A rematch of a bout that featured one of the most incredible finishes in UFC history headlines UFC 286 on Saturday in London.
England's Leon Edwards (20-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) will have the home-crowd advantage at 02 Arena when he faces Nigeria's Kamaru Usman (20-2, 15-1) in the evening's main event ina UFC welterweight title matchup.
That has contributed to Edwards being a popular underdog, drawing 60 percent of the total fight bets and 67 percent of the handle at 200. Usman, who has held steady as the -250 favorite, has been backed by 40 and 33 percent, respectively.
The meeting is the third between the pair.
Usman, a 35-year-old who fights out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., won a unanimous decision when both were UFC newcomers in 2015.
In their UFC 278 rematch, Usman was cruising in his title defense before Edwards stunned the MMA world by knocking Usman cold with a perfect head kick in the final minute of the fifth round to claim the title via knockout.
Both competitors have experienced sterling UFC careers. For Edwards, 31, the 2015 loss to Usman was his last. He has won 10 straight since, with one no-contest thrown in. Usman's defeat at UFC 278 was his first in 16 UFC fights.
Saturday's bout should answer two big questions: 1. Was the head kick a fluke? 2. How will Usman respond after being so brutally knocked out for the first time in his career?
"He was winning the fight, but who cares?" Edwards said at media day. "It goes down as you go out cold, head shot and that's all that matters. When it's all said and done, winners win, and even on my worst day, my worst performance, I still knock you out."
The evening's co-feature bout is an intriguing lightweight matchup in which former interim titleholder Justin Gaethje (23-4) of Colorado takes on Rafael Fiziev (12-1) of Azerbaijan.
Gaethje is known as one of the sport's most exciting fighters and has earned UFC's post-fight bonuses on 10 occasions. However, he has dropped two of his past three fights, and in Fiziev, he meets an opponent who has all the looks of a real contender fast rising the ranks. Fiziev has won six straight bouts, three via knockout.
Fiziev opened as the -240 favorite, but those odds have shifted to -220 with Gaethje backed by 89 percent of the bets and 63 percent of the money.
There are three other fights on the main card:
--Bryan Barberena (285) vs. Gunnar Nelson (-375): Barberena (18-9) stepped in for Daniel Rodriguez for this fight. Nelson (18-5-1, 9-5) is understandably the heavy favorite despite having fought only once in the past four years, although Barberena has been backed by 90 percent of the total bets and 84 percent of the money.
Barberena's past three fights have been against Matt Brown, Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos.
"After the last fight and everything, I was bitter about it, bitter about my performance," he said. "I went right back to work and I think this fight kind of lines up perfectly for what I want to display and what I want to show."
--Jennifer Maia (150) vs. Casey O'Neill (-185): Maia (20-9-1, 5-5) is looking to climb the ranks toward another title shot with a win over the undefeated O'Neill (9-0, 4-0). While Maia is coming off a win in her most recent fight, O'Neill returns after knee surgery that sidelined the Australian for 2022.
Maia has been backed by 72 and 87 percent of the action, respectively.
"Beating her would give me two victories in a row, which regardless still puts me close to go up in the rankings and have another title shot," she said this week.
--Marvin Vettori (-275) vs. Roman Dolidze (215): Vettori (18-5-1) faces Dolidze (12-1, 6-1) in a middleweight fight to open the main card.
Vettori, who is coming off a loss to Robert Whittaker in September, is the heavy favorite but has drawn just 12 percent of the money wagered on the fight.
"This fight is personal for me in a sense that I've never had two losses in a row, and this is not going to be the case (this week)," Vettori said this week. "I can't wait to go out and put on a performance."
Meanwhile Dolidze has his sights set high as he enters on a four-fight winning streak.
"I will ask, of course, for a title shot (if I win)," he said. "I think that makes sense because all these guys fought each other, and why not? New blood."
--Field Level Media