Across the MMA Universe: The Welterweight Division Needs a Leon Edwards Victory

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMarch 12, 2021

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Welcome back to our regular Friday MMA column. Here, we'll scour the sport's landscape, preview upcoming cards, tell interesting stories and, if at all possible, have fun. Let's get it on.

The Welterweight Division Needs Leon Edwards to Win Saturday

Kamaru Usman is the most dominant champion on the UFC active roster. The problem is, the UFC is running out of fresh bodies.

A quick look at the UFC welterweight rankings is all you need. No. 1 Colby Covington and No. 2 Gilbert Burns have been knocked off. Ditto Jorge Masvidal and Tyron Woodley. With the division starting to be cleaned out, Usman shows no signs of letting up.

Enter Leon Edwards.

This Saturday, Edwards and Belal Muhammad, both with identical 18-3 pro records, step inside the fencing for the main event of UFC Fight Night 187 at the UFC's Apex facility in Las Vegas.

Muhammad is a talented and streaking fighter with a bright future ahead. But sitting at No. 13 on the welterweight rankings, it's clear that no matter what happens Saturday, he's at least two more fights away from a title shot.

So, Edwards is the man to enliven the ranks at 170 pounds. The bettors certainly think so, with DraftKings putting him at -265 to defeat Muhammad. Edwards' well-rounded, heavy-fisted style can be hard to deal with. Even better from a promotional perspective, Edwards loves to talk trash, and there's plenty of drama with him and pretty much everyone else in the division. Yes, Usman beat him in 2015, but six years later Edwards is obviously a different fighter.

If Edwards can't get past Muhammad Saturday night, it's suddenly pretty slim pickings at the top of Usman's division.


Cejudo Thinks Sterling Was Faking It, Pants May Be On Fire 

Just when the drama over that knee strike between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling was winding down, Henry Cejudo had to come along and stir it back up. 

It's OK, Cejudo is good that way. Just because he retired doesn't mean he can't inject his own unique brand of humor into things, right?

"I think, for Aljamain, he really could've competed," Cejudo said in an interview on ESPN. "He could've gotten up. ... If you really have a concussion, the room is spinning. He deserves an Academy Award!"

Henry Cejudo
Henry CejudoDavid Banks/Associated Press

Thanks, Henry. I'm not sure where Cejudo learned to diagnose a concussion, but I'm betting the place had "subway station" in the title.

He has since apologized, but it's funny how Cejudo always seems to step in it. His penchant for silliness is well known and he's gone and done it again.


Hands of Stone, Heart of Gold

If you're ancient like me, you may remember Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout. He fought in the UFC's lightweight division. At one point, he faced Spencer Fisher not once, not twice, but thrice, with Stout winning the rubber match by decision after a Fight of The Night performance in 2012.  

Fast forward almost a decade and you have this, Stout starting a GoFundMe for Fisher to pay for treatment of "serious medical conditions related to his time in combat sports." According to MMA Fighting's Steven Marrocco, a neurologist has declared Spencer "permanently disabled and unable to work," and his symptoms indicate a future diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head.

It's sad that this is what it's come to. But it's an inspiration to see the GoFundMe raising money for a fighter in need. In speaking with Marrocco, Stout noted Fisher's struggles demonstrated to him why the UFC needs to provide its fighters with insurance, which millions of people, including many pro athletes, take for granted every day.

Spencer Fisher
Spencer FisherHermann J. Knippertz/Associated Press

"It's always a risky thing to say anything about the UFC's practices, but we're talking about a guy that I've got a bond with that's going to last the rest of our lives," Stout told Marrocco.

"I think some things need to change…I think ongoing medical coverage for the fighters should be part of their expenses that they need to factor into their business. Sometimes I think they worry about the bottom line more than the people that are making their company the great powerhouse that it is. I think it's not right and something needs to change."


Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock of the Week

Welcome back to a highly niche column feature, servicing the conservative MMA bettor. Time to make this four-for-four, and I'll do it with Angela Hill, the strawweight whom DraftKings has at -360 to dispatch Ashley Yoder. Hill is a social media favorite and a muay thai striker who should be too much for a comparatively plodding, not-particularly-skilled-at-MMA opponent in Yoder.


Walkout Song of the Week

We honor the good, now we must honor the bad. Specifically, we're talking about Smilin Sam Alvey, who insists on walking out to Train's "Hey Soul Sister." Hopefully I can get it out of my head by putting it in yours. 


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