much time on this because referee Herb Dean deducted a point from Edwards in the third round after he used the cage to stop a takedown.

All in all, it was a pretty foul-ridden performance by Leon Edwards. For the price of one point being taken away, he got to sap his opponent’s cardio with groin kicks, make him tentative to close distance with eye pokes, and negated Usman’s wrestling with glove and fence grabs. It’s kind of surprising more fighters don’t stack their illegal maneuvers up this way, because it worked really well.

What do you think, Maniacs? Was this just a case of Edwards being a bit sloppy during a single fight? Or was this enough for you to label him a ‘dirty fighter’ like Belal Muhammad did?