Jessica Andrade knocked out Rose Namajunas in shocking fashion to claim the strawweight crown at UFC 237.
Fighting in front of a partisan home crowd in Rio, the Brazilian weathered an early storm to end the night with a devastating slam that took Namajunas’ consciousness, and crown.
The American had dominated to that point, using her height advantage to pick off the smaller Andrade at will.
Thug Rose was slick in both movement and striking, opening up her opponent within the first two minutes with sharp, crisp strikes to the left eye area.
For seven minutes, it was a masterclass.
Then Andrade struck. Working in the clinch, close to the fence, she lifted her foe to shoulder level before unleashing a blood-curdling slam that bounced the champion’s head off the canvas. The follow-up shots were immaterial.
Andrade moves to 20-6, while Namajunas slips to 8-4.
Elsewhere on the card, it was not a night for legends, as Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Jose Aldo all fell to defeats.
“I ain’t got a clue why, but I think I’d kill the man. His time will come,” Leon Edwards says as the coffee on the table cools, and his mind heats up.
The Briton, on home soil, was fresh from defeating heralded grappler Gunnar Nelson on points using his own game in the co-main event slot at UFC London.
Masvidal, an underdog with bite, had just flatlined Darren Till in the second round of the following fight.
As is natural in the hyper-speed world of combat sports, the conversation immediately turned to what was next for the two fighters targeting 170lbs champion Kamaru Usman.
No one expected a new storyline to emerge so soon, though.
“We were both doing media backstage after the fight. As I was walking past, he kept staring at me so I said ‘let’s fight in July’,” Edwards tells Sport360° as he enjoys a well-earned break with his family in Dubai ahead of holding his seminar at TK MMA & Fitness.
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“He said ‘what did you say?’ and I said ‘we’ll fight in July’. As I was walking past he walked over with his hands behind his back.
“As soon as he got close, he threw shots, security grabbed me, grabbed him and that was it really. They moved his hotel and nothing else happened.
“But then he did interviews afterwards and just completely lied about it. He said I came up like this [hands in guard position] but who does that?! He said that’s why he threw the shots and blah, blah, blah, but like I said his time will come.”
Not as soon as you may think. Despite the obvious narrative, the media and fan furore over the incident plus the legitimacy of a contest without the backstage chaos –
Edwards is riding the second-best win streak in the division and has not lost since dropping a decision to Usman in late 2015 – the promotion opted for a different, slightly perplexing route.
Masvidal is slated to fight Ben Askren at UFC 239 in July, a decision the promotion’s president declared made sense from a rankings perspective. But that in itself is odd, because, well, the rankings are odd.
Despite seven consecutive victories, including back-to-back wins over household names Donald Cerrone and Nelson, Edwards sits at No11 – he dropped two places after his last victory.
“I don’t know who does these rankings, but they’re more about popularity,” the fighting pride of Birmingham explains.
“Look at Masvidal. He was on a two-fight losing streak, he beat Darren Till and now he’s number four or something.
“Ben Askren, he came in and had one fight, he’s now number five.
“To me, the rankings make no sense.
“I thought they would phone me Monday morning and organise the fight. All the fans wanted it, all the media wanted it and I wanted it.
“I think they offered it to Masvidal and he said he didn’t fight me.
“That’s what he said. My management team reached out to try and organise it. They gave him a choice between me or Ben. He chose Ben.”
Was it a decision based on fighting the lesser of two evils?
“He knows in a fight with me, I am better than him wherever the fight goes, striking, grappling, on the ground, wherever the fight goes, I’ll be the better and bigger man.
“He knew it wouldn’t go his way so that’s why he chose Ben.”
For now, Edwards must turn his attention to another opponent with the 27-year-old earmarking a July return to the Octagon against someone “highly-ranked or a big name like Anthony Pettis” before earning a shot at the belt late in the year.
