Leon Edwards wanted to secure a title shot with his win over Nate Diaz at UFC 263 but he nearly had four rounds of hard work taken away from him in the final two minutes of the fight.
After largely dominating on the feet and on the ground, Edwards appeared to be cruising towards a lopsided win but Diaz refused to go away. That’s when Diaz blasted Edwards with a huge left hand that had the Arizona crowd on its feet looking for the miraculous comeback.
Despite Diaz’s best efforts, Edwards found a way to hold on and survive to win the fight and remain undefeated in his past 10 appearances in the octagon.
“Nate’s a veteran. I hit him with everything but the kitchen sink,” Edwards said afterwards. “I give my respect to him. I’m young 29 years old, still learning, still growing. I look forward to my title shot
I didn’t feel no pressure to be honest. I approached it like another fight. Nate’s a veteran, I give my respect to Nate. I look forward to my world title shot.”
The crowd was loudly in the corner of Team Diaz but Edwards didn’t let the noise get to him as he targeted the lead leg with a couple of thudding kicks to get moving in the opening round. While Diaz is well-known for his forward pressure, Edwards actually took the center of the octagon and began moving forward with his combinations.
In a strange twist, Edwards actually took Diaz to the ground for a brief grappling exchange before unleashing a calf kick just before the horn sounded.
Rather than coming back a boxing heavy offense, Diaz was spending more time taunting and teasing Edwards but the antics just weren’t working. Every time Diaz would lean against the cage trying to draw Edwards into an exchange, the British welterweight would just wait for an opening so he could unleash his strikes.
Edwards was also continuing to chew up that lead leg with that same nasty kick that began to really pay dividends with Diaz showing the ill effects in his movement.
When the fight eventually hit the floor, Edwards continued his assault with hard punches and slicing elbows that resulted in a pair of cuts opening up including a huge gash on the side of Diaz’s head that began pouring blood down his face.
When the fight moved into the fourth round, Edwards was just baiting Diaz into his counter strikes that included a brutal left hook that twisted the Stockton, Calif. native around. The biggest shots from Edwards were coming whenever Diaz got aggressive and he was able to time his power punches in response.
Knowing he was up on the scorecards didn’t stop Edwards from unleashing the same shots that were constantly catching Diaz looking. That willingness to engage in those exchanges nearly cost Edwards the fight, however, as Diaz blasted him with the straight left hand that landed flush on the jaw.
Edwards was immediately on rubber legs as Diaz rushed forward for the kill but he just couldn’t do enough to actually get the finish as the fight came to a close.
While he didn’t get the win, Diaz still enjoyed plenty of love from the fans as he paid homage to Edwards on a job well done.
“I had a hard time getting going today,” Diaz said about his performance. “Congratulations to Leon. I wish I would have took his ass the f*ck out. It’s Nate Diaz army. I appreciated the love and support from the whole army.”