UFC San Antonio: Leon Edwards stands on the verge of joining the welterweight elite
England’s Leon Edwards will look to extend his winning streak and move one step closer to a title shot in the UFC’s talent-rich 170lb division with a win against former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos in Texas on Saturday.
The UFC’s Texas return will host a pivotal bout with welterweight top contender ramifications, as well as several heavyweight scraps which should shed some light on the list of contenders to Daniel Cormier’s championship, but what are the fights that you should keep an eye on this weekend?
LEON EDWARDS VS RAFAEL DOS ANJOS
Leon Edwards has been somewhat of the odd man out in the mix of contenders for Kamaru Usman’s welterweight title. Various names, from Darren Till to Colby Covington, Ben Askren and, more recently, Jorge Masvidal have attempted to position themselves as the division’s number one contender.
For all of their undoubted merits, another fighter who has quietly been amassing a campaign of his own has been Birmingham slugger Leon Edwards.
The Brit has pieced together a seven-fight win streak, beating fighters like Gunnar Nelson and Donald Cerrone along the way. His victory against Nelson was perhaps the biggest of his career thus far but the momentum he gathered from that swung to Masvidal amid their “three-piece & a soda” confrontation in the bowels of The O2 Arena.
On Saturday, though, Edwards can take his biggest step towards gold when he faces grizzled veteran Rafael dos Anjos in the main event at UFC San Antonio.
The Brazilian former 155lb champion is the vastly more experienced fighter, who has shared the cage with a who’s who of top mixed martial arts talent and, one would think, has the tools to pump the brakes on Edwards’ title aspirations. But if the Brit pulls through, it will become increasingly harder to ignore his claims.
ALEKSEI OLEINIK VS WALT HARRIS
Mixed martial artists don’t get much more experienced than Aleksei Oleinik, who can boast a frankly absurd 70 professional bouts, counting 45 submission wins among them – many of which came from his pitch-perfect application of the Ezekiel Choke.
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Oleinik tasted defeat in his previous bout against Alistair Overeem in Saint Petersburg, losing via strikes to the world-class striker, and he will face another striker in the form of Harris, who has been a sparring partner for both Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder in recent years. Harris isn’t shy of the ground, either, but going to the floor with Oleinik is a seriously dangerous consideration. The Russian submission specialist won’t need a second invitation to latch on to a limb or a blood choke and squeeze.
GREG HARDY VS JUAN ADAMS
Hardy’s checkered past has already made him one of the UFC’s more controversial characters, but the former Dallas Cowboy’s athletic prowess cannot be ignored through his five professional fights to date.
The American has been outside of the first round just once in his career and, while many questions remain as to his viability as a true contender in the UFC’s heavyweight fold, he certainly has the tools to go far.
Adams, meanwhile, is cut from the same cloth. The 27-year-old isn’t fond of exiting the first round either, with four of his wins to date coming inside the first five minutes. This fight could be dictated by whoever lands the first clean shot, something both men are more than equipped to do.
BEN ROTHWELL VS ANDREI ARLOVSKI
Gargantuan heavyweights Rothwell and Arlovski first met 11 years ago, with Arlovski claiming the KO victory, but the landscape for both men has changed drastically since their first fight.
Rothwell is one of the more unorthodox fighters at heavyweight, using odd head movement and footwork to get inside and either strike against the fence or pull from his arsenal of submissions on the ground.
A citation from USADA has limited his activity in recent years, as he returned to action for the first time since 2016 with a controversial decision loss to Blagoy Ivanov in April but in Arlovski he faces a fighter on the worst run of his career.
The former UFC heavyweight champion can claim just two wins in his previous 11 bouts and while his striking remains potent, his ability to absorb punishment appears to have deteriorated – not an ideal attribute ahead of a contest with the thunder-fisted Rothwell.
WHO ELSE IS FIGHTING?
James Vick vs. Dan Hooker – lightweight
Alexander Hernandez vs. Francisco Trinaldo – lightweight
Alex Caceres vs. Steven Peterson – featherweight
Raquel Pennington vs. Irene Aldana – bantamweight
Sam Alvey vs. Klidson Abreu – light heavyweight
Roxanne Modaferri vs. Jennifer Maia – flyweight
Ray Borg vs. Gabriel Silva – bantamweight
Mario Bautista vs. Jin Soo Son – bantamweight
Domingo Pilarte vs. Felipe Colares – bantamweight
HOW TO WATCH
Prelims & Main Card – 12am (UK) BT Sports 1 / 7pm ET (US) ESPN+