UFC 211 looked like quite an event on paper and, based on the headlining scrap for FX's preliminary action, anyone who felt that way has pretty good instincts about the game.
Former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, last seen on the wrong end of a Conor McGregor left hand, battled former featherweight turned streaking lightweight Dustin Poirier, 5-1 at the weight class coming into Saturday.
In the end it was a confusing finish, though, with a no-contest resulting from an illegal blow that brought things to a stop in the second round.
With both men known for their aggression, the bout started counterintuitively with a bit of a feeling-out process. Angles and calculation were largely on display, interspersed with some single shots. Poirier landed the first combo and some big kicks, but Alvarez blocked them and the two casually returned to the center of the cage.
Poirier worked with straight punches there while Alvarez tried to come over the top with big hooks, continually getting stung in the process. By the halfway point of the round, Poirier had landed more shots and done so more cleanly, with Alvarez—a noted slow starter—looking stagnant and tight. Despite some better offense in the closing seconds of the round from the former champ, Poirier was a clear 10-9 winner in the first.
The second began with Alvarez hustling to the middle of the cage and firing a combination and then shooting for a double-leg takedown. It was stuffed, but he pressed Poirier to the fence and began to grind and score points.
Poirier eventually shook him off, though, and the return to the cage saw the kickboxing exchanges look similar to those of the first round, with the Louisianan getting the better of the action. He eventually landed a big shot that wobbled Alvarez, then poured it on to the tune of some serious damage.
Alvarez, however, reminded viewers exactly how durable he is by firing back from the fringe of consciousness and landing big shots of his own, hurting Poirier in kind.
Things got very strange from there though, with the dreaded "grounded opponent" rule showing up to ruin another spirited bout.
Coming out of a furious standing exchange and with Poirier on the ground, Alvarez threw at least one illegal knee and badly hurt Poirier. Referee Herb Dean stepped in to give Poirier some time, and Poirier was heard on the UFC broadcast stating that he was having issues with his eye, which led officials to call an end to the show.
After discussing the outcome with UFC regulatory ace Marc Ratner, Dean decided the bout should be a no-contest due to Alvarez landing the blows without intent for them to be illegal. It was an unfortunate end to a wild fight that looked like it was just heating up, and this was the second straight major UFC event to be marred by a controversial stoppage coming out of the same convoluted, inexplicable rule.
The only reasonable outcome for the UFC going forward is a rematch, possibly headlining a fight night in the summer. There's already proof the two are going to bring fireworks, and based on the two rounds at UFC 211, people should be keen to see Poirier and Alvarez do it again.