Kamaru Usman (Mike Sloan/Sherdog)

UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards 2 Preview and Predictions

On Saturday, Aug. 20, Nigerian born champion Kamaru Usman will meet British standout Leon Edwards in a rematch that is nearly seven years in the making. Only, this time, it will be for the UFC welterweight title. The promotion will be making it’s second visit to Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The main event will be plenty entertaining with both men looking to stake their claim at the top of the mountain at UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards II.

Usman will be in search of a second victory over Edwards, making it three straight rematch victories for the “Nigerian Nightmare”. His last two fights were rematch wins over Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal, which extended his title-defense run to six. Edwards, on the other hand, is looking to avenge his last loss, which was to Usman, and add to his ten-fight unbeaten streak.

In the co-main event, former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold returns from a three-year layoff to begin his quest to once again wear gold. His opponent in this return fight is former title challenger and knockout artist Paulo Costa. Costa needs to pick up a win in this contest to remain relevant in the title picture at 185 pounds after suffering back-to-back losses. A win is paramount for both fighters, and a loss could mark a decisive end to their respective times near the top of the middleweight division.


Another bout with title implications takes place on the main card as former long-reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo meets Merab Dvalishvili. Aldo is coming into this bout hot on the heels of a three-fight winning streak that saw him defeat notable contenders Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz, and, most recently, Rob Font. Dvalishvili has a legitimate argument that he should be undefeated inside the UFC, as his first two fights ended in controversial losses to Frankie Saenz and Ricky Simon. Since those two setbacks, “The Machine” has rattled off seven wins in a row and has shown an unmatchable cardiovascular pace in all of those bouts.

The UFC 278 early prelims air live on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the televised prelims on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET. From there, the action shifts to ESPN+ pay-per-view for the main card at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action this week as they go Toe-to-Toe.

Kamaru Usman won his first meeting with Leon Edwards by unanimous decision; will the result be the same in the rematch?

Sumian: In all seriousness, how does Leon Edwards win? Is he a better striker at this point in both combatants’ careers? No. Is he a better wrestler? No. Can he knock Usman out? No. Unless Edwards can fight a prolific five-round fight, which involves him edging out a boring unanimous decision, there is simply no avenue for the challenger to defeat one of the most talented and dominant fighters in UFC welterweight history.

Edwards is a talented fighter, who is capable of dominantly defeating many of the top welterweights on the planet. He is good at putting together a well-thought-out game plan and masterfully executing over several rounds. His last three fights were against Rafael dos Anjos, Belal Muhammad, and Nate Diaz. None of these opponents are of the talent or level that Usman is. This will be a huge step-up in competition for the challenger and the gap in talent will be obvious come Saturday night.

The only possible concern for Usman is his hand surgery. However, Usman was out for as long as he was so he could heal and go through physical therapy properly. This will be another showcase win for the champion when he finishes Edwards in the second or third round by TKO. The UFC is praying for Khamzat Chimaev to defeat Nate Diaz in dominant fashion, so they can set up what is perhaps the most intriguing matchup at 170 pounds today.

Petela: Leon Edwards wins this fight by doing two things successfully, staying off the mat and avoiding the devastating power of Kamaru Usman. Both of those things are certainly easier said than done. There is no doubt that the best version of Kamaru Usman beats the best version of Leon Edwards 99 out of 100 times. The question in this fight isn’t whether this fight will be that one time, but rather is Kamaru Usman still the best version of himself.

Nothing in the lead up to this fight has shown that Kamaru Usman is slowing down. His last two fights have been rematches, and he came away victorious in both of them. With as much tape on Usman as there is, and the quality of his opponents, it speaks volumes that he has come out on top in those rematches. His coaches have successfully game-planned against what the opponents would see as the best route to victory, and that is no easy task.

In the fight game, when it goes, sometimes it goes fast. With no logic other than it has to happen eventually, that is why Leon Edwards will come away with the welterweight title this weekend. Usman will look visibly slower than he has during his incredible title reign. Quick punching combinations by Edwards early will force Usman to exert a lot of energy trying to get the fight to the mat. After a few failed takedown attempts, Usman will start looking to end the fight with his otherworldly punching power, but the strikes will be coming slow and labored. This trend will only continue into the championship rounds and Leon Edwards will walk away with a surprise decision victory and emerge as the new welterweight champion.

It has been just over three years since we last saw Luke Rockhold in action; how will the former middleweight champion look in his return against Paulo Costa?

Petela: The last person that Luke Rockhold beat in a mixed martial arts contest was David Branch. That fight was back in 2017, and, since then, he has fought twice and gotten stopped twice in violent fashion. There is always a question mark around Paulo Costa, because he has shown to have some decision-making issues both pre-fight and also during his fights. However, even that won’t matter in this fight. It will only take one flush connection from Costa to turn Rockhold’s lights out. The only thing that “The Eraser” has to be wary of is the left high kick of Rockhold, but, after all this time away and at 37 years old, it is unlikely that even that devastating kick will have the same speed and snap on it that it used to for the former champion. Unfortunately for Rockhold, this one is going to end ugly and there won’t be a doubt that it is time for him to hang up the gloves for good.

