Edwards puts on striking clinic

Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (left) getting up close and personal with Leon Edwards in their UFC Fight Night Singapore welterweight bout at the Indoor Stadium yesterday.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (left) getting up close and personal with Leon Edwards in their UFC Fight Night Singapore welterweight bout at the Indoor Stadium yesterday.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Briton backs up trash talk after disparaging opponent 'Cowboy' as past his sell-by date

Leon Edwards had taunted Donald Cerrone for weeks, calling the 35-year-old American old and slow ahead of last night's Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night Singapore event at the Indoor Stadium.

And the 26-year-old Briton backed up his talk with smart fight management over five rounds to earn a unanimous-decision victory over the fighter nicknamed "Cowboy" in their welterweight (up to 77kg) showdown.

Despite claiming the biggest scalp of his burgeoning career, Edwards rated his performance only seven out of 10.

"I should have put on the pace and put him away," said the Jamaica-born fighter. "My game plan was to finish the fight (with a submission or knockout). That would have made a mark."

He also defended his pre-fight comments about Cerrone, insisting with a grin: "I wasn't talking s***. I was just saying he's an older guy.

"After the fight, I told him he's a legend of the game, I respected him and that it was an honour to fight him."

Cerrone, meanwhile, said illness almost ruled him out of the fight.

"I was throwing up all morning... It was the first time in my career I was close to calling Dana (White, UFC president) and saying, 'I'm not coming into work today'," he said.

"But then at 5 o'clock, I looked into the mirror and told myself I'm not that type of guy."

Backed by most of the 6,400-strong crowd, the American was clearly the fan favourite as he searched for a record 21st UFC win.

But he found Edwards a wily customer and could not inflict significant damage on him. Cerrone sits on 20 wins, alongside Canada's Georges St-Pierre and the retired Michael Bisping of Britain.

Edwards drew blood from his illustrious opponent early in the first round after he caught him with a low kick to the temple and showed excellent fight management to earn the decision win, although some fans voiced their disapproval with what they saw as him running for most of the fight.

With 10 seconds to go in the final round, Cerrone stared at his opponent and pointed to the middle of the mat as if to say: "Stand here and fight me."

The two fighters then threw fists at each other, but Edwards had done enough to secure the win.

UFC vice-president for the Asia-Pacific Kevin Chang called the Singapore crowd "amazing", and, when asked if a title fight could be staged in the Republic in the future, said: "Anything is possible, we don't rule anything out."

The UFC will return to stage shows in Singapore in 2019 and 2020.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 24, 2018, with the headline 'Edwards puts on striking clinic'. Print Edition | Subscribe