UK MMA fans will be given another chance to see one of their most promising rising stars perform this weekend in Rotterdam. UTC Birmingham’s Leon Edwards (10-3-0) will face Dominic Waters (9-4-0), yet another prospect to come out of the Jackson-Wink Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Leon has had mixed success in the UFC with two wins and two losses, while Waters is almost certainly fighting for a future in the promotion having lost both of his fights since being signed in July 2015, which is usually enough to warrant the termination of a fighter’s contract. However, both fighters have caveats in their respective losses: Waters lost his UFC debut on one week’s notice against a formidable opponent in George Sullivan, and also lost his most recent outing against Dong Hyun Kim, who is amongst the divisional elite. On the other hand, Leon Edwards lost his promotional debut in a very contestable split decision against Claudio Silva in his home country of Brazil, and also dropped a decision to TUF 21 winner and all-round freak Kamaru Usman.
Despite these losses, Leon has a lot to show for his so-far-brief UFC career, most impressive of all being an eight-second knockout of Seth Baczynski which is listed as the second fastest in welterweight history. Leon will most certainly be looking to replicate such an impressive win in Rotterdam this Sunday. As evidenced by his KO of Seth Baczynski, Leon is an explosive, dangerous counter-striker with an eye for the finish. His style is centred on achieving the one-punch knockout, and his speed, elusiveness and technical striking proficiency gives his them perfect skill set to make this eventuality a constant threat to his opponents.
Waters is less refined in his approach. He keeps his hands high and moves forward in straight lines, throwing long hooks to his opponents’ head using alternating hands. This works well in the sense that it maintains pressure and keeps his foes on the back foot, but it’s predictable and cardio-draining. Fatigue has been an unfortunate theme of Waters’ short UFC career, but it is important to note that both of his appearances have been made on short notice, so it might be unfair to make quick judgements about Waters’ ability to maintain the pace. Generally, he looks more comfortable in top position that he does on the feet. His long limbs enable him to cause damage from the guard position, which he often elects to maintain whilst looking for opportunities to posture up and land shots.
It is no secret that the way to beat Leon is to get him down and keep him there, a game plan that Usman used to great effect. This might go some way to explaining why Leon is somewhat conservative in his approach on the feet. He utilises footwork to stay on the outside and measure his opponent, while often opting to throw single-strike attacks in order to avoid committing to exchanges and risk being taken down. His most frequent strike is a meaningful straight left from the southpaw position, often thrown straight off the mark without setting it up with a jab. It could be the case that he does this to avoid establishing any predictable patterns that may lead to him being caught by a reactionary takedown. Allow me to clarify this – some fighters end up being so habitualised into throwing frequent jabs that they can sometimes be flashed out as a kind of nothing shot, and serve only to let their opponent know that something bigger is coming behind it.
Many fighters get planted on their arse with a big double leg takedown when their opponent ducks under the oh-so-obvious 1-2 combination.
Firing sharp, straight shots from the rear hand (especially from the southpaw position) with no telegraph but with violent intention can often be way more effective than regular mid-powered 1-2 combinations, and leaves one much less susceptible to takedowns. This strategy has also been used to great effect by fellow UK welterweight prospect Darren Till, who elects to throw the majority of his punches in this manner.
Waters possesses a great ability to launch an effective reactionary takedown when he is hit with a hard shot. This works well on opponents who are committing to being aggressive, but will be much more difficult against a slick striker like Leon who cuts angles and moves his feet. Still, if Leon is put on his back during the fight, Waters does have the capacity to cause him some damage. However, he won’t have an easy time keeping him there. Leon has displayed a great ability to get the fight back on the feet by creating strong frames and making space for an effective get-up. This is obviously something that he has worked hard on in an effort to round out his game and counter the threat of a smothering grappler.
This is a fight that I can see Leon winning, provided he keeps his head and remains patient. This shouldn’t be a problem as he has never shown any reckless tendencies and is a mature and professional fighter for his 24 years. If he can remain technical and avoid Waters’ flurries on the feet, while landing his own shots and remaining constantly wary of the takedown, this should be just another day at the office for Leon.
Leon Edwards vs. Dominic Waters will be featured on the Fight Pass Prelims of UFC Rotterdam this Sunday, May 8.
A nocturnal troglodyte that only ventures out of his cave in Leeds for Domino’s pizza or Budweiser. Do not be fooled though, as despite his troll-like nature Luke is quite the wordsmith and possess excellent leg-kicks.