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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.


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