Leon Edwards is a true mixed martial artist, with exceptional wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills as well as a strong Muay Thai base. Despite adopting a more traditional MMA stance as opposed to a Muay Thai one, his crisp striking epitomises a knowledgeable understanding of Muay Thai across all aspects of his striking. His skill level demonstrates that Muay Thai can be an effective style to master for MMA
The key aspects of Leon’s striking are long range, straight shots. As a 6’2 welterweight with a 74 inch reach, he usually outsizes his opponents, so we consistently see him using a stiff jab and a strong cross to follow. We often see him feint these shots, throwing them well out of range just to gauge his opponents reaction and to spot potential openings in his opponents guard.
Last nights performance displayed Leon’s ability to throw harmful leg kicks as well. While Nate Diaz’s boxing-heavy approach often makes him susceptible to leg kicks, Leon fought large portions of the fight in a southpaw stance (Leon has the ability to switch stances incredibly well) and can fight to match Diaz’s stance and maximise power when chopping down on Diaz’s front leg.
One aspect of Muay Thai that is often overlooked in MMA is the use of elbows. We often see fighters like Jon Jones use slashing elbows in his ground and pound, and have seen devastating knockouts with elbows, such as Matt Brown’s knockout against TUF season 1 winner Diego Sanchez. Leon uses his elbows effectively both standing and in his ground and pound. We saw him knockout Gunnar Nelson with a perfectly timed elbow, and often see him look to time spinning back elbows when breaking in the clinch. Las night, we saw him slice Nate Diaz’s eyebrow open with a perfectly placed elbow from Nate’s full guard.
Leon is one of a few fighters, along with the likes of Edson Barboza, Darren Till and Jose Aldo who all rely on their strong Muay Thai skills to best their opponents. After last nights victory, a title shot against former foe and welterweight champion Kamaru Usman looks on the cards, and the whole Muay Thai community should get behind the Birmingham man as he looks to become just the second British UFC champion.