We are a little over a month from UFC 278, and the hype around the new Welterweight Champion of the World is starting to settle, and the looking forward the rematch with Usman feels almost all but certain. However, I believe there may be value in Leon building his stock off the immediate hype with a title defense before the rematch. Yes, I know it’s unlikely, but if you will, let’s look at a couple of intriguing options that both Leon and the UFC have when it comes to booking his next fight.
We know very little about Jorge Masvidal’s legal situation and standing with the UFC but setting all of that aside, Jorge Masvidal could be an appealing first title defense for Leon Edwards. The two had a backstage brawl in March of 2019 at a UFC event they both fought in. It also sets up a situation where if Masvidal wins, he gets Usman for the third time in a fight where Leon Edwards would get the winner. It would add a little drama at the top of the welterweight division where there has been a lacking post in the Usman defense era.
Of course, I don’t see this happening, as Masvidal is on a 3 fight-losing streak. Still, I think that with a win over a big name, we could see this fight sooner than some people may expect.
Belal Muhammad and Sean Brady are set to be the main event of the UFC 280 Prelim Card. And though I don’t think a win would move Muhammad up in the rankings his #5 spot may be good enough to challenge for the belt. If he wins, I won’t be surprised if he calls out Leon Edwards.
I think this would be a smart booking for the UFC to jump on. There are two known quantities when it comes to Belal Muhammad. He is very good, but he is also very boring. He has a strong wrestling base and grinds opponents to decision win. I am confident when I say there is not a single other fighter ranked fifth in their division that the UFC would have fought on the prelims no matter how stacked the main card maybe.
However, Muhammad and Leon Edwards have fought before. In March of 2021, the two headlined a UFC fight night event in which Leon Edwards eye-poking Muhammad in the opening seconds of the 2nd round led to the fight being waived as a no contest. I think that out of any other possible storylines they could make with Belal, this may be the most compelling. I don’t see Muhammad winning, but his losing knocks him down in the rankings for good forever to be the gatekeeper at the top of the rankings. Listen no matter who you put Edwards against, if the event is in the UK, the fans will go ballistic for it. It would be as fun as a Belal Muhammad fight possibly could be.