Shocked. Devastated. Heartbroken. Bewildered. Disconsolate. Those are just a few of the words that can describe me after the events of Saturday night.
I remember it so vividly. Sitting back in my well-used (to the point the leather is falling off) recliner, sipping a nice strong whiskey drink and enjoying some sanctioned human violence. I had just cut a giant beefer into the recliner, causing the lady to roll her eyes (so you know it was a good one and she was totally impressed). Picked up the ole smartphone to check the live thread and read a comment: "Herb Dean has won 2021 MMA Referee of the Year." HUH??? That couldn't be right, so I showed Lady Crete my phone so she could confirm I was having a stroke and hallucinating. But I wasn't, and suddenly my rancid fart was complete forgotten by us both. Even she couldn't believe it, and her knowledge in MMA can best be described as "ambiguously consensual." I think that she enjoys that I enjoy it, and am a mildly more tolerable person when watching or talking about it. Yet even she knows about Herb Dean.
At first I was angry. What chickenshit, bought-and-paid-for motherfuckers would do something like this? Research was required. Well, the long and short of it is the winner is chosen by votes through some online magazine or another. It doesn't really matter. What obviously happened is a bunch people with the collective IQ of a toaster were able to puzzle through the intricacies of 'computers' and 'The Internet' and were able to cast a vote. I mean, this same organization gave Dana White the 'Leading Man Award', so I'm not taking it too seriously. Wtf does that mean btw? The 'Leading Man' of MMA?
Anyways, back to Herb. So at first I wanted to blame the people, but I can't. Stupid people repeat what they're told. We're constantly told Herb is the 'Best in the Business'. Ergo, stupid people will believe it. So after much
drunken thinking, I decided what we need is a breakdown of Herb's officiating game in 2021 and then people can decide for themselves if he is the best in the business.
For clarity's sake I will be solely looking at fights Herb stopped in 2021, because I have a job and a family and composing a list of all Herb's fuckups might kill me even though it's only one year.
It has been insinuated in the past that I am anti-Herb Dean and am biased against him. This is completely untrue. I am against bad refing in a dangerous sport. If that constantly puts me at odds with ole Herb, I maintain that says more about his refing than anything to do with me. And to further dispel such a scandalous notion, I'll start with a fight that I think Herb did his job well on!
In the Meerschaert vs Fabinski fight, Meerschaert locks in a tight choke against Fabinski. If you watch Herb in this sequence, he stays right on top of them, but doesn't interfere with the rolling that happens, and maintains a position that lets him see when Fabinski goes out. Once he sees that, he's close enough to immediately pull Meerschaert off. Good job Herb!
Herb has some bad calls. I get it, refereeing the highest level of MMA there will be fuckups. It's a hard job. But so is being an airline pilot and if there was a pilot constantly skidding off the fucking runway he wouldn't be nominated, much less win, 2021 Pilot of the Year. Let's first look at Punahele Soriano TKO'ing Dustin Todorovich:
Soriano cracks Todorovich and Todorovich goes down. He immediately grabs onto Soriano's legs and... Herb stops the fight. Now to be fair, Dusko had just gotten cracked and rocked back so Herb was already aware he was in trouble, but I would call this an early stoppage. Dusko is in a bad way for sure and odds are good that was the finishing sequence. But still. Just watch it. It just FEELS a bit early and like Herb is overreacting to the big shot that Soriano landed seconds before dropping him.
Now compare that stoppage with the non-stoppage in the fourth round of Holloway vs Kattar.
Two minutes and thirty seconds of just a total ass kicking. And then Max does the robot. And before I get accused of cherry picking, please keep in mind both of these highlights are FROM THE SAME FIGHT CARD. Soriano/Todorovich was the Main Card leadoff so Herb's judgment swung that wildly in just under 3 hours. That level of inconsistency on one card alone should disqualify him from any 'best-of' conversations, but I digress. The people who voted for him wouldn't have read this far. They simply don't have the ability (guessing based off their voting patterns) so this isn't for them. Moving on!
That inconsistency is so maddening, yet it can even happen all in the same fight. Look at O'Malley vs. Moutinho.:
O'Malley beats the brakes off of Moutinho all fight long, yet Herb stops it with only 30 seconds left. Why? He let the same thing go on for 14:30, and then decides 'Enough is enough' and that's that? It's this type of shit that give the conspiracy theorists among us ammo about O'Malley being carried and protected. Moutinho could've held on for 30 more seconds and not taken appreciably more damage than he already had. There's not exactly a Goldilocks level of "just right" brain trauma. Either stop it once you see it start, or let their brains leak out of their ears. Just pick a lane and be consistent, Herb.
I will say Herb IS somewhat consistent in one area. Not 'set your watch consistent', but in more of a 'what fuckup has the best chance of happening' way. He does appear to occasionally have a sense of when to stop the fight. It's true. He just has two things working against him. He has godawful positioning, and he's not exactly spry. In fact, it could be said that if Herb had to haul ass, it'd take two trips. He's a real hefty fella. So he (sometimes) realizes the fight needs to be stopped in time, but he just ends up coming in late.