But while the rankings are not a fair reflection of Edwards’ compelling reality within the UFC’s most talent-rich division, there is one title he believes is firmly in his grasp – the UK’s No1 MMA fighter.
“I’ve been saying this for a while now and they were trying to push Till to say he’s the number one,” Edwards says.
“That was actually the plan for UFC London, to settle it and see who is number one, me or him.
“For some reason, they went Masvidal and Till, but after his back-to-back losses, I feel I’m number one. I’m the one fighting these guys and winning.”
He adds: “I think he should move up to middleweight but it would be a huge fight. I would love to have that fight in my hometown, Birmingham.
“To come back to the UK and headline in Birmingham with Till, that would be good.
“But now my focus is on the title shot. I’m not really focusing on Till at the moment, especially after straight losses.”
Born in Jamaica before moving to the UK as a child, Edwards’ story is one to be celebrated, both at home and abroad.
A troublesome teenager, his mum sought to channel the energy of both he and his brother, Fabian, into something positive.
That path took the brothers into MMA and younger sibling Fabian is amassing an impressive career of his own under the Bellator banner where he is 6-0.
One dream, which sits alongside UFC gold, is for the brothers to fight on the same night.
“How good would that be? To be fair, for him to be a world champion in Bellator and me a UFC champ, that would be good as well,” a beaming Edwards explains.
“But I feel his dream is to be in the UFC and I think after this contract with Bellator, he should try to make the move.
“To have two brothers from Birmingham in the UFC, I don’t think it’s ever been done from the UK. It would be madness.”
Edwards’ ambition mirrors that of another English star with Jamaican heritage, Raheem Sterling.
The Manchester City and England winger has emerged as a leader in the fight against racism as division and hate spreads throughout the UK and beyond.
“He is 100 percent an inspirational figure,” Edwards says. “I follow him and we’ve got some mutual friends, but fair play to him for what he’s doing for football.
“That’s one of my things as well, to motivate the youth. There’s a lot of knife crime in the UK, it’s becoming a huge problem, and the area I grew up in, there’s a big gang culture. That’s my aim, like his, to bring young people in off the streets and into MMA and show them a positive way to do things.”
So you want to be an Ultimate Fighter? The answer doesn’t actually need to be yes, but if you’re a Mixed Martial Arts fan, use the sport as a mechanism for fitness or actually compete in MMA, then there is a real treat on Wednesday, April 10, at 19:00.
Britain’s Leon Edwards, who is riding a seven-fight win streak following a deeply impressive victory over Gunnar Nelson last month, will host the MMA workshop with the opportunity to train and pick the brain of a future UFC champ.
The seminar, costing just Dh100, is open to all levels and the 27-year-old can’t wait to meet plus train with fighters and fans alike on Wednesday.
“Dubai is a beautiful place, it’s my first time here to come and experience it with my family. The seminar is booked for Wednesday, 7pm at TK MMA and I’m looking forward to going there to show my skillset,” the Birmingham native said.
“Hopefully it’s a success and we can build a relationship to keep coming out here every year.”
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He added: “I’m not really sure what the level for MMA is like here so I’ll probably just play it by ear, then once I get there I’ll be able to see who has done it before and who hasn’t.
“Jiu-jitsu is huge over here so that’ll be a good field to start in and then build from there. I’m really excited to see what the level is like here, though.”
While people naturally have different reasons for getting involved in MMA, from losing weight to simply acquiring new skills, the sport is widely considered to be one of the best physical forms of fitness.
As it continues to grow and evolve in the UAE, the opportunity to learn first-hand from fighters competing in the highest echelon like Edwards is one not to be missed.
You can purchase your spot directly at TK MMA & Fitness on the day or call 04 452 3388 for more information.
What: MMA workshop with Leon Edwards
Where: TK MMA & Fitness, Media City, Dubai
When: Wednesday, April 10
Contact: To learn more call 044523388 or visit @TKMMA on social media