LAS VEGAS – UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman knows Leon Edwards will be a different fighter from when they first fought, but so will he.

Edwards (19-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) hasn’t lost since dropping a unanimous decision to Usman in 2015. Since then, the 30-year-old British standout has gone unbeaten in 10 fights, most recently scoring a dominant win over Nate Diaz last year at UFC 263.

Edwards finally will get his long-awaited title shot against Usman, who has looked impressive in his five title defenses. Not only has Usman been able to use his wrestling prowess to control fights, but he has become a legitimate knockout threat, taking out the likes of Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal.

“Leon is much sharper with his striking,” Usman said during a Q&A session at T-Mobile Arena. “He has excellent striking. I mean, let’s just be honest. We saw it in the fight with Nate Diaz. He tortured him for four-and-a-half rounds and then Nate Diaz did what Nate Diaz does best, come in there and land that shot and steal all the glory. You forgot Leon Edwards won that fight, right? So I think Leon is much improved, his grappling is much improved, his wrestling is much improved, but I’m also much improved.”

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Usman (20-1 MMA, 15-0 UFC) is currently healing from hand surgery. The champ is targeting a summer return against Edwards, whom UFC president Dana White officially declared as the No. 1 contender.

“If Leon Edwards wants the smoke in July, International Fight Week here in Vegas for you guys, I’ll put him to sleep, too,” Usman said.


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