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Bad Stoppages, The Ruining Of Potential Classics, And The Thankless Job Of Refereeing

Yes the Uriah Hall and Derek Brunson bout took place a few days ago in Hidalgo, Texas. Yes it is Tuesday, so I’m aware of how much time had passed since then so I’m sure some of you will make it a point to let that fact be known. Nevertheless, there are still some talking points to discuss on the subject no matter how long ago the event took place. The subject that that must be discussed is the thankless job of refereeing.

It’s one of those jobs that are extremely important to the survival and enrichment of our sport. The responsibility of referees in MMA is a simple yet complex affair. They have to ensure that fighters are performing within the confines of the rules while at the same time ensuring fighter safety. Sure, a ref can make nine great calls out of ten, but with one slip up all their good work can be undone, at least in the eyes of the fans.

This past Saturday, one the most well respected referees in the game, Herb Dean, made in the eyes of some a terrible gaff. The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 94 saw the aforementioned Hall and Brunson locked horns. Just moments into the fight Brunson landed a crushing left hand on Hall, flooring the latter. Brunson follower up with some ground and pound and the fight was soon waved off by Dean. Sounds cut and dry right. Too bad that Hall seemed to recover extremely quickly. Thus sparks the minor controversy involved in the co-main event.

There’s no reason for a fighter to take unnecessary punishment which was likely Dean’s thought process as he called the match. Unfortunately Uriah Hall appeared to have gotten his sea legs back and was ready for more. Or at least that’s the argument that Hall and others are using. The truth is that for Herb Dean and all the other referees in MMA there is a different kind of pressure at hand when overseeing fights. Where boxing has a pause in the action, MMA is a sport where for the most part combatants don’t get to take a breath. An MMA fighter must be able to battle nonstop for five minutes, but if severe enough damage is inflicted then you can bet the ref is going to have no choice but to stop things before they go too far. No pause, no restart. Once a decision is made, it must stand.

But that unfortunate rule means that potential classics could be sacrificed because of a suspect call from the referee to end things prematurely. Sure, the good news is that Uriah Hall didn’t receive unnecessary damage. But we have to take under consideration the fact that Hall prepared himself for war. While fighter safety is important, it must be said that even when a fighter received damage they must be allowed to at least have a chance to battle back. These fighters know the risk at hand with becoming a professional pugilist. With that in mind we shouldn’t look for fighters to be throughly brutalized before fights are stopped. But at the same time we must allow fighters to at least try to pull themselves back from the brink of defeat particularly when they still have some fight left in them. Refereeing is a thankless job indeed.

Do you think Herb Dean made the right call last Saturday? What other fights do you think were stopped prematurely?

Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. Check out his Twitter and Facebook to keep up with his antics.

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