It’s not uncommon while watching MMA to receive reminders that our sport is still in its adolescent stage at the absolute best. Perhaps the best evidence that we don’t entirely have caged combat figured out comes in the form of officiating, which still will leave educated viewers scratching their head fairly often.
Take, for example, the little moments of gamesmanship in Misha Cirkunov vs. Krzysztof Jotko. An otherwise forgettable bout, all I can really recall is color commentator Daniel Cormier laughing off Jotko’s fence grabs and weighing them like Anubis vs. Cirkunov’s sins of a low blow and faking an eye poke (Jotko’s accusation).
Naturally, no point was taken during any of those fouls.
Accepting the objectively strange rationale that fouls aren’t really fouls unless they’re extra bad is part of being an MMA fan, a fact of the matter we’re fairly accustomed to if not necessarily in love with. In the case of the co-main event of Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus, however, the handling of the accidental clash of heads grew more bizarre the more one considers all the various implications.
First and foremost, the incident: Daukaus rolled beneath a hook as Holland threw a left hand. Both men leaned forward at the waist a bit while executing their respective moments, and thus the clash of heads occurred. It happens, and it’s not anyone’s fault really. The bottom line, however, is that Daukaus forehead collided with the side of Holland’s skull, and “Trailblazer” lost that exchange.
He hit the ground face-first, basically knocked out already. Credit to Holland for trying to survive, but a jiu-jitsu black belt like Daukaus isn’t going to let a badly wounded foe off the hook.
All of that makes sense. Then, the officials stepped in, and the situation grew kind of f—ked up. Of all the officials involved, I’d personally lay the least amount of blame at referee Dan Miragliotta’s feet. In an ideal world, he would have seen the clash of heads and paused the fight immediately, but we cannot expect referees to see every impact from all angles. After all, there have been plenty of legal collisions where it’s only easy to see the shot that landed upon slow-motion replay.
That’s why the officials have slow-motion replay! Miragliotta signaled to his team to review what happened, but there was no action to stall the fight. Is there no chain of communication? No possible way for officials to retroactively pause the action while the commentary is discussing the finer points of the foul?
The technology went to waste.
After Daukaus strangled Holland, the situation grew far worse. “Tan Dan” talked it over with fellow referee Herb Dean, and initially, it appeared the current result was set in stone barring an appeal. Then, UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby and UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner joined the discussion, and the conversation changed.
“No Contest” was the right call ... but how is that allowed? Why are UFC employees allowed to influence the decision of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) crew? I understand that Ratner used to be the director of the NSAC, but at this point, their involvement seems like a conflict of interest on some level.
As a result of the roundtable discussion, would-be star Holland doesn’t suffer a third consecutive loss, and Daukaus doesn’t get his (presumably meager) win bonus. Who benefits from that adjustment?
Nothing about how the situation was handled makes much sense.
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