Originally booked to take co-main event status at UFC 262 in Houston, Texas last month — the five-round, non-title, non-main event bout between welterweight contender, Leon Edwards, and veteran, Nate Diaz finally lands in Glendale, Arizona this weekend at UFC 263. And with hopes to secure a well-overdue title challenge, Edwards has sights set on becoming the first man since Josh Thomson to finish Diaz when they meet at the Gila River Arena.
Booked for his second Octagon outing of the year, streaking #3 ranked 170lbs challenger, Edwards headlined a UFC Vegas 21 event in March, and despite starting well against short-notice replacement, Belal Muhammad, saw the bout with a ‘No Contest’ early in the second round after he had landed the last of a series of inadvertent eye pokes.
After the victory, the Birmingham native was left in a certain limbo, with claims for a title rematch against Kamaru Usman falling on deaf ears due to the ‘No Contest’ nature of his return bout. Rather than sit out and await the victor of Usman’s rematch against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 in Apri, Edwards was slotted into a high-profile battle against the returning Stockton favourite, Diaz.
Initially slated to feature as the penultimate bout at UFC 262 at the Toyota Centre beneath the vacant lightweight title bout between now-champion, Charles Oliveira, and Michael Chandler, the bout was rescheduled after Diaz suffered an undisclosed injury.
Chomping at the bit to finally earn his premier tilt at undisputed welterweight gold, Edwards is tasked with overcoming the steely Diaz, who has only been finished by both Hermes Franca and the above-mentioned, Thomson, outside of a doctor’s stoppage defeat to Masvidal in November of 2019. And Team Renagade BJJ & MMA mainstay, Edwards is confident of dispatching the Californian Ultimate Fighter victor inside the five round limit.
“I’m going out there to stop him,” Edwards said during a recent interview with MMA Fighting. “I don’t think he can take as much as they think he could over five rounds. I know he’s probably relying on me getting tired and like I said with (Jorge) Masvidal, he’s going to climb on top of him for (rounds) four and five.“
Edwards, who enters the showcase undefeated in his last nine Octagon walks, hasn’t been stopped in his career, whether that be via strikes or submission. And believes he’s got the ability to go from round one to five, all whilst beating Diaz from “pillar to post“.
“Let’s say I go out there and batter you from pillar to post for (rounds) one to three — I’ve never been stopped in my career,” Edwards explained. “Every time I’ve fought all five rounds, I’ve got the decision. I’ve never been submitted. Never been knocked out. Nothing. I’m looking forward to it. I’m going in there just where I left off in March and I will carry on like that to get the victory. I will test him and push him in every single way I can to get the victory. To claim my world title shot after this fight.“
A stoppage over Diaz would lay out a massive statement of intent from 29-year-old all-rounder Edwards, following a string of wins which includes the likes of former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, Gunnar Nelson, future Hall of Famer, Donald Cerrone, Bryan Barberena, as well as the #5 ranked streaking contender, Vicente Luque.