Being a referee or a judge for a combat sport is tough. Refs are forced to make split-second decisions that balance a host of different and conflicting criteria, while judges are forced to mentally tally and score numerous different things, often at a very fast pace.
That said, some of the people who do this are screwing up at far too great a rate for comfort.
At some point, I'll put up an article on the judges, because we've seen a host of absurdity from them over the months and years, but there were two very visible and questionable stoppages at UFC 164 last weekend (Aug. 31, 2013), so the scoring issues can be discussed at length elsewhere.
There's a few things that tend to get said here.
One of them is "he was going to lose anyway." In this case, that's probably correct. Josh was pouring it on him like Niagara, and let's face it, the words "Frank Mir" and "comeback" don't generally go together (keep in mind that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira jumped guard for a guillotine at UFC 141 instead of continuing to drub on Mir's skull).
Mir has now been knocked out in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) seven times. Six-and-a-half if you still want to argue this one.
Another of the common sayings is some variation of what fellow UFC 164 technical knockout (TKO) victim Brandon Vera once said: "Let me take my beating like a man." Mild sexism/gender issues aside, this is a silly statement and contradictory to what referees are in the cage to do.
They're in there for the fighter's safety, first and foremost.
The fighter is going to take his or her beating until the referee thinks he (or she) can't intelligently defend themselves anymore, and their manhood, womanhood, adulthood, and whatever hood they grew up in has nothing to do with it.
But Frank Mir stood up immediately. He wasn't stumbling. He was clear and lucid. I'm not too up in arms due to the history of the particular fighter involved, but if Cheick Kongo can get knocked out twice and still win his fight, then Mir has probably earned the right to lose a few more brain cells in his pursuit of victory.
Verdict: Referee Rob Hinds jumped the gun. The end result would almost certainly have been the same, but this isn't a predictions game, it's a fight. Let 'em go. Whatever, but let 'em go.
The second stoppage came in the fight directly before that, as Chad Mendes pounded out current fan dis-favorite Clay Guida for his fourth (T)KO win in a row. This is probably another case of a fighter's history making my judgement of this case a bit cloudy, but before Saturday night, Guida had never been knocked out before. In 44 mixed martial arts (MMA) contests.
He's taken hellacious beatings before (see Sanchez, Diego) and still answered the bell. So despite him sinking to the ground and not defending the two follow-up punches in an intelligent manner, I would have liked to have seen that match go on a couple more seconds, because Clay also popped up right afterward, and while he showed class in not complaining, you could see he looked pissed (video replay here).
Granted, he was probably pissed at himself, too, but I'm willing to guess that he wasn't thrilled with the fight being called off by Yves Lavigne when he was still able to go.
Verdict: Probably too early, but Clay ate two punches while turtled up on the ground and his only movement was from standing to laying down. Let 'em go anyway. It's Clay Guida. He gets one or two more seconds to try and live than most fighters, if you ask me.
In the end, neither of these errors were particularly egregious. They might not have been the right call, but they weren't that far off from being wrong, so there's no real reason to get out the pitchforks here.
In contrast, I would like to show you folks what real, actual god-awful refereeing looks like in the hopes that this person never works a fight again. For those who missed it, I present Titan Fighting Championship 26 from Aug 30, 2013 in Kansas City, MO. Alex White is the man not unconscious at the end. Roy Babcock is.
The human masquerading as a referee is Rusty Sullivan.
For any complaints that I, you, Dana White or anyone else has against Rob Hinds and Yves Lavigne, neither of them did anything even remotely close to this nonsense. This is borderline criminal. White looks about as disgusted as I've ever seen a victorious fighter appear.
So while some of us might want to complain, there's the perspective. It could be a lot worse. The health of the fighter in question might be poor Roy Babcock and not a perennial UFC main carder.