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NSAC head Bob Bennett on UFC 235 controversy: Robbie Lawler ‘was clearly out’

Saturday night’s UFC 235 event from Las Vegas, Nevada was a pretty solid event, but it wasn’t without its fair share of controversy. The main event saw light heavyweight champion Jon Jones almost DQ himself with a big knee to the face of his grounded opponent. And just a few fights prior, Ben Askren pulled off a big comeback win against Robbie Lawler ... with the help of referee Herb Dean.

Askren had caught Lawler in a bulldog choke up against the cage, and Dean called the fight after Lawler’s arm seemed to go limp implying he was unconscious. But a closer look at the replays make the whole thing a lot more questionable. And of course you had Lawler vehemently denying he was anywhere near being choked out at the time of the stoppage.

Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett joined the post-fight press conference event to discuss the incident and how he thought Dean performed. And while Dana White didn’t hesitate to call it a bad stoppage, Bennett shared a different opinion.

”In this particular question with the bulldog choke on Robbie, you could see it right in front of us that when Herb picked up his hand, his hand just dropped,” Bennett said. “It just dropped, which would be indicative of him being out. And then [Dean] went ahead and grabbed his hand again and it came up a little and it moved ever so slightly. There was no doubt in our mind that he was out.”

”You can argue, if you’ve ever been choked out or knocked out, there’s times where you know you’ve been choked or knocked out, and there’s times where you say ‘What the hell happened?’ I was never a professional fighter, but I’ve had it happen to me. Cuz someone asked me that tonight and I thought it was kinda freakin’ inappropriate. So I’ll bring that to the table right now.”

”With the Nevada State Athletic Commission, our number one priority is the health and safety of the fighter,” Bennett continued. “In our pre-brief fights, I specifically instruct the referees to make sure we stop the fight one punch or one kick sooner than later. In the interest of the health and safety of the fighter, Robbie’s a phenomenal warrior, he’s been in the business for a long time. He was clearly out.”

Bennett praised Lawler’s professionalism in the face of the decision, but doubled down on the stoppage as legit.

”I can tell you right now as the executive director and on behalf of the commission, no one had a problem with that.”

That illegal Jon Jones knee to Anthony Smith’s face in the main event also came up, but mainly in the context of how instant replay applied and why Herb Dean decided to take two points for the incident.

”Herb thought that was an intentional foul,” Bennett said. “He believed that Jones had several techniques that were borderline, they weren’t any fouls but he was throwing some kicks and knees that were very close. And when that knee hit him in the head, Herb Dean thought it was intentional and called it intentional. Mr. Smith was able to continue and thus Herb took a mandatory 2 point deduction or could have DQ’d him.”

As for those who feel like Smith wasn’t technically a grounded opponent under the new Unified Rules, you’ll just have to keep arguing it amongst yourselves without Bob Bennett’s input.

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