Referees in MMA

MMA Referee Herb DeanSo this week, my satellite setup (AT&T U-Verse) decided to bait its thousands of customers into spending more money with them by offering a free preview of their "Showtime" package. What does that have to do with this website? Good question. After 'DVR-ing' about 10 movies for later viewing, I realized that they decided to re-air the "Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery" event (May 15, 2010)! We saw some awesome fights on that card with Alistair Overeem tossing aside Brett Rogers and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva overwhelming Andrei Arlovski, and 2 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Legends got some Mixed Martial Arts W's (Roger Gracie & Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza). But I'm writing this article for a different reason...

The first fight on the card started things off fast, with Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante knocking out Antwain Britt. What caught my eye wasn't the knockout punch or the roar of the crowd when it happened, but the AWESOME referee who literally pounced on 'Feijao' to stop the fight. And with all the crap that referees take concerning "too early" this and "too late" that, I figured I'd show some love to the men in black (and white) - the "zebras in the cage" we'll loving call them. These dudes are giving Mr. Charlie Sheen a run for his money in the "winning" department.

Let's start things off on a serious note. These guys seem to only get recognition when then do something WRONG, so let's look at some fights they got 100% RIGHT.

Herb Dean has "elf eyes"

In Lord of the Rings, Legolas - an elf - had the ability to see miles and miles to track his enemy. I'm convinced that Herb Dean - a Lord of the Ring in his own right (Witty right? Oh come on, I'm doing the best I can here...) - possesses the same ability.

Dean officiated a pretty well known fight between Frank Mir and Tim Sylvia. It's well known because of the ending: Frank Mir snapped Tim Sylvia's forearm like a twig. But why is this a win? Because Herb Dean caught it immediately.

You might think that to be an easy feat, but consider the situation. An incredibly charged environment, a roar from the crowd in anticipation of the fight ending - so you cannot hear a *snap*, a very tough angle to see the snap - looking straight on you can't see it bend like you would from the side, and last but not a least, a fighter in danger (Tim Sylvia) who shows NO signs of being hurt - I still don't know how he continued to try and pick Mir up. Put all that together, and you've got a good chance of missing that call.

Herb Dean is an educated dude. He got himself in the best position he could to see the submission, knew exactly what Mir was attacking (meaning he knew what to look for), and reacted IMMEDIATELY. While 99% of the people in that building were screaming and downing their beers, and probably the majority of TV viewers were thinking "that looks strange", 'ol Herb had already stopped the fight - protecting Sylvia from worse injury. Although, he may have been doing Sylvia a disservice by extending his career any further. ZING!


Dan Miragliotta has some 'Kahoonas'

I know, I know... I'm not going to make many friends with this one, but after watching this 50 times by now, Dan Miragliotta got this one right.

Kimbo Slice was fighting his toughest opponent yet in James Thompson. Kimbo was still, at this point, an unbeatable street brawler proving that MMA fighters weren't all they were cracked up to be. Kimbo was tested to the breaking point by Thompson. Thompson was showing that Slice wasn't unbeatable, and arguably, was winning the fight. Kimbo, however, threw flurry toward the end of the fight that rocked Thompson. I mean ROCKED him.

The MMA world wanted Kimbo to lose. Plain and Simple. For that reason, and for that alone, I believe Miragliotta was criticized heavily for stopping the fight. The job of the ref - as we all know - is to "Protect The Fighters". We know it, and we hate it. Let's face it. The majority of MMA fans would rather see every single fight end definitively with a submission, or with one dude lying on the canvas blacked out. But that 'aint the creed, sports fans.

Look at the picture. Look at the video. Watch it more than once, then try and tell me Thompson was coherent. Hogwash. James Thompson could have been blown over by a 10-year-old girl sneezing in his direction. Let's keep in mind that he had freakin' Kimbo Slice coming at him while in that state. It took him about 5 seconds just to focus on Miragliotta! I doubt there would have been such an uproar if Dan Henderson was across from James Thompson and had him rocked. And no - I'm not comparing Kimbo Slice to Dan Henderson, calm down internet land.

I could make more arguments (maybe I will in the comments, if anybody gets ruffled by this), but the point stands - Miragliotta protected Thompson from further injury. If you can agree with that statement then you and I can be friends and enjoy the rest of this article together. If not, I still hope you enjoy the remainder of this post, but you can forget the "Roller-Blade & Ice Cream" filled night I had planned for us.


Mystery Ref could be a long jumper...

A man that needs to introduction. A personal hero of mine. And the man that inspired this post... "Mystery Ref".

He was the referee for the bout between Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante and Antwain Britt. Unfortunately, no one has has the 'scrooples' to make an animated gif of this epic fight stoppage, but luckily I found a video of the fight on YouTube. You'll want to skip ahead to 3:30 in the video, after the ref separates the fighters.

This guy is the man. We need more refs like this. When a fight is over, and you know it, then call it like you mean it! Even if that means you jump onto the back of a man that could mop the canvas with your face whenever he wanted. Here's to you "Mystery Ref" - may your reffing days be full of knock outs and ring girls.

