The Film Room: Leon Edwards

By Kevin Wilson Jul 17, 2019
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Rising welterweight contender Leon Edwards will step inside the Octagon for the most significant opportunity of his career when he meets former 155-pound champion Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC on ESPN 4 headliner this Saturday in San Antonio, Texas. “Rocky” finds himself on an impressive seven-fight winning streak, and a victory over dos Anjos would likely thrust him into the Top 5 at 170 pounds.

Edwards’ exploits are under the microscope in this installment of The Film Room.

Edwards is one of the trickier and more diverse strikers in the division and is looking to finally make a name for himself with a win over a future hall of famer. Whether he works on the lead or the counter, Edwards has proven to be effective wherever the fight takes him. On the lead, Edwards likes to throw a simple jab-straight or lead hook-straight down the middle, and his constant feinting and deceptive, range-setting jab allow him to land it with ease. In one sequence against Vincent Luque, he threw two jab-straights that were partially blocked and switched to the lead hook-straight. The lead hook slightly pushed down Luque’s lead hand, allowing the rear straight to land between his guard. This is also known as a hand trap and is commonly used in English and Dutch kickboxing, but it is not seen much in MMA since a high guard is less effective with smaller gloves. However, simple tricks like the hand trap, along with his impeccable timing and range, allow him to outstrike most opponents with nothing more than a 1-2 down the middle.

Edwards intelligently kicks the body often to get the opponent to drop his hands and possibly finish the fight. He sets up these kicks with a variety of hip, jab and upper-body feints that are reminiscent of Lyoto Machida. These feints throughout the fight allow him to throw the kick with almost no setup or tell, which makes it incredibly hard to see coming and to block. It would be nice to see Edwards use these kicks in combinations instead of single strikes, but so far, he has been able to land them without much difficulty, and his opponents have not been able to see them coming to counter. Dos Anjos will certainly be pressuring forward for most of the fight, and it will be interesting to see if Edwards can create enough space to land these kicks.

Edwards usually walks down his opponents with feints, footwork and 1-2s, but he is also adept on the counter. He possesses a beautiful, slapping counter left hook that he can land in a variety of positions. Against Donald Cerrone, he switched between taking inside and outside angles to set up his counter left hook. Constantly changing the angles of one’s strikes makes it difficult for the opponent to block and keeps him guessing. Staying true to his base, Edwards will also set up the counter left by drawing reactions from the opponent with feints. Edwards will “show them the left” by turning his hips inside in a half-cocked position. This allows him to see how the opponent will react to the left, and with his hips half-cocked, he can obtain the same amount of power in both hands when he decides to throw. However, he tends to rely on his counter left too often, so it would benefit him to add in some variety.

For those who have not seen Edwards fight before and want to know what makes him tick, the only fight you need to watch is his stellar performance against “Cowboy” Cerrone. He brutalized Cerrone on the lead and routinely countered his advancing attacks with a quick counter left hook. He also enjoyed success in the clinch, which we had not seen from him before. Cerrone is one of the best clinch strikers in the division, but Edwards managed to land multiple knees to the body and controlled the transitions.

All fighters are flawed, and Edwards has some glaring holes that dos Anjos might be able to exploit. His stance is an odd mix of muay Thai and karate, and he seems to constantly switch between the two. Sometimes, he stands with a wide base, upright torso and low hands like a karateka, while at other times, he stands with a shorter stance with his hands high like a Nak Muay. Both of these stances leave him open for strikes up the middle, including uppercuts and front kicks. We also have not seen him deal with a striker like dos Anjos, who is going to be in his face for five rounds, so we have no idea how he will handle the pressure. His footwork, timing and counters have looked good enough for him to be able to evade and circle off the cage, but time will tell if he can keep that up for five rounds.

Edwards is predominantly a striker, but he has won fights on the ground before. Against Peter Sobotta, most observers thought Edwards had the clear advantage in the striking exchanges and would spend the fight defending takedowns and picking apart the German on the feet. Instead, he initiated the grappling and dominated the submission specialist on the ground for much of the bout. At only 27, Edwards is already well-versed in every aspect of MMA and has emerged as a sleeper contender in the welterweight division. However, dos Anjos is by far his toughest test to date, and he looked better than ever against Kevin Lee in May. This is one of the most interesting fights of the summer. Advertisement


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