Josh Emmett and Jeremy Stephens capped off a wild night in Orlando for the UFC. The two action featherweights are both known for their rocket-powered hooks and durable chins. Emmett was the first to draw blood, knocking Stephens down with a left hook as “Lil Heathen” ran in behind a long uppercut in the first round. But it was Stephens who made it count in the second, dropping Emmett with a counter hook of his own.
It was what he did after that, though, that has been drawing both awe and controversy. In the frenzied few seconds between the knockdown and the finish, Stephens landed several legal punches, threw an illegal knee that may or may not have landed, clipped Emmett with an illegal elbow or two to the back of the head while Emmett was moving, and finally put his lights out with a huge diving elbow. At no point in this crazy sequence did referee Dan Miragliotta move to stop the bout, until after the final elbow landed and Emmett was out for good.
Josh Emmett contends that he should have stopped the action due to illegal strikes, and will be appealing the loss to the Florida State Boxing Commission, according to MMAFighting.com. Miragliotta didn’t have the advantage of instant replay under Florida commission rules; even those who have seen it over and over, however, have wildly different views of what happened. Dominick Cruz, Fox commentator and Stephens’ teammate, spent the minutes after the show arguing with Daniel Cormier over the legality and impact of the knee and elbows.
It is rare to see successful appeals in MMA. There is a structural issue here: the commissions are the ones responsible for the referees who make the decision. Essentially, fighters are appealing to the same body who made the decision. They have every incentive to stand by their referees, and in nearly every case, they do so. In fact, under most state commissions’ rules, there is no provision to allow the commission to overturn the referee’s decision, except in very limited cases (although this can be open to some interpretation). There is no broader ruling body in MMA to turn to.
There is always the rare exception, with Tonya Evinger’s no-contest to regain her title at Invicta FC 20 a shining example. Perhaps the Florida State Boxing Commission will be this rare exception. Josh Emmett certainly hopes so.