Add UFC President, Dana White, to the list of people unhappy with the way Nevada referee Chris Tognini handled the finish — or non-finish — of the Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Sarah Alpar fight at UFC Vegas 11.
Early into the third round, Clark hit Alpar with a massive knee to the face while Alpar was maybe an inch away from being a grounded opponent. Alpar went down and the referee stepped in. But he didn’t wave off the fight. Instead, he paused the action, and then went to instant replay to review whether the knee was legal or not. Here’s where it gets interesting: after determining the knee was legal, the ref restarted the fight from the previous position even though it was clearly a fight-ending sequence.
Alpar got a second chance to get back into the fight. Unfortunately for her, she was too dazed from the knee to do anything but become a bloody punching bag for “Jessy Jess,” who finished the fight again 4:21 into the third with more big knees.
“It’s the second week in a row where we’ve had somebody who was already finished ... and you tell a fighter to fight and keep going, they’re going to keep going,” White said in an interview with ESPN after the event. “Both weeks, the fighter that was finished and then told to keep fighting showed heart and grit and courage and all those things. But that’s not how it’s supposed to work. When a fight is finished it’s supposed to be over so the kid doesn’t take any extra punishment. And now it’s happened two weeks in a row.”
White is referring to a similar situation (also reffed by Chris Tognini) at UFC Vegas 10 where Ed Herman went down from knees to the body from Mike Rodriguez, only to have the ref rule them as low blows. The fight was restarted after a pause and Herman ended up coming back to win the bout.
“If somebody two weeks in a row misses the same call, it’s got to be fixed,” White said. “[Alpar] had a broken nose and kept continuing to fight.”
“The fight should have been over,” he continued at the post-event press conference. “That fight should have been over just like last week. She got finished, she got stopped. If you’ve got to jump in to look at her or do anything ... her nose was broken. It was a finish. That should have been a finish. I know Marc Ratner’s all over this so it’s just something that needs to be worked out. When you get stopped, and these kids are so tough and durable ... that poor girl fought her ass off again after she was able to continue. It just needs to be fixed, they gotta figure it out.”
The confusion surrounding Tognini’s call this week is on whether a ref can pause a fight to check instant replay for an illegal blow and then restart it. Specific Nevada rules surrounding instant replay state that replays can be consulted at any time, but also state that after reviewing a fight-ending sequence, a legal blow represents a TKO. But Tognini stated he didn’t call the fight, he merely paused the action.
Statement from NSAC on the Jessy Jess-Alpar fight:— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) September 19, 2020
It was a legal strike. They paused the fight because they thought it was a knee to a grounded opponent. They went to the replay and confirmed that it was a legal strike. The fight was never officially stopped. (1 of 2)
Final part of NSAC statement on Jessy Jess-Alpar fight:— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) September 20, 2020
Sarah Alpar was asked if she could continue and if she wanted to continue, and she said yes.
Under NSAC rules, the bout can continue after replay since the fight was only temporarily paused and never officially stopped.
When asked if White was in favor of Nevada’s instant replay rules, he side-stepped a debate on the specifics.
“I’m in favor of whatever’s going to be fair,” he said. “If somebody won a fight like last week when it needs to be stopped ... thank God [Clark] didn’t turn around and lose the fight this week. It’s just crazy.”