Sumian: The fact that this fight is the co-main event is puzzling to say the least. The co-main spotlight certainly belongs to Jose Aldo and Merab Dvalishvili. Nevertheless, Costa and Rockhold are big names among both hardcore fans and casuals. At this point in his career, it is hard to imagine the 37-year-old Rockhold mounting a comeback to middleweight contendership. He has suffered three brutal knockout defeats in his last four UFC fights, and his chin is likely not what it used to be. As long Costa does not partake in any pre-fight shenanigans that affect his mindset or weight cut, he should be able to finish Rockhold in brutal fashion. Costa by second-round knockout.

Who’s the biggest winner at UFC 278?

Sumian: Alexander Romanov. Romanov is quietly the most notable heavyweight prospect currently in the UFC. He has compiled an undefeated 16-0 record and is only getting better with every UFC performance. He will make a huge statement by finish Marcin Tybura and likely find himself in the top 10 at heavyweight next week.

Petela: Marlon Vera. Stay with me here. His huge win over Dominick Cruz has “Chito” in a great spot to fight for the bantamweight title in his next contest. However, as good as Merab Dvalishvili is going to look against Jose Aldo, the Georgian will certainly vault to the top of the list as next in line to take on the winner of Aljamain Sterling and T.J. Dillashaw. Assuming Sterling retains his title, it is unlikely the good friends and teammates would want to throw down, even with a title at stake. That will make Vera the next logical choice for a title shot, and make him the biggest winner on a fight card where he isn’t even fighting.

Who’s the biggest loser at UFC 278?

Petela: Jose Aldo. The former featherweight king is currently ranked third at bantamweight and is firmly in the title picture after putting together a three-fight winning streak on the heels of his loss in the vacant-title bout to Petr Yan. However, a loss against Merab Dvalishvili will put a halt to any of his title aspirations, and, with new contenders like Marlon Vera and Sean O’Malley emerging rapidly, it might be too late for the King of Rio to make his way back to a title shot after falling short against Dvalishvili.

Sumian: Luke Rockhold. Another brutal loss is likely going to force the UFC to advise him to stop fighting. Rockhold has not fought for three years and is not doing himself any favors taking on Costa. This will be a rough night for the former champion, and, hopefully, he makes the best decision for his well being.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Sumian: Wu Yanan is surely on her way out if she suffers a fourth straight loss at UFC 278. She has compiled a 1-4 record since joining a UFC, and another loss will likely send her out the door.

Petela: Harry Hunsucker. He is 0-2 since joining the UFC and moving down to light heavyweight is a last-ditch effort to keep a roster spot. Unfortunately, he meets Tyson Pedro, and the night is not going to go well for Hunsucker. He will get finished for the third straight time and find that it is time to head back to the regional scene for a bit to retool before trying to take a crack at the best fighters on the planet.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldana. This featherweight tilt should be fun. Woodson is 3-1 in the UFC and is a very tricky grappler. Saldana is a proven finisher with nine knockouts and five submissions on his record. This should be full of fun scrambles and extended striking engagements and isn’t a fight that will likely go the distance.

Sumian: The lightweight clash between Leonardo Santos and Jared Gordon should prove to be a great way to close the preliminary card. Both are scrappy lightweights capable of putting on a good show. Expect a fan friendly three round war that should get fans ready for the main card.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Sumian: Alexander Romanov. He will finish Tybura by knockout or submission. Romanov is a problem at heavyweight and will only get better with every visit to the octagon.

Petela: I’m going the other way on that one. This will be a huge night for Marcin Tybura, whose only blemish in his last six fights is a decision loss to Alexander Volkov. Tybura will avoid the thunderous grappling of Romanov early and wear him down in the second frame until he uncorks a big right hand that closes the show and gives Romanov his first career loss.

Pair this card with…

Petela: A peanut butter and pickles sandwich. It is about the most surprising success story outside of Leon Edwards defeating Kamaru Usman by decision in the main event. Enjoy those two surprises together and you can thank me later.

Sumian: This fight takes place in Salt Lake City, so for those going to the event, heading to Zion National Park while in the area is a must. Those enjoying the fights at home should know this is a main-card-heavy lineup with not much for the casual fan on the prelims. Thus, get the crew together around 6:30 p.m. PT to enjoy a main card that should deliver some exciting action. Pair the fights and good company with some wings and call it a night.

Fight Sumian’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+ pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
WW Championship: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards Usman Edwards
MW: Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold Costa Costa
BW: Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili Aldo Dvalishvili
HW: Marcin Tybura vs. Alexandr Romanov Romanov Tybura
LHW: Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker Pedro Pedro
Preliminary Card (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)
LW: Leonardo Santos vs. Jared Gordon Gordon Gordon
Women’s BW: Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova Pudilova Pudilova
FW: Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldana Woodson Woodson
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET)
WW: AJ Fletcher vs. Ange Loosa Fletcher Fletcher
FlyW: Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo Figueiredo Figueiredo
BW: Aoriqileng vs. Jay Perrin Perrin Aoriqieng
FlyW: Daniel Da Silva vs. Victor Altamirano Da Silva Semelsberger