I don’t mean to be overly negative, but why is everything terrible?
I understand and accept that a fair percentage of mixed martial arts (MMA) fans simply do not care about Leon Edwards ... that’s fine. He doesn’t exactly go out of his way to pursue the finish or generally attract the casual fan base. For fans who do care — a group seemingly made up of nerds who like composed technicians and a few UK’ers hoping for another English champion — Edwards’ long-awaited return could not have gone more poorly.
The first round of UFC Vegas 21’s main event last night (March 13, 2021) showed precisely why Edwards is great, and why he is frustrating. On one hand, Edwards absolutely picked apart Belal Muhammad with a surgeon’s precision. It took him roughly zero minutes to enter the flow state and find his distance, landing straight shots with great consistency.
Then, he blasted Muhammad straight in the jaw with his shin. By all rights, it should have been a knockout blow, but Muhammad is apparently made from stone. Then, “Rocky” did something that made every fan groan: he shot for a takedown moments after stunning his opponent.
Edwards has run into tremendously bad luck in the last year or so, as COVID-19 has cost him a main event title eliminator in his home town, several weeks on the mend from the virus himself, and another high-profile opponent in Khamzat Chimaev. Now, an accidental eye poke ended his chance to return from all the garbage and potentially impress enough to change his position.
Sure, there’s an element of self-responsibility here, the idea that Edwards could have prevented this by not poking his foe in the eye ... which is justifiable if you can lie to yourself that all the various elements of MMA are controllable, and that accidents in the cage don’t happen.
It’s more bad luck, ultimately.
As with some of the other incidents, Edwards seems to infect his foes with his fortune. Woodley hasn’t won a round since their canned meeting, Chimaev is still riddled with COVID-19, and Muhammad just openly bled through his swollen eyeball.
Did Edwards look great in the first? Totally. Does that rule out Muhammad from making a come back in the next 20 minutes? Absolutely not! If Muhammad tasted defeat every time he suffered adversity or lost a round, his record would be checkered like a plaid shirt.
No, Muhammad was very much in the fight still. He showed that he could take Edwards’ power shots and keep ticking, and while I would not have favored him to rally, he deserved the chance to try. He earned his main event opportunity, his chance to unexpectedly break into the title mix.
What’s next? Maybe the bout gets rebooked, at which point timing is everything. If Muhammad is healthy — a huge if — and the fight is made quickly, it’s no longer a high-profile event. If it’s booked three months from now, maybe its main event status is preserved at the cost of more time on the backburner.
To summarize: Edwards stalls in place, Muhammad’s golden opportunity is soiled, and UFC’s main event basically didn’t happen.
For complete UFC Vegas 21: “Edwards vs. Muhammad” results and play-by-play, click HERE!