Some expected clarity went right out the window due to an errant digit.
A high-stakes confrontation that could have given rise to the next Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title challenger instead unraveled in an instant, as an accidental Leon Edwards eye poke resulted in a no contest with Belal Muhammad in the UFC Fight Night 187 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Referee Herb Dean called for the stoppage 18 seconds into Round 2 after Muhammad indicated he could not see out of his visibly damaged right eye.
Edwards appeared to be headed in the right direction until the foul turned the situation sideways. He staggered Muhammad with a head kick in the first round, flexed his speed advantage with crisp combinations and administered the far more impactful blows. However, all his good work went for naught. Where Edwards goes from here remains to be seen, as the no contest halted his winning streak at eight fights and did so at a most inopportune time.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Edwards vs. Muhammad,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Leon Edwards vs. Jorge Masvidal: Even though he has a case to be considered the No. 1 contender at 170 pounds, Edwards may need to do some additional lifting to appease UFC matchmakers. “Rocky” outstruck Muhammad by a 19-8 margin across their five minutes and change in the cage, and he seemed to have the inside track on another victory before one of his wayward fingers wandered into the Chicago native’s eye and sent everyone home empty-handed. Edwards, 29, has not tasted defeat since he lost a unanimous decision to current champion Kamaru Usman in 2015, but he now also finds himself closing in on two years since his most recent win. He has unfinished business with Masvidal—their hostilities date back to post-fight encounter in March 2019 in which they came to blows—and would likely be willing to renew acquaintances inside the cage in the absence of a title shot. Masvidal last competed at UFC 251, where he dropped a unanimous verdict to Usman on July 11.
Ryan Spann vs. Anthony Smith-Jimmy Crute winner: Spann rebounded from a disappointing Sept. 19 knockout loss to Johnny Walker and took a major step forward in his development, as he buried Misha Cirkunov with punches a little more than a minute into their light heavyweight co-main event. Cirkunov bowed out 71 seconds into Round 1. Spann knocked down the Latvian twice, first with a straight right and later with a left hook, before he finished the job with a series of rapid-fire hammerfists. The Fortis MMA rep has rattled nine victories in his last 10 appearances, seven of them by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Smith and Crute are scheduled to collide at UFC 261 on April 24.
Dan Ige vs. Sodiq Yusuff-Arnold Allen winner: In living up to his “50K” nickname, Ige authored the seventh-fastest finish in the history of the 145-pound weight class when he walked Gavin Tucker into a fighting-ending right hand just 22 seconds into their featherweight showcase. It earned the expectant father a $50,000 bonus check for “Performance of the Night” and allowed him to keep his name relevant in a talent-rich division. One of the more prominent success stories to emerge from Dana White’s Contender Series, the 29-year-old Ige now owns a 7-2 record in the UFC. Yusuff and Arnold will lock horns on April 10, when they square off at UFC on ABC 2.
Davey Grant vs. Gustavo Lopez-Adrian Yanez winner: Grant’s unexpected resurgence continued with a sensational knockout of Jonathan Martinez in the second round of their bantamweight feature. Martinez wilted on the end of a left hook 3:03 into Round 2. Grant, 35, quickly became an afterthought once the affable Brit started his UFC career with losses in three of his first four bouts. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 finalist hit rock bottom after submitting to Damian Stasiak and Manny Bermudez in consecutive appearances, then re-emerged with a split decision over Grigory Popov that kickstarted his current three-fight winning streak. It will be a feel-good story for as long as it lasts. Lopez and Yanez have been pitted against each other at UFC on ESPN 21 on March 20.