No one is happy with the way the main event ended between Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad. I’ve seen a lot from cageside over my years covering the sport, but my skin was crawling when Muhammad went down with that eye poke. His reaction was really worrisome, and it’s very relieving that he reported “no permanent damage” to his eye after being checked out at the hospital.
Now, the question we must ask: Was this situation handled properly? Edwards (18-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC) was warned by referee Herb Dean in the first round about potential eye pokes, then he hit Muhammad (18-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) with one in the second frame that ended the fight. I don’t think Edwards did this intentionally by any means, but the Brit did not properly control his weapons in the octagon, and it ruined the fight.
At first, I thought a disqualification was potentially warranted. Then I ran into Dean at the airport leaving Las Vegas, and I’m convinced the appropriate call was made. Dean said he only likes to issue DQs if there’s a degree of malice involved with a foul. He cited the fact that matchups involving fighters in a mirror stance can be a lot more conducive to eye pokes, and though Edwards was warned early in the fight, Dean cited the motion of how the two athletes came together as just an unfortunate and untimely moment.
Eye pokes happen a lot in MMA fights. More often than not we forget about them and move on because the fighters are able to continue. It just so happens this one got Muhammad in a really bad way, and in a high-profile, main event spot. It sucked for everyone involved, but upon reflection, a no contest as opposed to putting a loss on Edwards’ record and a win on Muhammad’s, seems like the right way to go.