The fight ending foul happened at the start of the second round as Edwards threw a kick with his hand extended just as Muhammad stepped towards him, which saw his finger jab directly into the eye. Muhammad fell down to the ground in agonizing pain as he screamed out loud while holding onto his eye.
It didn’t take long for the ringside physician to come into the cage to check on Muhammad, who already had a noticeable welt forming under his eye. When he was unable to even open his eyes to let the doctor check him out, referee Herb Dean called a stop to the contest.
The end came at just 18 seconds into the second round with Herb declaring a no decision due to an accidential foul.
Afterwards, the fighters embraced while acknowledging that Edwards didn’t intentionally poke Muhammad in the eye but the result leaves both welterweights in limbo.
“First off all, obviously I apologize to Belal,” Edwards said in his post-fight interview. “I didn’t mean to do it. I really apologize. I’d rather a loss than that. I’m just heartbroken. I don’t know what to say.”
Prior to the ending, Edwards looked better than ever without an ounce of ring rust in his return as he popped Muhammad with several stiff shots in the opening round including a nasty head kick that opened a cut on the side of the head.
It appeared the British welterweight was really starting to settle into a rhythm but the second round barely got started when the eye poke happened.
After accepting the main event on short notice, Muhammad was obviously emotional as he was writhing in pain on the canvas after suffering the accidental foul.
It’s a tough ending for both fighters but a particularly brutal conclusion for Edwards, who lost a main event in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and then had another fight wiped out after he personally contracted COVID-19.
Finally returning on Saturday night was supposed to serve as Edwards’ re-introduction to the top of the division with UFC president Dana White telling him a win would earn a title shot. Now Edwards will haunted by uncertainty following the no decision in the main event.
“As soon as I left the cage, I asked my manager, what do I do now?” Edwards said. “I went in there focused on my next chapter to be a world champion. I’m heartbroken.
“It’s been a long year and a half. A lot of ups and downs and then to come back to this.”