Watch Kai Kara France drop Rogerio Bontorin:
Kai drops him HARD, Bontorin goes face-down-ass-up, and Kai walks it off. See the angle Herb came in at? And how long it took? If you've watched as much Herb Dean film as I have, you can use that to kinda place him in the cage. In this case, he was way on the other side of it. If Kai had been more of the 'go until the ref stops you' type, Bontorin might not have been in a condition to throw the mouthpiece...
...like Curtis Blaydes here. Granted he was probably unconscious before the follow up shots, but still. Look at Herb. We can see exactly where he is right before the KO. He's almost on the fence on the other side of the cage. Sure, you don't want to be too close, but 1) does either HW move so fast you need 15 feet of distance from them? and 2) Derrick Lewis hits hard, so maybe you want to be able to jump in at a moment's notice? Maybe? We hear talk of "fight IQ", well it's not just for fighters! Refs should use it too! In fact, the best ones do, which is why they're rarely caught out of position. Giving Derrick Lewis the same distance as Kai Kara France is ridiculous. Derrick caught heat for following those shots up, but watch and you'll see it was that extra second Herb had to take to fix his bad positioning that caused Curtis to eat those shots.
One more to prove the point:
Tai cracks Henry and Henry stumbles back, CLEARLY hurt. Herb...inexplicably starts running behind Tai. So when Hunsucker does inevitably get dropped, Herb has to run all the way around Tai taking another extra second to get a decent view and causing him to miss two hard punches to the face. Missing those punches led to Herb not realizing that Hunsucker was done, thus prolonging the beating another few seconds and making it a late stoppage. It's like being an outfielder in baseball. You see the hit, you make a break immediately and go to where it's going to land. And if you break wrong you fuck everything up and you're certainly don't win the fucking 2021 Golden Glove Award. You get fired.
If Herb WERE 'the best in the business' he would be humble enough to realize this is an issue and work on it. Maybe hit the elliptical to lighten the loafers a bit. Watch some films of his mistakes and try to correct it. But no, he's out there on stage accepting fucking awards he doesn't deserve and now he thinks he's good at his job. Goddammit. ANYWAYS.
(Thought about just posting a picture of Herb's face here and ending it, but no. 400,000 people voted on these fucking awards. They opened this can of worms, now we all have to eat it.)
I think we can all agree I have been fair thus far in my treatment of Herb. I acknowledged something good he did, and I made constructive, sound criticisms of workable flaws he can work on. But some of the things I have seen that man do defy God or science. Inexplicable is the nicest word I can find. I'd like to say that he acts brain dead or like he's comatose, but that's offensive to his (many) victims. Remember two things; I'm only doing fights from this year, and Herb Dean is your 2021 Ref of the Year.
Ok, Herb didn't see the leg give in real time. A lot of us didn't. Fair enough. A lot of us also weren't in the cage and being paid to focus on every happening within it. It's all good, we're just gonna look at the end of the round. When the round ends Herb is just standing over him saying 'Get up Get up' while Conor is pointing to his leg going 'Me leg's broken!' Takes like 10 seconds before Herb realizes 'Guy with broken leg... can't fight' and calls it off. And the video doesn't show this, but he tries to lift Conor up at one point I'm pretty sure. I mean, come ON Herb. Wtf. Get your shit together.
The crazy thing is, we've seen this thing happen more than once with Herb THIS YEAR. Fighter clearly gets KO'ed, but nah, Herb ain't waving it off. Takin shots like it's 3 for 1 at Mulligan's Thirsty Thursday isn't gonna phase Ole Herb Dean! Cannot explain it except to guess that Herb is a robot that's past its lifecycle, so it just freezes up sometimes.
This happened just a few weeks ago! And he's the 2021 MMA Ref of the Year. Look at that nonsense. GET IN THERE if you're gonna stop the fight. I really want to know what would have happened if Rogerio de Lima had kept going instead of looking back at Herb. Would Herb have let it go on? I say yes. Just terrible refereeing, don't tell me THAT shit is the 'best in the business' and worthy of any award outside of a free enema.
How many hard shots to the dome do you need to see Herb?!?! Sadly this is far too common, and it is UGLY. Dan Hardy nearly got fired for calling out this exact type of thing on Herb. Granted, confronting him in the cage while you're broadcasting is not the best way to convey your displeasure. Point is, this is far and away not the most egregious Herb stoppage. Not even of 2021. But it is a BAD stoppage by itself, so think about what that means. This guy is so bad it barely registers anymore when he fucks up! And this doesn't even rank in the top 10 dumbest things he's done in 2021.
Herb Dean is just not a very good MMA ref in 2021. He's too slow, too inconsistent, too indecisive, frequently out of position, and does inexplicable shit with a disturbing degree of regularity. He is the 2021 MMA Ref of the Year. God help us.