While it was not official, one of the big fights expected for the first part of 2023 was a UFC welterweight title rematch between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman. Now, it appears that fight may not happen.

According to reports, Usman is injured and may be replaced in his rematch with Edwards by Jorge Masvidal, but would this be the right move for the UFC to make?

There are a number of pros and cons around the idea of an Edwards vs. Masvidal fight, and it’ll be worth the UFC considering them all.

Here are three reasons why Leon Edwards vs. Jorge Masvidal makes sense – and two reasons why it doesn’t.

#3. Leon Edwards and Jorge Masvidal have a ready-made feud

Jorge Masvidal famously sucker-punched Leon Edwards in 2019
Jorge Masvidal famously sucker-punched Leon Edwards in 2019

One of the biggest reasons for allowing Jorge Masvidal to replace Kamaru Usman in a UFC welterweight title match with Leon Edwards is the fact that the two have a ready-made feud.

Famously, their beef began back in 2019 following the UFC’s event in London that March. Both men won their fights that night, with Edwards outpointing Gunnar Nelson and Masvidal knocking out Darren Till in the headliner.

However, the big news came when ‘Gamebred’ confronted Edwards backstage. In an altercation caught on camera, Masvidal decided to abandon an interview to confront ‘Rocky’ before sucker-punching him.

The incident was later popularized by Masvidal, who claimed he gave Edwards a “three-piece and soda,” adding to his reputation as a street fighter and overall bad boy.

While both men have mentioned the possibility of an official fight many times since, it’s never come to fruition. However, the seeds for a major clash were clearly sewn, and so it wouldn’t be hard for the UFC to use the footage to sell the fight.

Therefore, rather than trying to build something between Edwards and a different opponent, if Kamaru Usman is indeed out, then turning to Masvidal makes logical sense.

#2. Jorge Masvidal may be an easier opponent for Leon Edwards than Colby Covington

Colby Covington might be the other viable opponent for Leon Edwards if Kamaru Usman is out
Colby Covington might be the other viable opponent for Leon Edwards if Kamaru Usman is out

One under-the-radar reason for the UFC turning to Jorge Masvidal if Kamaru Usman is out of his welterweight title rematch with Leon Edwards is the fact that the other clear alternative would be Colby Covington.

Sure, a fight between ‘Rocky’ and ‘Chaos’ would probably be a lot of fun, and the trash talk that would ensue in the buildup would be priceless.

However, if Covington were to win – and stylistically, he’d be a dangerous fight for Edwards – then what next? Usman would probably still warrant an immediate title shot, which would mean he’d end up fighting ‘Chaos’ – again.

While the first bout between Usman and Covington was one of the biggest of 2019 and their rematch was also a highly-anticipated clash, would anyone really like to see a third fight?

The answer is probably no. Not only has ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ already proven himself to be the better man on two occasions, nobody needs to hear more quasi-racist rhetoric from Covington to build the fight.

Sure, nobody needs to see a third bout between Usman and Masvidal either, but the fact is that ‘Gamebred’ is a far better match for Edwards, stylistically speaking. ‘Rocky’ would therefore be favored to win, and that’d hopefully lead right to his rematch with Usman, which is the fight everyone wants to see, after all.

Put simply, Edwards vs. Masvidal is the safer path for the UFC to take.

#1. A fight between Leon Edwards and Jorge Masvidal might draw well on pay-per-view

Jorge Masvidal is a proven drawing card for the UFC
Jorge Masvidal is a proven drawing card for the UFC

The goal of the UFC is always to ensure that it make big money from their pay-per-views. In that sense, its bookings aren’t always about sporting fairness.

A welterweight title rematch between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman would undoubtedly be a solid drawing card.

After all, Usman had begun to catch on as a star of sorts before his loss to ‘Rocky’, and the fact that Edwards’ head-kick knockout title win went viral across the world would only help matters.

However, with Usman now reportedly out of that rematch, it’s safe to say that the fighter who’d draw the most money alongside him instead is Jorge Masvidal.

