Down huge heading into the final round, Edwards uncorked a spectacular head kick that absolutely demolished Usman and sent him crashing to the canvas in a heap. Referee Herb Dean rushed in to stop the fight as Edwards almost immediately began tearing up as he realized his dream to become UFC champion.
The official stoppage came at 4:04 in the fifth round as Edwards claimed the title in one of the most unforgettable moments in the history of the sport.
“You all said I couldn’t do it. Look at me now! Head shot, dead. That’s it,” Edwards said afterwards.
“It doesn’t matter from the trenches. I’m built like this. I go until the bell’s done. Look at me now. I told you I could do it. Pound-for-pound, what? The belt belongs to nobody!”
The ending was emphatic but more importantly Edwards showed resilience after he started strong but then began to fade as the fight moved into the latter rounds.
Edwards managed to reverse an early takedown from Usman before becoming the first person in UFC history to put “The Nigerian Nightmare” on the canvas. From there, Edwards quickly advanced to take the back and look for the rear naked choke but Usman survived to make it to the end of the round.
The tough start led to aggression from Usman as he came out guns blazing, putting pressure on Edwards and swinging hard shots to the head and body. Usman was still cautious in the exchanges as Edwards countered with some solid punches but the reigning champion was connecting with the stiffer strikes.
After some bruising punishment against the cage, Usman secured his first takedown as he started peppering away with punches to the body and wearing on Edwards’ conditioning.
As the third round got underway, Usman snatched a leg and put Edwards down again momentarily but he also set the tone as he continued to control the pace. Usman kept dragging Edwards to the mat as the former Division II National Champion wrestler really began weighing down on the challenger.
Another double-leg takedown followed as Usman looked to break Edwards with the continued pressure followed by short punches that kept chipping away. Any time the fight got back to the feet, Usman was launching huge shots including several elbows that were clubbing Edwards on the side of the head.
By the time the fight faded into the fifth and final round, Usman appeared to be in complete control but Edwards’ coaches urged him to leave everything in the cage and go for broke.
That’s exactly what happened as Usman made a bad call to stand and trade with Edwards in the closing moments of the fight. A straight punch that forced Usman to duck his head led to the kick coming from Edwards that landed with concussive force.
As soon as shin met bone, Usman was knocked flat on his back and Edwards raised his hands in victory as he became the second fighter from the United Kingdom to win UFC gold (the first was Michael Bisping).
“I can’t explain it,” Edwards said. “God is on my side. I felt like this was my moment. They all said I couldn’t come back and do it. Now look at me now. Champion of the world.”