UFC 286 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman: Timing Key to Betting Main Event (Saturday, March 18)

UFC 286 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman: Timing Key to Betting Main Event  (Saturday, March 18) article feature image

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC welterweight Kamaru Usman

Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman Odds

Edwards Odds
Usman Odds
4.5 (-185 / +150)
The O2 Arena in London
7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday and via FanDuel

UFC welterweight gold is on the line on Saturday night in London as Leon Edwards looks to defend his belt for the first time when he meets former champion Kamaru Usman.

Edwards defeated Usman at UFC 278 in August, when he scored a head-kick knockout with less than a minute remaining in the final round while trailing on all scorecards.

Saturday's tilt (ESPN+ pay-per-view, with main-event walkouts at approximately 6:55 p.m. ET) will mark the third iteration of this rivalry; Usman won their first matchup, a three-round decision, in 2015.

Below, I'll provide my analysis and projections for the fight card headliner and utilize those factors to bet on the UFC 286 main event between Edwards and Usman.

Tale of the Tape

Avg. Fight Time15:5017:07
Weight (pounds)170 lbs.170 lbs.
Reach (inches)74"76"
Date of birth8/25/19915/11/1987
Sig Strikes Per Min2.594.55
SS Accuracy50%53%
SS Absorbed Per Min2.282.56
SS Defense53%57%
Take Down Avg1.393.01
TD Acc33%48%
TD Def68%97%
Submission Avg0.40.1

Since I provided a full breakdown for this fight in August, I thought it would be a good exercise to compare and contrast my thoughts on this matchup then and heading into UFC 286.

Usman retains the reach advantage, which he can use to fight behind his jab. I also viewed him as the superior minute-winner both now and then; Usman consistently outpaces Ewards by nearly two strikes per minute across all fights (and led 83-55 on total strikes, 46-42 on distance strikes at UFC 278) and averages more than a takedown attempt per round (completed five of 12 attempts).

The distance striking between the pair is competitive. Usman out-landed Edwards at a distance in only one round (27-17 in Round 2), but he made up the difference in the clinch (15-7 margin) and on the mat (22-6), where he controlled Edwards for more than 40% of the fight (10:36 control time).

Edwards landed a takedown in the first round – and became the first man to take down Usman officially – but aside from that exchange, his takedown defense (career 68%) and counter-grappling paled to Usman's freestyle wrestling.

I expected Edwards to have a ton of success in the clinch – perhaps the most dominant area of his game against lesser foes – but after the first round, Usman's strength got the better of those positions.

I expect Usman to wrestle and clinch more for the trilogy fight, too, especially after getting knocked out; he has a clear advantage if he can get on top of Edwards, where he is also entirely out of danger.

However, he should be wary of Leon's elbows as the pair exit the clinch; that's how I expected him to get clipped if he got knocked out last time.

Moreover, I acknowledged a clear cardio advantage for Usman last time. I wouldn't expect to see that gap close substantially, aside from the fact that UFC 278 took place in Salt Lake City, at a high elevation, where fighters consistently faded in the third round.

Edwards undoubtedly faded in the middle rounds after a hot start, so perhaps fighting closer to sea level – and with a home crowd to give him an extra jolt when he needs it – could help to close the cardio gap just enough to make a difference.

I also called attention to Edwards' durability advantage before UFC 278, something that is even more glaring now. Usman was rocked in various moments of his title bouts with Gilbert Burns and Colby Covington – and it seemed like the chin would always be his Achilles' heel. Then Leon sent him to the shadow realm.

The GOAT @rayrod747 has produced an edit of Leon Edwards knocking out Kamaru Usman 🔥 pic.twitter.com/7ghMJDWuJq

— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) September 12, 2022

And that was just six months ago. After a knockout loss that bad, I like to see fighters take at least a year off, if not more.

It's possible that Usman's chin is never the same and he won't be able to take damage anymore.

And it's impossible to know whether that is the case until they get in the cage. This is speculation, but it is also a thought born out of pattern recognition; Cody Garbrandt and Chris Weidman both immediately come to mind as former champions who were unbeaten in the UFC, before sustaining several knockout losses in a short period.

Or Usman's final run could go the way of Georges St-Pierre, who rebounded from an upset knockout loss before ending his career on a 13-fight winning streak and garnering GOAT status.

Edwards was nearly finished by Nate Diaz – in the waning moments of a decisive victory – before fighting Usman. And Kamaru hits as hard as any welterweight; I have more questions about Usman's durability than I did before, but I'm still skeptical about Edwards' chin overall.

And though he is the favorite, most of the question marks surround the former champion – who many were debating as the potential welterweight GOAT. ahead of GSP – just six months ago.

Edwards vs. Usman Pick

Kamaru Usman closed as a -250 favorite (71.4%) for the first matchup in 2015 (three rounds), roughly -350 (77.8%) for the rematch at UFC 278, and re-opened at roughly the same number for the trilogy fight on Saturday.

However, the betting market has pushed Usman back closer to his line for the first fight (-250).

For context, I projected Usman as a 73.8% favorite in August (-281) but have decreased my projection to 70.9% (-243) for Saturday.

As a result, my projection hasn't swung quite as far as the betting market would indicate. In August, I recommended a wager on Edwards at +300 or better.

On Saturday, I would look to play Usman at -220 (68.9% implied) or better, more than a 2% edge compared to my number. I will wait to see if the line gets there before fight time.

I don't see any value concerning the total, however. I projected the bout to reach a decision 54% of the time (-118 implied). I would need something closer to +150 to bet the fight to end inside the distance.

Moreover, I don't see any value in the winning method market. Last time, I bet Edwards to win by decision (+850), but his odds for the same prop have been reduced significantly (+500) while his knockout odds have essentially stayed the same as the last fight.

In other words, the betting market thinks Edwards winning by decision is significantly more likely than the last iteration of this fight. I disagree and have his decision prop projected slightly higher and his knockout odds lower as compared to the last bout.

Edwards may win Round 1 again. If he does – and the line moves in – but Usman doesn't get wobbled and looks physically sound, I would look to jump in live on the former champion at a better price.

If Usman's pre-fight moneyline doesn't come into range (-220 or better), the live angle may be the better look. Edwards should be able to deny the takedown attempts early – if Usman does decide to wrestle. Or, if Usman's chin isn't sound after the last fight, we also avoid losing due to quick KO variance.

Even though all rematches are different, I still expect the trilogy's tempo and momentum to play out similarly, with Edwards having his best success early before Usman eventually takes over with wrestling and control as both men tire; it happened in each of the first two iterations and is a bit familiar when it comes to Usman and his opponents.

As a result, look to pounce on Usman live after a competitive opening frame.

The Pick: Kamaru Usman (wait for -220) | Usman live after Round 1

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