OK - enough of this serious stuff. Let's see some bonafide 'referee winning':


Hilarious Double KO Refs

These refs have got it rough. What the crap do you do when both fighters fold in front of you? This isn't a "Rocky Balboa" movie - you don't get a 10 count and hope one of the fighters can climb the ropes. I suppose you do exactly what these two refs did. Run into the middle of them and look shocked. (You've probably seen the video of the second fight, but watch the ref this time) Well, all I know is Herb Dean - while stunned - handled it better than the other dude. The other guy raises looks shocked, then becomes overwhelmed with 'KO awesomeness' emotion, and raises his arms as if to say - "This is going on YouTube, baby! Ima' be famous!" Actually, when I look at that image and put that commentary with it, I literally laughed out loud:

Ridiculous Double Headbutt KOI'm a YouTube Sensation!


Dan Miragliotta gets it right this time...

You may have disagreed with him earlier, but when it came to his confronting of Anderson Silva, he became Dan "The People's Voice" Miragliotta. "Get 'em Danny!" I especially appreciated his extravagant use of finger-pointing:

Dan Miragliotta Warns Anderson Silva UFC 112


"Do a Barrel Roll!"

Is anybody old enough to remember the N64 "Starfox" game? If you're still with me, then you get the "barrel roll" reference in the above heading. If I've lost you, then I'm sorry you never had the pleasure of playing such a legendary game. "Starfox" isn't the only one that can perform a high-speed, fighter-evading barrel roll. Apparently, Yves Lavigne can hold his own, too. 2 things that are great in this image. 1 - The "that's going to end up on the internet" smile that Yves has as he gracefully recovers and 2 - if you look closely, it looks as if Machida actually steps back and relaxes as if he is waiting on Lavigne to get back to his feet. So correction - this one is a "Referee & Machida Winning" moment:

Yves Lavigne Shows Off Athletic Ability UFC 84


Respect to the "Pride" Guys

Can't forget these troopers. Believe it or not, UFC doesn't own all the MMA referees... not yet, anyway. These headcam-toting, polo and slacks-wearing referees are no slacks. Whether it's bull rushing a fighter 3 times your size, getting thrown around by upset corner men, or catching wayward-thrown "surrender towels" while waving off a fight, these 'men of the stripes' get the job done:

Gary Goodridge vs Valentijn Overeem Stoppage Pride 14 Clash of the TitansEnson Choked Out Referee Gets Pushed Around Pride 19 Bad Blood

Goodridge vs Yatsu Referee Catches Towel Weird Ending Pride 16 Beasts From The East


Last, but Certainly Not Least...

You guessed it. Mike Tyson. That's right! Mike Tyson actually officiated an MMA fight as a guest referee. And I'm guessing that the marketing department of that MMA venue loved it. Forget promoting 'no-name' fighters when you can promote the heck out of a Superstar referee!

I've actually come to love this guy. Mike used to make a living by trash talking every person in sight, cussing out interviewers, tattooing other guys' faces with his fists, and finally, tattooing his own face with tribal ink. But after seeing his 'motivational sit-down' on Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter, and his most recent acting stint in an "Addiction to Angry Birds" skit, you can't help but warm-up to the fella. Seems he's a bit older and wiser. That being said - he's not a good referee! Love the fact that he stand the fight up after maybe 5 seconds of going to ground, and that he completely misses the fighter tapping out to a triangle choke. But other than that, I'd say it was a successful debut. Actually, if things go south for the UFC, I'd say getting Tyson as a referee is an awesome PR move. (Skip ahead to 4:00)


I'm Buying the Whole World a Coke

In a sport that moves a thousand miles and hour and involves the physical well being of two human lives, MMA referees don't have an easy job. Not to mention the thousands - if not millions - of people, watching this highly emotional fight you are officiating, only noticing you if you SCREW UP. Have there been some questionable stops? Heck yes. Have there been some flat out terrible decisions by MMA refs? Sure. But next time you're sitting at home on the couch with a mouth full of potato chips, cussing out the ref while watching the super slow-mo, HD, replay of whether the guy was unconscious or not, try and remember the motto of the 'Zebras in the Cage': "Protect the Fighters". After all, the reason MMA is growing so quickly and becoming accepted all over the world, in large part, is because these guys are keeping it 'safe' for the athletes to compete in the sport we all love.

To all you "Thompson-loving, Miragliotta-hating" readers out there, thanks for sticking with us all the way through the article. And to everyone who made it this far, thanks for letting us take a break from the normal 'grind' of the MMA News world to make a fun and hopefully refreshing article.

Let us know if we missed any "referee winning" moments in the comments. Just go easy on the "gifs" since we're already a little top heavy. I like this site and I'd love to not get kicked off.

And if you liked this article, check out our more 'serious' articles about the use of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Mixed Martial Arts @ BJJ in MMA.

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