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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Why choosing a real No. 1 contender for UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards is trickier than it appears

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Leon Edwards lived as much as his “Rocky” nickname at UFC 286, out-dueling Kamaru Usman to win their trilogy. It was an enormous achievement contemplating Usman is arguably the best welterweight the game has seen since Georges St-Pierre. However within the aftermath of the win, the title image is not fairly so settled.

UFC president Dana White remained steadfast on the post-fight press convention that Colby Covington is subsequent in line for a title shot. Edwards has rejected the concept, exhibiting extra curiosity within the winner of Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287. Belal Muhammad is having a tricky time slicing by means of the chatter regardless of his robust resume. The presence of Khamzat Chimaev is fading from welterweight however the echoes are nonetheless there. And whereas they battle for consideration and alternatives, the oncoming storm of Shavkat Rakhamonov looms over the division.

Let’s break down the validity of every fighter’s declare at current to a welterweight title shot in a sport that does not at all times reward what’s truthful.

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Colby Covington

Covington is the largest benefactor of the mess at welterweight. Covington weighed in at UFC 286 as a shock backup opponent for Edwards vs. Usman 3. His companies weren’t wanted that night, however the UFC typically rewards fighters who efficiently make weight with no assure of competing. Covington additionally has the next profile than a few of his contemporaries on this checklist. He goes straight into battle promotion together with his trash speak and has expertise headlining pay-per-views. He is ranked No. 2, behind solely Usman, within the official UFC welterweight rankings however that may be a consequence of how little the rankings shift.

Covington’s credibility as a title challenger falls aside while you dig into the precise resume. He doesn’t have an energetic profitable streak and is coming off a win towards Masvidal, the latter of whom is at the moment on a three-fight skid. We’re at 14 months and counting since Covington’s final in-cage look. Certain, he gave Usman two powerful fights, however Edwards’ takedown protection and superior hanging at UFC 286 ought to concern Covington supporters. Covington is 14-3 general within the UFC. Not a single one of many 14 fighters he is crushed has an energetic UFC win streak. In truth, most of them are now not with the promotion, some are on shedding streaks and others have retired.

Covington has executed nothing contained in the cage currently to justify a world title battle. But his standing with the corporate, dedication to promoting a battle and the division’s lack of general route have him positioned as the highest contender within the promotion’s eyes.

Khamzat Chimaev

There will not be a welterweight on the planet that may hold Chimaev from being a UFC champion. Thankfully for the division, Chimaev did a exceptional job of eradicating himself from the dialog. Chimaev was handed the lay-up of all lay-ups towards departing veteran Nate Diaz in the primary occasion of UFC 279. Chimaev was so chubby, lacking by 7.5 kilos, that UFC was compelled to shuffle round three fights to maintain the primary card intact. White confirmed on the UFC 286 post-fight presser that Chimaev would subsequent compete at middleweight.

It is a main disgrace for Chimaev, who possible has a more durable path at 185-pounds with the likes of Robert Whittaker within the combine. Chimaev’s early dominance throughout middleweight and welterweight is almost unfathomable. Chimaev absorbed only one strike whereas shelling out 112 of them in his 4 UFC appearances. He then battled to a call over Gilbert Burns earlier than submitting Kevin Holland in his most up-to-date outing.

Chimaev has the profitable mixture of resume, expertise, star energy and long-term potential dominance to be subsequent in line, however circumstances have compelled him out of the operating.

Jorge Masvidal

It actually says so much concerning the nature of the enterprise that Masvidal, somebody at the moment on a three-fight shedding streak, is on the thoughts of the UFC welterweight champ. It could actually reinvigorate Masvidal if he might beat betting favourite Burns, however a win over the No. 5 ranked welterweight contender wouldn’t justify a title shot in a meritocratic course of. The battle recreation is barely sometimes a meritocracy. It is at all times prizefighting.

