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Who can beat Leon Edwards’ Kamaru Usman, Khamzat Chimaev and Vicente Luque in the UFC?

There is no debate about Kamaru Usman’s status as the number one pound-for-pound UFC and the ‘Nigerian nightmare’ is on its way to becoming one of the greatest of all time.

Saturday night put his closest rival to the sword for the second time in a decision win over Colby Covington and is beginning to “turn around” the welterweight division.

Usman hasn’t tasted defeat for 11 years, he developed fearsome punches to accompany his dominant fight, and it’s hard to see where he could slip.

Kamaru Usman looks almost untouchable as UFC pound-for-pound number 1

Kamaru Usman looks almost untouchable as UFC pound-for-pound number 1

Having shared the Octagon with Covington for a combined 49 minutes in both fights, Usman insists that ‘Chaos’ is his closest competitor.

After Saturday’s win he reflected: ‘This guy is tough as nails. This guy is very, very tough. Let’s be honest, [Muhammad] Ali needed a [Joe] Frazier.

‘All these guys, you guys may be the best, but there will always be a guy who can push you and he’s that guy.

That guy is tough. It will tune a lot of guys in the division. We’ll see. It depends on him. If you’re willing to do the job and come back here and I’m still here, we’ll make it happen. ‘

So if he just defeated his greatest threat once again, who could be the man to dethrone Usman and how long could he reign?

The 'Nigerian Nightmare' defeated Colby Covington, his closest rival for the second time

The 'Nigerian Nightmare' defeated Colby Covington, his closest rival for the second time

The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ defeated Colby Covington, his closest rival for the second time

LEON EDWARDS

Make no mistake, the British welterweight would start the fight a loser in the betting against Usman, even if he beats Jorge Masvidal with flying colors.

‘Rocky’ faces Masvidal at UFC 269 next month and given that his opponent has already lost twice to the champion, it will be fascinating to see how the Birmingham fighter fares.

A late wobble against Nate Diaz completely took the shine off what had been a brilliant technical display by Edwards earlier this year.

But the previous four rounds should not be forgotten. He looked masterful and hasn’t lost since Usman beat him six years ago.

British star enjoys 10-fight unbeaten streak in UFC

British star enjoys 10-fight unbeaten streak in UFC

Leon Edwards faces Jorge Masvidal next month and a win almost guarantees a title shot

Edwards previously said: ‘I didn’t get bitchy, I didn’t complain, I took the loss on my chin. I worked my back on a nine-game winning streak. Who else deserves it?

Frankly, no one deserves it as much as Edwards. He’s not the most outspoken fighter in the world, but he agreed to a showdown with Khamzat Chimaev when everyone else was rushing for cover.

It took a bit of persuasion for him to accept the Masvidal showdown as he wanted to wait for Usman, but a victory in December makes it impossible to ignore him.

Stylistically, he doesn’t have Usman’s wrestling pedigree and that could make a real difference in the fight.

Usman is strong on his feet now, but Edwards could be a match for him in that department. Ultimately, it would be a huge but unexpected victory that would send shockwaves through the sport.

Edwards fought Nate Diaz late, so it's easy to forget his dominance beforehand.

Edwards fought Nate Diaz late, so it's easy to forget his dominance beforehand.

Edwards fought Nate Diaz late, so it’s easy to forget his dominance beforehand.

VICENTE LUQUE

Edwards has a unanimous decision victory over Luque, but that was four years ago and since then the Brazilian has become one of the main contenders.

It seems that his game has taken another level and he has finished his last four fights, two by submission and two by knockout.

The most recent hit came against deadly terrain specialist Michael Chiesa, whom he struck with a D’Arce choke.

That victory really made the tongue tremble and given the shortage of other legitimate contenders, he could fight for the belt in the next six months.

Vicente Luque has been rising through the ranks and could have a title shot soon

Vicente Luque has been rising through the ranks and could have a title shot soon

Vicente Luque has been rising through the ranks and could have a title shot soon

But could he beat Usman? The champion has no real weaknesses and while Luque would back up his submission skills, defeating the No. 1 pound for pound is next to impossible.

