Leon Edwards’ 2020 has been dismal and his bad luck continues after being forced to withdraw from his Dec. 19 headliner against rising star Khamzat Chimaev. The #3 ranked welterweight, 29, was promised the next title shot if he won on the promotion’s final card of an unprecedented year, but after a positive COVID-19 test and severe symptoms, has to wait until the new year.
After watching Gilbert Burns pick apart Tyron Woodley in a manner he was envisioning two months earlier, having travel restrictions halt his ability to compete and more, this was finally it.
Edwards (#3, 18-3) had his scheduled bout with Woodley scrapped at the March 21 event in London as the coronavirus pandemic stopped international travel to England that same week.
It was to be my first accredited UFC event too, but Edwards wasn’t afforded the chance at an unforgettable homecoming that many had predicted was coming vs. the former 170-lb champ.
Instead, after much speculation and unexpected fanfare, Edwards’ chance at finishing a whirlwind year was to be a Dec. 19 headliner against rising star Khamzat Chimaev (#15).
Chimaev made history with quick turnaround wins over John Phillips and Rhys McKee in July on Fight Island, before blasting Gerald Meerschaert just 17 seconds into their bout two months later.
He’s got a number next to his name just three fights into his UFC career, remains undefeated at 9-0 and quickly became a fan favourite with his willingness to fight across two weight divisions.
This bout against Edwards was obviously a significant step-up in competition and represented a compelling spectacle to finish 2020 on an exciting high in just under three weeks. Not anymore:
Edwards’ severe coronavirus case and next steps
MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn revealed an unsettling detail showing the severity of his COVID-19 case, after reports last week confirmed Chimaev had contracted the virus but was okay to compete.
Like they have done with multiple fights, the UFC are planning to rebook it in early 2021.
Big fights expected in the first quarter of next year include Nunes-Anderson, Yan-Sterling, Usman-Burns – all three are title bouts that have been scrapped recently for different reasons.
As such, the co-main event between Geoff Neal and two-time title challenger Stephen Thompson will be upgraded to the card’s main event in a five-round encounter.
Since beating Rafael dos Anjos in July last year, it’s been 500 days and counting since Edwards last entered the Octagon. He’ll have to wait longer – just like the aforementioned Burns, after champion Kamaru Usman (recovering from injuries) needed more time to compete at 100%.
For context, dos Anjos has had two fights since that defeat – one loss and victory – against Michael Chiesa and a five-round duel with short-notice replacement Paul Felder last month.
what does the dec. 19 card look like, as it stands?
Welterweight: Stephen Thompson (#5) vs Geoff Neal (#11)
Heavyweight: Marcin Tybura vs Greg Hardy
Bantamweight: Marlon Moraes (#3) vs Rob Font (#11)
Light-heavyweight: Misha Cirkunov (#10) vs Ryan Spann (#12)
Bantamweight: Jose Aldo (#7) vs Marlon Vera (#15)
Welterweight: Michel Pereira vs Khaos Williams
Flyweight: Alexandre Pantoja (#5) vs Manel Kape
Welterweight: Belal Muhammad (#13) vs Dhiego Lima
Catchweight (195lbs): Deron Winn vs Antonio Arroyo
Women’s bantamweight: Sijara Eubanks (#13) vs Pannie Kianzad (#14)
Bantamweight: Aiemann Zahabi vs Drako Rodriguez
Middleweight: Tafon Nchukwi vs Jamie Pickett
Lightweight: Rick Glenn vs Carlton Minus
As always, the card is subject to change.
Pictures’ source: MMAFighting, Bleacher Report unless stated