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Masvidal arguably has essentially the most mainstream attraction of anybody on this checklist and a built-in rivalry with Edwards. In truth, Masvidal’s rise from strong veteran to PPV headliner began the identical night that he first crossed paths with Edwards. After shockingly knocking out Darren Until following an prolonged absence, Masvidal walked away from his personal backstage interview to confront Edwards. Masvidal rattled off a multi-punch mixture — famously dubbed the “three-piece and a soda” — that brought about a lower underneath Edwards’ eye. Each males have traded barbs within the 4 years for the reason that incident.

Edwards introduced that he would make the journey to Miami to see how Burns vs. Masvidal performs out. It is smart why Edwards needs the Masvidal battle: it is an opportunity for comeuppance and sure a straightforward payday in comparison with the choice. However let’s be sincere, it is a cash seize. Plain and easy.

Belal Muhammad

Meet the only most deserving energetic contender within the UFC welterweight division. Muhammad has not seen defeat in his final 9 UFC fights. Specifically, the standard of his wins over Sean Brady, Vicente Luque and Stephen Thompson is proof that Muhammad is in uncommon type. The win over Brady is especially helpful, a much-needed stoppage by way of strikes after 5 consecutive choice wins. He is additionally one of many few recent faces within the welterweight contender pool. An intriguing part of his case is that Muhammad fought Edwards to a no-contest in 2021. Muhammad was unable to proceed after struggling a watch poke. Pair that with the quite a few fouls Edwards caught Usman with at UFC 286 and there’s a story to be instructed. On paper, there’s no one with a greater resume proper now than Muhammad.

There are some things holding Muhammad again within the grand scheme. He’s charismatic, nevertheless it feels as if it is but to translate to a wider viewers. His exhibiting towards Brady was a step in the fitting route, nevertheless it didn’t utterly treatment the notion that he is a boring fighter. Muhammad can be the sufferer of an arduous journey to the highest. Muhammad has handed so many tough checks, however he has but to finish a battle towards an opponent at the moment ranked within the prime 5. Nearly everybody else featured on this story can at the least say they’ve fought somebody who the UFC rankings panel deems to be the perfect.

White instructed that UFC is seeking to e-book Muhammad towards Shavkat Rakhmanov subsequent. It is a great battle between two of the division’s most profitable current fighters, nevertheless it’s a horrible disservice to Muhammad. If not a title shot, Muhammad at the least deserves to battle somebody like Usman.

Gilbert Burns

Burns is neither scorching nor chilly as a welterweight title challenger. Losses to Usman and Chimaev took off steam, however robust showings in each fights guarantee that he is very a lot within the combine. Burns stormed by means of Neil Magny with a degree to show and he can additional his standing with a dominant efficiency towards Masvidal. An completed grappler earlier than diving into MMA, Burns has discovered dependable energy in his arms to turn into a multi-faceted risk. Burns very nicely might current Edwards with essentially the most strong problem of any fighter on this checklist.

Beating Magny and Masvidal in succession provides Burns a lead over Covington on paper, however not by a large enough margin to beat UFC’s infatuation with the American fighter. It additionally would not fairly stack as much as Muhammad’s current stretch. Burns finds himself in the midst of the pack with neither the enterprise nor sports activities deserves to get the title shot over his contemporaries.

Shavkat Rakhmonov

Rakhmonov is among the most fun contenders to emerge in recent times. His late third-round submission towards Geoff Neal in March added to his good 17-0 file with 17 stoppages (9 submissions and eight KOs). Towards Neal, Rakhmonov confirmed sturdiness and toughness whereas dwelling as much as his repute for ending fights. His Struggle of the Evening on the primary card of UFC 285 was an necessary step in introducing him to a wider market. 

Rakhmonov nonetheless wants somewhat extra time within the oven earlier than he is prepared for to cement himself as the very best. There have been defensive gaps within the Neal battle that Rakhmonov can treatment with extra high-level reps. Moreover, the language barrier calls for added time to reveal Rakhmonov to the mainstream fanbase. A win over Muhammad would do good issues for Rakhmonov even when it is an insulting proposition for Muhammad. Alternatively, giving Rakhmonov the winner of Burns vs. Masvidal would definitely produce a future title challenger.

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