Exciting news and storylines pop up in the combat sports world every day. In this weekly series, our UFC team will answer questions that fight fans are asking themselves, with bold takes and differing opinions on each topic.
Saturday night’s main event ended in major disappointment, being ruled a no-contest due to an illegal eye poke. With Edwards calling for a title shot and Muhammad wanting to run it back, what do you think is the best option moving forward?
William: First, having the main event end like this was incredibly disappointing and you have to feel for Belal Muhammad. He was crying after he was poked clearly in a mix of tremendous pain and disappointment knowing he would not be able to continue. For Edwards, the fight was going pretty much according to plan so far. He was dominating almost all of the striking exchanges and implementing his pressure early and often. I don’t think Muhammed was going to find a path to victory, but I guess we’ll never know.
As for looking forward for both fighters, I understand Belal’s reasoning for wanting a rematch. If I were him I would be campaigning for one as well and trying to get a chance to beat a top five welterweight. But I really don’t think it’s going to happen. This fight didn’t make a ton of sense in the first place, and the only reason it was happening was Edwards’ insistence on fighting after being off for so long. I think it is much more likely we see Edwards get matched up with Colby Covington in an essential title eliminator next. Neither of those men like each other and stylistically it would be a great fight. For Belal, I like his original call out from his last fight at UFC 258, Li Jingliang. That pits two up and comers both looking to break into the top ten.
Nick: My reaction to this fight was very similar to my reaction to the Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling bantamweight title bout a few weeks ago.
Essentially, “well, this sucks.”
Just as I said for that fight, this sucks for both guys. Obviously, the eye-poke wasn’t intentional. To even suggest that Leon Edwards deliberately poked Belal Muhammad in the eye is pathetic. Neither fighter wanted that fight to end as early as it did on something as silly as an eye-poke.
As for the question, I’m not really sure where these guys go from here. Someone on Twitter (I forget who it was or I’d credit them) mentioned that nobody currently in the top five at welterweight has fought anyone else currently in the top five at welterweight. How stupid is that? What are we doing here, guys?
Undeservingly, but understandably, Jorge Masvidal will get another shot at Kamaru Usman’s title strap next month. I say undeservingly because Masvidal has done absolutely nothing to earn a rematch, and I say understandably because any fight that features Masvidal is guaranteed to make all parties involved a lot of money.
This leaves both Edwards and Muhammad on the outside looking in. I have no clue what’s going on with Colby Covington, I have no clue how much longer Stephen Thompson will be sidelined with his hand injury and I have no clue where Gilbert Burns stands right now. Basically, welterweight is a mess and I’m struggling to even answer this question. The only thing that makes the most logical sense is to just rebook this fight for a few weeks from now, but obviously there are a lot of complications that accompany that, so who knows?
Zack: With the luxury of the UFC 261 announcement in our back pockets, It looks like Edwards won’t be getting a title shot straight away. Starting with Muhammed, I understand Belal wanting a rematch. Though he was getting dominated by Edwards, some game plans require that. I don’t think the fighter could have beaten Edwards, but the eye poke renders any opinions in that department pretty useless. Muhammad has a very bright future in this division and will get many more chances at ranked contenders, but his recovery time, depending on how long it takes, will likely dictate his next opponent.
As for Edwards, I think there’s two fights that could come next. If Muhammad can recover to fight fairly quickly, that is in the next couple months, I think Edwards should take that fight. I think we can all agree that he needs to win a fight before getting a title shot and Belal would suffice. The other option, if Belal can’t fight soon, is with Colby Covington. Masvidal apparently gets to fight for the title because he was on short notice the last time he was dominated, so Edwards and Covington are both lying in wait for now. The fight to make is the title eliminator (for now) between these two. Both are deserving of a title fight and this pitting would be entertaining and sort out the division.
That main event sparked debate over what the UFC can do about the incredibly damaging eye pokes. What steps do you think the UFC could/should take to help fighter safety and decrease eye pokes?
William: Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s much the UFC can do about this. People have talked about new gloves that bend the fighters hand naturally more, but to me that could take away from some’s grappling ability. I think the only option is to penalize eye pokes more with point penalties. That way it almost forces fighters to keep their fingers up and not out. Other than that, the referees need to just stay vigilant with their calls and try to put the utmost emphasis on it.
Nick: There are a lot of keyboard warriors on MMA twitter who claim to have solutions to this, but I feel like if there was a clear-cut solution, the UFC would have already fixed it. Obviously, the whole point of the MMA glove exposing fingers is to allow for extended hand motion and grip strength that is used in grappling and clinch exchanges. So unless you’re going to totally rewrite the rules of MMA, I don’t think there’s really an answer to the eye-poking dilemma.
Eye-pokes are one of those things that very rarely happen, but when they do, oh boy, people get angry. The harsh reality of it is when you’re fighting with four ounce gloves that leave fingers open, it’s just going to happen every once in a while.
Maybe the UFC’s new equipment/apparel deal with Venum, which goes into effect next month, will introduce a style of glove that somehow fixes, or at least alleviates this problem. As for me, I’m not really sure.
