With UFC 278 around the corner, this PPV card is layered with many big names as well as many sleepers as well. Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards look to look up for a second time, this time with the UFC Welterweight Championship on the line. Luke Rockhold makes his return to the UFC Octagon for the first time in just over 3 years and takes on the devastating knockout artist Paulo Costa. On top of that you add elite bantamweight action with Jose Aldo taking on the rising Merab Dvalishvili who’s looking to make his win streak 8 on Saturday. In the Prelims we have undefeated Heavyweight Alexander Romanov looking to become 17-0 and secure his 6th straight win in the UFC. Let’s take a look at some of the top storylines going into UFC 278
- How can Kamaru Usman add to his legacy?
Kamaru Usman has been on a path of destruction since entering the UFC, going on a 15-fight win streak, not counting the 2 wins he picked up on The Ultimate Fighter. With a win this Saturday, he can tie the legendary Anderson Silva for first place in UFC history with a win streak of 16. To answer the question of how Usman can add to his legacy this weekend starts with getting the win. If he gets the win this Saturday, he can have a legitimate claim of being the greatest Welterweight of all time. GSP certainly still is at the top of that conversation, but Usman getting a win makes that conversation much tougher. If Usman is able to get the finish over Edwards, that would mean he would have 4 finishes in 6 title defenses, all while only having 2 finishes leading into his championship fight. This would show the incredible growth that he has made as a champion, even further proving his dominance and legitimizing his spot as #1 Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world.
- Can Leon Edwards make adjustments from fight #1
The last time Leon Edwards lost a fight was 7 years ago, to his opponent Saturday Kamaru Usman. Since that time, Leon has won 9 fights in a row, all while having bad luck getting fights scheduled during the Covid Era. During that time the southpaw has polished up his clinch work all while becoming one of the most technical strikers in the division. His ability to mix it up in close with elbows as well as work you from a distance is what makes him so dangerous. But when you have someone who is as gifted of a wrestler as Kamaru, what can Leon do to change the outcome of the fight this time. The obvious start to the answer is better takedown defense than the last fight. Usman had over 10 minutes of ground control time and that’s not including the clinch control time. If Edwards wants to win this fight, he needs to address this and try to change the game plan. Coming forward and putting the pressure on Usman would seem to be the most ideal strategy. When a wrestler is on their back foot they don’t have the same success on their takedowns as well as it makes it harder for them to cut off the cage. The second key would be to use those clinches early to damage Usman. We have seen that Kamaru has been rocked at times in his UFC career, so if Leon can put Usman on the back foot and use that pressure to land the cleaner strikes in the exchanges, he can change the outcome from the last time these two met.
- Will Luke Rockhold be able to get his first win in 5 years?
Luke Rockhold finally makes his Octagon return after 3 years and welcoming him back is the man with 11 knockout wins, Paulo Costa. Luke is 4 years removed from his last title opportunity vs Yoel Romero in 2018 and is 7 years removed from being a champion in 2015. That being said, after losing 3 of his last 4 fights by KO, he took some time to allow his body to heal and make the right decision regarding his future. His return is one that has made a lot of noise and his comments during fight week didn’t make it any quieter. The only issue is that he is facing a devastating striker in Paulo Costa. Say what you want to about him, his weight, or his online tactics, but you have to respect the man as a striker and a finisher. Luke can come back and win a fight versus Paulo but the path to victory is tough. He’s going to have to weather the early storm and pressure of Paulo while trying to land his own. Although Rockhold isn’t known best for his wrestling, this fight would be an ideal opportunity to show his octagon experience and fight IQ and take Costa down and try to wear on his gas tank. For Paulo, the path seems to land one punch clean on Rockhold, and you’re walking away with your win bonus. For Luke, the chin is suspect and although the skills are there for the former champion, it may seem that he is over the hill on his career and will be a marquee name for the UFC. But he can go there Saturday and put Costa’s lights out cold, & that is why we watch.
- Is Jose Aldo still elite?
When it comes to career longevity, Jose Aldo has to be one of the guys at the top of the list in the UFC. 14 years after his WEC debut in 2008, the former UFC Champion is on a 3 fight win streak after losing his initial bout at 135 lbs. Marlon Vera, Pedro Munoz, and Rob Font are 3 of the toughest bantamweights in this division and he was able to pick up wins consecutively on all 3. Now he faces a dangerous grappler in Merab Dvalishvili. Merab comes into this fight averaging 7 takedowns a fight which is an absolutely absurd number. He ranks #1 all-time in the UFC Bantamweight division with 63 takedowns. That number all-time enough to be ahead of former champion Rafael Dos Anjos and just behind guys like Colby Covington and Damian Maia. Aldo will have a tough challenge on his hand but one thing we know about him is that his takedown defense is one of the best of all time. During his time at featherweight, he had the 3rd best takedown defense of all time at 91%. During his 4 fights at 135lbs, he has only been taken down twice and he only spent 50 seconds being on the bottom in his last 3 fights. This fight will be a true test to see if Aldo is still elite, or if Merab is going to take that torch.
- Can Alexander Romanov continue his unbeaten streak
Undefeated Heavyweight Alexander Romanov is going to the Prelim Headliner, a spot usually reserved for someone who the UFC wants eyes on since it is the last fight for free before the PPV gets started. Romanov has been dominant since his time in the UFC winning 6 in a row in the promotion. He faces off against his toughest challenger yet, Marcin Tybura whose only loss in his last 6 fights is to #8 ranked Heavyweight Alexander Volkov. Romanov is a dominant submission fighter who loves to take his opponents down and wreak havoc. He even tends to throw his coach as a celebration after his wins as well. Romanov has yet to have met his match and his unrelenting pressure and ability to get his opponents on their back has been nothing short of spectacular. If Tybura is able to keep this fight standing, he has a chance of winning, but if Romanov gets this fight to the mat, I’m betting that the fight is over and Romanov walks out 17-0.
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