Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart opened the main card at UFC Vegas 21 with a middleweight bout that had fireworks going in the very first round. However, the bout would tragically end in a no contest as Anders would hit Stewart with an illegal knee in the final seconds of the opening round. For the second time in two weeks, an illegal knee would put an end to an enthralling UFC bout. But this bout was ruled a no contest unlike the bantamweight title bout at UFC 259 where Petr Yan was disqualified after landing a devastating illegal knee on Aljamain Sterling.
The UFC commentary booth burst into debate over the expected official decision immediately after referee Herb Dean called a stop to the contest. The decision to rule the bout as a no contest was based on the boxing rule that states that any bout would have to go four rounds before being declared anything other than a no contest.
In case of MMA, as Marc Ratner clarified, that rule applies after 2 rounds. In this case, even round 1 hadn't gone into the books when the knee landed.
Another major factor that influenced the ruling was the fact that Herb Dean did not see the knee from Eryk Anders as intentional. The illegal strike also had a completely different impact as compared to the one from Petr Yan. While Aljamain Sterling appeared strongly diminished after Yan's illegal knee, Darren Stewart had his hands up when he ate the illegal shot fromm Anders and even managed to stand back on his feet with an intention to fight.
Eryk Anders was on his way to a finish
Darren Stewart hurt Eryk Anders early on and forced him to go for the takedown. While Stewart successfully defended the takedown, Anders managed to back him up against the cage and connected with some big shots on the break. Though the takedown came soon for Eryk Anders, Darren Stewart quickly managed to get back on his feet.
Anders then unleashed a flurry that dropped Darren Stewart yet again and Eyrk Anders looked like he was going for the finish. As the UFC commentators deliberated over whether the fight should be stopped, Darren Stewart looked like he would probably survive the onslaught. As Stewart looked to weather the storm on his knees, Eryk Anders surprisingly landed an illegal knee which compelled referee Herb Dean to stop the fight. Even as Darren Stewart expressed his intent to continue fighting, the doctor deemed him unfit.