Zack: I don’t think there’s anything the UFC can really do about this. There have been talks of different gloves used that force your hands into more of a ball, but if that’s going to restrict hand motion, it’s absolutely not an option. Fighting with your hands out and fingers extended is a natural thing in MMA and something some fighters train to do. At the same time, some fighters train with closed gloves more and sometimes don’t really think of their fingers until they’re two knuckles deep in their opponent’s eye. Either way, all the UFC can do is have their referees stay vigilant. Warm fighters if their fingers are extended, pester them about it, take steps to mitigate it. Other than that there really isn’t a way to stop it without changing the rule set completely.
Dan Ige had arguably his most impressive win to date with a 22-second knockout victory over Gavin Tucker. Who would you like to see next for Ige in the crowded featherweight division?
William: Dan Ige’s performance this past Saturday was a beauty and exactly what he needed to vault himself right back into the conversation at 145.
Coming off of that loss to Calvin Kattar, he needed a statement win to position himself for another top five fight. I’d also like to note I thought his post fight callout was perfect. The Korean Zombie is coming off of a loss where he was dominated and is looking to bounce back. This presents Ige with the chance to propel himself into the top five and TKZ to show he is still a championship contender at 145 and that night was just a bad fight. A sleeper to watch is Yair Rodiriguez. He hasn’t fought in quite awhile and is seemingly interested in getting back into the Octagon soon. If Ige isn’t booked with Zombie, Rodriguez seems like another logical fit.
Nick: “Great work picking Tucker in the betting preview, Nick!”
Thanks everyone, appreciate it.
Man, was THAT a bad pick or what? Tucker didn’t even last 30 seconds. Obviously Ige was just more ready for the moment and knew exactly what he needed to do to get Tucker out of there early, so props to him for that. This was one of those bets where I couldn’t even be upset. When you miss that badly, sometimes you just have to laugh.
Ige made a good decision calling out Korean Zombie. Great fight, makes sense in the division landscape and is guaranteed to be entertaining. Don’t really have anything else to add other than the fact that, regardless of who’s next, Ige certainly deserves to fight up in the rankings after that performance.
Zack: I think Ige had the call right after the fight when he called out Korean Zombie. Jung already responded saying that he’s willing to take on Ige for his next fight, but also that he’s willing to move to lightweight, something that would leave Ige without a clear opponent. In that case I would like to see Ige go after one of the guys who hasn’t fought in a while, either Zabit or Yair. Either one would be a very entertaining fight, and just like the Colby/Leon fight, they could clear up the division and create a clear pecking order for rising prospects. However, I like the idea of Zombie and Ige fighting if that’s possible.
Boxing has made big headlines over the weekend with a rumored agreement in place for Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua to have a two-fight series to unify the heavyweight titles. Who do you favor in that matchup of heavyweight kings?
William: Finally some boxing fights I can really get excited about. So many mandatory defenses in boxing make it difficult to see the fighters consistently fight the best of the best, but that’s what we’ll be seeing in this fight.
A lot of boxing casual fan’s may see this fight similar to the Fury/Wilder bout. One clearly stronger and looking more physically fit versus the Gypsy King. It could not be further from that. While I may give a slight power edge to Joshua, the technique and movement go heavily in Fury’s favor. Joshua looked good in his last two outings, but Fury is a completely different animal. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he swept Joshua and won both the bouts convincingly. That’s simply how good he is.
Nick: The writers above and below me both follow boxing a lot more closely than I do and are much more knowledgeable than myself, so if you just skim right over my section here, I don’t blame you one bit.
The only thing I can really say about this match is that I’ll watch it, and I think that speaks to the magnitude of the fight itself. Boxing really needs to keep these blockbuster matchups coming in order to keep eyes on the sport, and so far they’ve been doing a good job of that in 2021.
It’s hard to pick against Fury after his total dismantling of Deontay Wilder last year, so I’ll probably back him in this spot. His elusiveness and technique is just so damn good for a man his size that I can’t imagine anyone being able to knock him off his throne right now.
Zack: Man, I can’t wait for those fights. Tyson Fury, maybe the craziest man in boxing right now, and also the most deadly, going up against the best physical specimen that the heavyweight division of boxing has seen since Lennox Lewis in Anthony Joshua. It’s fair to say that these two men are the cream of the crop in their division and these fights are going to be massive brawls, hopefully taking place in front of sold out crowds, one in London and one in Manchester.
Picking one fighter over the other is next to impossible to do and even though it is a cop out answer, I think they’ll split the fights. It’s so difficult to beat a fighter of equal caliber two times, but I think Fury can pull it off. When he’s in his zone, moving his head and body while walking his opponent down, he’s so tough to beat. Joshua won’t be looking for the killshot as much as Deontay Wilder was which will raise his chances of winning, but I think Fury is capable of taking both fights off his countryman. I give him the advantage in power and elusiveness with a push in speed and that’s good enough to win the purse in my book.