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And then, as quickly as he was back, it was over. Edwards inadvertently poked Muhammad in the eye and the bout at Apex in Las Vegas was called by referee Herb Dean at 18 seconds of the second round when Muhammad could not continue.
The official verdict was a no decision.
Muhammad was in agony on the canvas and was tearing up in the ring, clearly fearful of what may have happened to him, as the ringside physician attempted to examine his eye.
Edwards apologized to Muhammad in the cage and then to Daniel Cormier on the broadcast after it ended.
“I didn’t mean to do it,” he said. “I’m heartbroken. I don’t know what to say.”
Edwards’ last fight before Saturday was on July 20, 2019, in San Antonio when he defeated Rafael dos Anjos. He had bouts against both Tyron Woodley and Khamzat Chimaev canceled multiple times either directly or indirectly as a result of COVID-19.
Chimaev was supposed to be fighting Edwards on Saturday, but was having aftereffects from his fight with COVID and couldn’t train properly. Muhammad, who won a decision over Dhiego Lima on Feb. 13 at UFC 258 in Las Vegas, quickly stepped in.
Edwards was promised a title fight against welterweight champion Kamaru Usman if he won. For Muhammad, the fight was a way to cement his status as an elite welterweight and move up from his 13th ranking.
Neither man got what they wanted Saturday. Edwards stalked him from the beginning and looked on top of his game, with hands and kicks. He hit Muhammad with a head kick that not only opened a cut on the side of Muhammad’s head, but also wobbled him.
Muhammad did a good job hanging on, but Edwards looked excellent in the first and clearly took the opening round.
But then, almost as if he were cursed, Edwards inadvertently fouled Muhammad and forced the bout’s cancellation, preventing a natural conclusion to the match.
It left Edwards at a loss.
“It’s been a long year-and-a-half with a lot of ups and downs, and then to come back to this, I don’t know what to say,” Edwards said.
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