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The UFC Referee Insanity

This UFC referee problem might not be what you think it is.

The UFC has a referee problem and it’s no secret. This year alone, we’ve seen two very questionable outings from the gold-standard himself, Herb Dean. Rewind the tape back to March 2 for the Robbie Lawler vs Ben Askren fight.

It’s arguable that Lawler was winning this fight until he got put up against the cage. Askren got on top of him at a weird angle, got ahold of his neck and cranked as hard as he could. Lawler’s arm went limp, dropped for a second and then Herb Dean stopped the fight. Lawler instantly got up disputing the stoppage, just like half the people watching at home.

You could watch this clip a thousand times and you won’t see anything new after the first few. It’s quite simple from my perspective. Lawler’s head and neck were cranked, his arm against the cage dropped dead in a sense and Herb Dean was standing at an angle where all he could see was a lifeless body. I think Robbie Lawler was out for just a second making this a good stoppage. Herb Dean couldn’t have done much more even if he was standing outside the octagon from the opposite angle.

So what’s the problem here? The problem is you: the fans. The problem is the keyboard warriors at home thinking they could do a better job. Herb was heavily ridiculed on social media for this fight. He was even a guest on the Joe Rogan Experience and explained his decision quite clearly. People not realizing how difficult it is to judge whether or not someone has been choked unconscious when they can’t see their face, is a huge problem for the UFC.


Well, it leads to situations like the Aug. 3 fight, UFC on ESPN 5 matchup between Jim Miller and Clay Guida. Once again, one of the true G.O.A.T.s of MMA refereeing, Herb Dean was calling the fight. Miller grabbed Guida’s neck as he fell onto his back. He squeezed and Guida was out but it took Herb a good five seconds before he separated them. He pulled on Guida’s hand to check and it still took him another second.

Could it be that Herb wasn’t as quick to stop this fight because of what happened in the Lawler-Askren bout? Could he have been questioning his own judgement after internet criticism ripped into him?

I believe so, but I admit that I took to social media to criticize Herb’s decision. He has been in this game for quite some time and I think if the public opinions are getting to him, then it’s time for him to retire. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. I believe he made the right call in both of the aforementioned fights and I think he second-guessed his decision in the Guida stoppage. The fan’s opinions and critique shouldn’t impact the referee’s abilities to call the fight correctly and keep the athletes safe.

So now this brings me to Sept. 14 and the UFC Fight Night 158 matchup between Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje. Cowboy was knocked to the ground by a vicious right hand and was on all fours. He wasn’t defending himself at this point even though he was still moving forward. Gaethje hit him again then looked to referee Jerin Valel with his arms up questioning why he hadn’t stopped the fight. So, like any other fighter, he hit Cowboy again then screamed at Valel before finally the referee put a stop to the match.

Gaethje instantly started yelling at Valel for the slow stoppage and Cowboy naturally argued that he wasn’t finished. In my opinion, Cowboy was done. His hands were down and he wasn’t fighting back. At this moment, Gaethje won. He even said right afterwards that he wanted the referee to stop the fight because he didn’t want to keep hitting Cowboy.

Why did it take so long for Valel to stop this fight when it was so clear that Cowboy had nothing left? Was he worried about what the fans would say? Was he just moving slowly? Whatever the case is, there is definitely an issue plaguing these referees and it needs to be addressed before someone gets seriously injured.

What could have happened if Cerrone and Gaethje weren’t such close friends scares me. If Gaethje really wanted to hurt him, it would have been all too easy. These referees need to stop paying attention to social media and just do their jobs. Also, we, the fans, need to shut up. We are no experts by any means and refereeing any sport is difficult, let alone the sport of MMA where you are so up-close and personal with the action. Their jobs aren’t easy and they are human too. Humans make mistakes and they shouldn’t be battered like someone on the receiving end of an Amanda Nunes right cross. Let’s leave that to the professionals.

Featured Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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1 year ago

[…] had Almeida finished twice, or so he thought. Sean began to walk away from the fight thinking the referee would stop it and when he didn’t, Sean rushed back in to finish […]


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