One month after confusion over the ruling of illegal knee strikes ruined the finish of an exciting middleweight match between Gegard Mousasi and Chris Weidman at UFC 210, it happened again.

The main event of Saturday's UFC 211 preliminary card between Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier was heating up to nearly epic proportions late in Round 2 as both lightweights were rocked and continued to brawl. A pair of knee strikes later and the fight was abruptly over.

Alvarez (28-5), in his first fight since losing his UFC lightweight title to Conor McGregor last November, landed a pair of knees to the head of Poirier (21-5), who had one hand (and then two) on the canvas. The impact busted open the left eye of Poirier and left him knocked down.

Referee Herb Dean immediately jumped in to halt the action at four minutes, 12 seconds of Round 2. But after a lengthy talk between Poirier, the cage side doctor and the athletic commission, Dean ruled the fight a no contest, claiming the illegal knees were unintentional.

"I'm not a dirty fighter. We're fist fighting in here," Alvarez said. "I'm doing the best I can. I apologize to Dustin. I apologize to ..."

Alvarez, 33, who was heavily booed during his post fight interview, had the microphone pulled out of his hand by Poirier, who emotionally addressed the crowd.

"Hey! Don't boo this man. This guy is a champion, this guy fought all over the world and I've got nothing but respect for this guy," Poirier said. "Don't boo this man! This guy's a warrior. We are going to put it on the line every time we step in there. This is unfortunate, Eddie didn't mean to do that. But like he said, this is a fistfight, we are fighting."

The end to the fight was disappointing because of how much the two fighters had done to produce a dramatic second round. After Poirier appeared to get the edge in a tactical yet tense opening frame, fireworks quickly ensued.

Poirier, 28, a southpaw, opened the round by landing a flush overhand left to the chin of Alvarez, which appeared to leave him knocked out on his feet. Poirier continued to light up a wobbly Alvarez until the former Bellator champion, known for being able to fight through tremendous punishment, mounted another improbable rally.

Alvarez, who was badly bleeding from a cut below his left eye, ate a two-punch combo and came back with a flurry of his own to wobble Poirier. After forcing his opponent to the cage, Alvarez then landed the pair of illegal knees which ended the bout.

"I'm fighting, that's what I'm doing," Alvarez said of the knee strikes. "Dustin did a real good job keeping me at range and I was just trying to find my way through the fight, trying to do anything I could to get back in the fight. I apologize. I thought he was playing the game at first but the second one was illegal, I looked at it and I apologize.

"Let's run it back and we can do it again."

The two fighters embraced after the fight with Alvarez raising the hand of Poirier. Both fighters expressed their desire for a rematch.
"[The knee strike] flashed me pretty good," Poirier said. "I don't know exactly where it landed but when the doctor came to me, my left eye was a little blurry. It's fine now but he asked me if I could see and I told him it was blurry. I told the truth."