Scratch that. Taking down Usman has been completely impossible. None of his opponents have managed to turn him face up.

What skill to have at your disposal. Sure enough, Usman can dictate where a fight takes place and it’s hard to see Luque get past him.

So if Luque and Edwards were to come in as significant losers, who else could break the champion?

KHAMZAT CHIMAEV

There is empty advertising and then there is the advertising surrounding this man.

Chimaev has made waves like few others since Conor McGregor burst onto the scene and even his first four fights weren’t as emphatic.

After defeating three opponents in 66 days last year, he was kicked out of the dangerous Li Jingliang after a battle that could end his career with Covid.

Chimaev tossed him around like a rag doll and his path seems destined to intersect with Usman at some point.

Khamzat Chimaev is taking the UFC by storm and could be a few fights away from a title shot

Khamzat Chimaev is taking the UFC by storm and could be a few fights away from a title shot

Khamzat Chimaev is taking the UFC by storm and could be a few fights away from a title shot

Dana White admitted that she has never seen anyone like Chimaev, but she still wants to see how he will fare against one of the top five opponents.

He said, ‘I get it – the guy is one of the coolest and baddest things we’ve ever seen and the way he rips people apart.’ But once you get into the top 10, the top five, not even talking about Usman, it’s a completely different game.

He’s a couple of fights away. If he can beat a couple of guys in the top 10, top five, we’ll see. ‘

It would be no surprise if you cleaned the floor with them.

Chimaev dismantled Li Jingliang with ease and is now ranked in the top 10

Chimaev dismantled Li Jingliang with ease and is now ranked in the top 10

Chimaev dismantled Li Jingliang with ease and is now ranked in the top 10

Although we might be forced to wait (a year from now it might be a realistic time frame), Chimaev seems to have all the tools to beat Usman.

Their abilities are very similar: powerful fighters with terrifying power in their hands.

Chimaev also has youth on his side at 27, seven years younger than Usman. When you look at the 170-pound division, even at this early stage, he’s the man who might have the best chance.

ISRAEL ADESANYA

If there was someone else dominating the middleweight division, all that would be said would be about Usman’s rise.

He’s on his way to being discussed as the best welterweight in UFC history, but he’s still behind Georges St-Pierre in that regard.

GSP managed to add the middleweight belt to his collection and become a ‘double champion’ by beating Michael Bisping.

But Usman has previously insisted that there is almost no chance that he will try to fight his close friend and fellow Nigerian Adesanya.

Israel Adesanya (left) and Usman are close friends and have little interest in fighting.

Israel Adesanya (left) and Usman are close friends and have little interest in fighting.

Israel Adesanya (left) and Usman are close friends and have little interest in fighting.

He recently added a caveat to that, saying, ‘Unless (UFC president) Dana White wants to give us $ 100 million, then Israel and I have to have a serious conversation like, hey, do we want these 50 each or what?

“But right now that doesn’t really interest me because I meant what I said that two Nigerians with belts are more important to me than one Nigerian with two belts.”

As long as Adesanya is in his place at the top of the tree, which could still be around for a long time, Usman won’t face him and the UFC won’t spend the amount of money he’s arguing about.

HOW LONG COULD IT REIGN?

Usman doesn’t seem like the type of champion to lose motivation or get distracted by the pitfalls of his success.

Legacy is a key motivator for him, but there must come a point where he needs a new challenge. If he can get rid of Edwards, Luque and the fresh blood of the Chimaev division, it could be years before he loses.

But coach Ali Abdelaziz will undoubtedly be plotting big paydays and for that, big challenges are needed.

Usman is so well rounded and has no real weaknesses, so it's hard to imagine him losing.

Usman is so well rounded and has no real weaknesses, so it's hard to imagine him losing.

Usman is so well rounded and has no real weaknesses, so it’s hard to imagine him losing.

Usman has talked about a crossover fight against Canelo Alvarez in the past, but it seems highly unlikely at this stage.

Perhaps the more time that passes, the greater the chances that he will back out of his promise not to fight Adesanya.

Usman has almost become too dominant for his own good. The pound-for-pound number one has his foot on the throat of the division and doesn’t seem to be moving anytime soon.

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