Not only do the two have a ready-made feud, as was mentioned earlier, but ‘Gamebred’ is a strong drawing card in his own right. His pay-per-view headliner against Nate Diaz in 2019 was a big hit, and his first clash with Usman in 2020 drew over a million buys, the kind of mark usually only reached by the likes of Conor McGregor.

Breaking: UFC 251, headlined by Kamaru Usman-Jorge Masvidal, generated approximately 1.3 million pay-per-view buys on ESPN+, multiple sources tell The Athletic. The debut of Fight Island in Abu Dhabi produced the most UFC PPVs since Khabib-Conor in 2018theathletic.com/1926427/2020/0…

Therefore, it’s highly likely that despite his recent record not being great, many fans would still buy into the idea of Masvidal as a title challenger. A clash between him and Edwards would definitely do a better number than, say, Edwards vs. Colby Covington, Belal Muhammad or Stephen Thompson.

With that considered, if Usman is indeed out, the UFC should go for it.

While there are definitely a number of reasons for giving Jorge Masvidal a shot at Leon Edwards, there are also reasons to avoid this.

#2. Jorge Masvidal has done nothing to deserve a title shot

'Gamebred' has lost his last three fights in a row in the octagon
‘Gamebred’ has lost his last three fights in a row in the octagon

If Jorge Masvidal was on a lengthy winning streak right now, or even if he’d won a big fight in his last outing, then it’d be easier to justify the idea of him getting a UFC welterweight title shot.

However, the fact is that, right now, ‘Gamebred’ is on probably the worst run of his entire UFC career. Remarkably, he has not won a fight since November 2019, when he defeated Nate Diaz via doctor’s stoppage to win the infamous ‘BMF’ title.

Since then, he’s lost two fights to Kamaru Usman – the second via brutal knockout – and one to bitter rival Colby Covington. None of those fights saw him come close to winning. If anything, both Usman and Covington exposed some major flaws in his game.

Sure, the UFC has given title shots to fighters coming off losses before, and usually, those kind of shots go to big stars. Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey and Ken Shamrock, for instance, were all given opportunities at gold after losing their previous bout.

However, no fighter on such a slide has ever been given that kind of chance, particularly not after going well over three years without a victory.

Essentially, there’s just no way that the promotion can possibly justify handing ‘Gamebred’ a title shot at Leon Edwards, however you frame it.

#1. The UFC should not be encouraging the kind of behavior Jorge Masvidal has displayed

Jorge Masvidal's behaviour outside of the octagon has been questionable at times
Jorge Masvidal’s behaviour outside of the octagon has been questionable at times

One major reason that the UFC should avoid giving Jorge Masvidal a shot at welterweight champ Leon Edwards is the fact that if they were to do so, they’d essentially be rewarding some very questionable behavior.

Essentially, Masvidal’s beef with Edwards comes from a backstage altercation that saw him hit ‘Rocky’ with a combination – something that, outside of the realm of the UFC, would be tantamount to assault.

If this were an isolated incident, then perhaps it wouldn’t be such a big deal. However, the fact is that ‘Gamebred’ has been involved in this kind of behavior more than once.

Prior to finding stardom in MMA, he was a known street fighter in his hometown of Miami, and it seems like that reputation has never fully left him.

Most recently, Masvidal found himself in hot water after allegedly assaulting rival Colby Covington outside a restaurant, just weeks after their clash in the octagon. Reportedly, ‘Gamebred’ sucker-punched ‘Chaos’ twice, fracturing one of his teeth.

Covington pressed charges following the incident, and as of the time of writing, the case has still not been settled.

Should the UFC, which has prided itself over the years for its efforts in proving MMA to be more than a haven for street brawlers, really be seen to reward a fighter like Masvidal for his behavior?

The answer is definitely no, which is why they should avoid giving him a shot at Leon Edwards, particularly while an assault charge is hanging over him.

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