British heavyweight star Aspinall previews Edwards

‘It was a REALLY heavy KO, can the brain recover that quickly?’: British heavyweight star Tom Aspinall previews huge UFC 286 clash between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman and questions quick turnaround for ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ after head kick

  • Tom Aspinall headlined both UFC London cards last year but is a fan this time 
  • Heavyweight star believes Kamaru Usman is taking risk so soon after heavy KO 
  • EXPLAINED: All you need to know ahead of the massive event at O2 Arena  

Tom Aspinall has warned Kamaru Usman he is treading precarious ground taking the trilogy fight with Leon Edwards so soon after a catastrophic KO defeat. 

Usman had never been separated from consciousness before until the Brit landed a picture perfect head kick to win the UFC welterweight title last August. 

This Saturday, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has his chance at revenge but heavyweight star Aspinall warned the quick turnaround could be a real risk. 

He said: ‘The thing that concerns me is, that was a heavy KO, a really heavy KO. And that was only six or seven months ago. Can the brain physically recover from something that quickly? 

‘That’s something yet to be seen, we’re going to find out in two days time. How’s his brain going to react when it gets shaken up six months after something like that? 

Leon Edwards, (above) takes on Kamaru Usman in his first defence of the UFC title  

British heavyweight star Tom Aspinall believes ‘Rocky’ can get the job done again  

The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ was dealt his first ever UFC defeat against Edwards last August

‘That was a really heavy knockdown, on the floor with his eyes wide open, really heavy stuff. I don’t know if I’d want a turnaround that quick but he’s obviously keen, he’s confident. How does that play into the psychological aspect of it? 

‘When you’re getting woken up by the referee six months ago and you don’t even have a win since, that has to play some sort of psychological warfare with your mind, you have to be battling something to step in there but we are talking about one of the best welterweights ever to fight in the UFC.

‘It’s hard for me to say because I’ve never been knocked out like that, it all depends, your brain isn’t something you want to mess with, I would be very careful. 

‘You’ve got your brain, the health of your brain and then your ego, you’re a former champion, beaten this guy before, were winning the fight last time, you’re going to want to jump straight back in there and do it again.’

Brain and ego aside, it was the lungs that was the focus of much post-fight debate last time out. 

Edwards struggled at the altitude of Salt Lake City, fading after a promising opening round before finding the knockout in the fifth to steal victory. 

Justin Gaethje, Usman’s team-mate, made the point this week that in their first two fights, Edwards has been dominated for around 35 of the 37 minutes. 

Edwards, seen here knocking out Usman, had been flat in the middle rounds of the fight 

So how can the case be made for the Birmingham fighter to turn the tide, without having to produce a moment of genius again? 

How would Aspinall fight Usman if he was to hypothetically shrink down to welterweight in some parallel universe… 

‘Probably not very well! It’s hard to say, I don’t like discussing pound-for-pound stuff, your style is matched with body type. If you shrunk me down to a smaller size, it wouldn’t really work… I’d have to defend the takedowns well and keep him guessing. 

‘It’s difficult for me to say because I break down everyone in my own division. With someone who has good striking, forward pressure and a wrestler like he is, you can’t let them get in a rhythm and plodding forward, landing shots and taking you down. You’ve got to keep them twitching. Anyone with good forward pressure, keep them on the back foot.

He went on: ‘From what I could see in the last fight, Leon did really well in the first round and then blamed it on the altitude. He seemed to go a bit flat in the other three or four. 

‘His story matched up with his performance. If he can dominate the first round, take away the altitude and home advantage, he should be able to dominate most of the fight.’

Edwards has a proved he has impressive defensive abilities during his 11-fight win-streak

Aspinall suffered a freak knee injury in his fight against Curtis Blaydes last year

Aspinall headlined the London card twice last year, demolishing Alexander Volkov in the March event before suffering a heartbreaking knee injury months later just a few seconds into his clash with Curtis Blaydes. 

His knee has been surgically repaired and he is back in training again now, plotting a comeback in the heavyweight division now ruled by Jon Jones. 

Aspinall is a key part of the recent British MMA revolution, led by Edwards, the second champion from these shores after Michael Bisping. 

Arnold Allen, Molly McCann, Paddy Pimblett, Muhammad Mokaev are among the many talents lighting up the UFC but Aspinall does not believe this is simply a golden generation, rather a permanent change to the landscape. 

 ‘It’s not just a golden generation of British talent, this is the way it’s going to be,’ Aspinall reflects.

Edwards became the second British fighter in the organisation’s history after victory last year

‘We’ve caught up with the Americans now. There’s not some magic stuff going on in America, there’s not some magic stuff going on in Brazil. There’s none of that anymore, we know what we’re doing in this country now. 

‘We’ve always had a mad boxing pedigree, the best in the world for generations now and we’ve got good fighters and can do it now, we have it inside us. 

‘There’s no other special gyms or anything we need to go to, we can do it in the UK.’

Edwards will have the chance to embolden that growing reputation as a global MMA power on Saturday night. All that remains is the battle with the scales on Friday morning before it’s all systems go for the biggest event in British UFC history. 

Watch UFC 286 live on BT Sport Box Office on Saturday 18th March. Coverage of the main card will start from 9pm. The prelims will be available to watch for free from 7pm on YouTube,, BT Sport App and BT Sport Box Office App

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