Belal Muhammad and 5 other nasty eye pokes in UFC history

Stipe Miocic (left) and Daniel Cormier (right) at UFC 252
Stipe Miocic (left) and Daniel Cormier (right) at UFC 252

Eye pokes were the main point of discussion at this weekend's UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs. Muhammad (March 13th, 2021) event. Belal Muhammad’s first UFC main event matchup ended in a No Contest (NC) in round two. An eye poke from his opponent, Leon Edwards, incapacitated and rendered him unable to continue fighting.

After being warned multiple times to refrain from keeping his fingers outstretched in front of his opponent’s face, Leon Edwards still ended up eye-poking Belal Muhammad on more than one occasion. The final one came in round two and was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The rather undesirable end to what promised to be an exciting matchup has reignited the heated debates and discussions regarding eye pokes in MMA. Right from improvements in the design of the gloves used in UFC fights to referee calls on eye pokes was being critiqued.

On that note, today we take a brief look at some of the other nasty eye pokes in UFC history.

#5 Yair Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Stephens 1: Main event cut short by eye pokes

Yair Rodriguez’s first fight against Jeremy Stephens took place at UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Stephens in September 2019. The Featherweight bout that headlined the event ended just 15 seconds into round one. Rodriguez accidentally poked Stephens in the eye while breaking away from a striking exchange.

Rodriguez appeared to have swatted at Stephens’ face and his fingers ended up hurting the latter’s eye. The fight was waved off as Stephens was unable to continue. The duo eventually competed in a rematch at UFC on ESPN: Reyes vs. Weidman in October 2019, with Rodriguez winning via unanimous decision.



#4 Urijah Faber vs. Jimmie Rivera: Lasting damage that took almost a year away from a career

Urijah Faber faced Jimmie Rivera at UFC 203 in September 2016. This was an important clash in the Bantamweight division at the time, and both fighters put on a brilliant showing.

However, Faber eye-poked Rivera, which visibly impacted the latter’s performance. Rivera won the fight via unanimous decision but was out of action for almost a year. In the aftermath of the fight, El Terror revealed that his vision was severely impacted in the bout. He also said that the after effects of the eye poke lasted way after the fight was over.


#3 Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira: Eye pokes purportedly changed the dynamics in this high-stakes UFC title fight

Jon Jones successfully defended his Light Heavyweight title against Glover Teixeira via unanimous decision at UFC 172 in April 2014. However, the fight was marred by multiple eye pokes that Jones landed on Teixeira.

Many argued that this adversely affected Teixeira’s performance and prevented him from utilizing his vaunted KO power, as he simply couldn’t see and catch Jones.

The common theme of the fight was Jones using his reach advantage to keep Teixeira at long range and landing an eye poke whenever the latter would manage to get close. The Brazilian suffered badly during the fight but was able to recover from the damage and went on to continue his successful MMA career.


#2 Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic: A top-notch trilogy marred by eye pokes

One simply cannot talk about Jon Jones without mentioning his arch-rival, Daniel Cormier. DC retired after his trilogy of UFC Heavyweight title fights against Stipe Miocic that spanned across three years, 2018 to 2020.

All three of Daniel Cormier’s fights against Stipe Miocic were marred by eye pokes, particularly the first and third fights.

In the initial meeting at UFC 226 in July 2018, Cormier’s eye pokes appeared to disorient Miocic who then ran into his foe’s thunderous right hand in the clinch and got knocked out. They were so bad that Miocic was out of action for more than a year.

The rematch saw both fighters land eye pokes, whereas the third and fight saw Miocic land the illegal strike multiple times and severely damage DC. Cormier won the first fight via first-round KO at UFC 226 in July 2018, whereas Miocic won the rematch via fourth-round TKO at UFC 241 in August 2019. The current Heavyweight Champion won the trilogy fight via unanimous decision at UFC 252 in August 2020.

#1 Travis Browne vs. Matt Mitrione: The gruesome aftermath of eye pokes

Travis Browne defeated Matt Mitrione via third-round TKO at UFC Fight Night: Dillashaw vs. Cruz in January 2016. This fight was heavily criticized by fans and experts.

That’s largely in part due to the eye pokes and punches that Travis Browne landed on Matt Mitrione. The end was so vicious that Mitrione’s eye alarmingly swelled up after Browne landed multiple pokes and punches on it. Thankfully, Mitrione did recover from this ordeal and was able to continue his MMA career.

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