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Brandon Vera Makes His Case

(Video courtesy of NBC Sports)

Listening to Brandon Vera make the case against the stoppage in his fight with Fabricio Werdum, I’m filled with mixed emotions. On one hand, yes, that was an early stoppage. Considering the time left in the round, as well his activity and defense once Werdum had mounted him, Vera should have been allowed to try and ride out the final seconds.

On the other hand, some of his comments make me think that Vera is not completely in touch with what was really happening in that fight.

Brandon Vera, you were not winning that fight. Werdum was controlling you and systematically taking you apart. That said, I still have to disagree with the stoppage, even though it was completely by the book. Of course, that only makes me think that something is wrong with the book.

The conventional wisdom in MMA is that a fighter who isn’t “intelligently defending himself” is in danger of having his fight stopped. We all know that. We’ve seen it over and over again. But the question is, given that situation — mounted by an excellent jiu-jitsu fighter with less than thirty seconds left in the round — what would an intelligent defense look like?

What Vera did in the situation was try to keep moving as much as possible so that he was not a stationary target for Werdum’s strikes. He knew he couldn’t escape from that very strong mount, but at least staying active while blocking as many punches as possible would show that he wasn’t hurt and still had his wits about him. That’s about as much as you can ask for in that situation.

If there were three minutes left in the round at this point, with Vera unable to escape, a stoppage would be more credible. After all, if he’s not going anywhere or providing any defense beyond covering up, he’s not really fighting.

But you have to take the full situation into account. He only had to last a few more seconds in order to get into the second round. In that situation, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s not as if he was just lying flat on his back and absorbing elbows to the head, which is what Kimbo Slice did for a full minute, without having his fight stopped by the very same referee.

I’m not saying that Miragliotta is the scapegoat here. That man has taken enough criticism (which might be part of why he stopped this one so soon). I think the problem is that the ‘intelligent defense’ standard is too unclear, and it doesn’t get appropriately modified to match changing situations in a fight.

A guy goes down from a punch and then turtles up while his opponent batters him? That’s not an intelligent defense. But if your opponent gains the full mount due to superior ground skills that doesn’t mean you are necessarily hurt or stunned. And covering up while you move and look for an escape is, while not a guaranteed strategy for success, better than most other options, like futile attempts at punching back from the bottom.

What I’m saying here is the standard for an intelligent defense needs to be reviewed. It’s a tough call for the referee to make, and it’s a lot to ask to expect him to take the full situation into effect before making that decision. Then again, that’s the referee’s job. It’s a thankless one, and he’ll never make everyone happy, but he knows that going in.

If we don’t arm him with more specific criteria than a vague phrase open to multiple interpretations, we’re only making that job more difficult.

(-Ben Fowlkes)


Cagepotato Comments

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C-Bus Allstar- June 9, 2008 at 11:30 am
@ Warcraft, go back to slaying demons and amassing enough gold for your epic mount, because you obviously know nothing about MMA.

Defense IS NOT, and I REPEAT, IS NOT fighting back. Defense is all about avoiding damage. And that's exactly what Vera was doing.
shutupandfight- June 8, 2008 at 11:03 pm
i got a lot of respect for both fighters and was kind of pulling for Vera...but if it were a real fight (street/bar/whatever) Vero was dead meat...he fuked up by not defending against the mount attempt.

on the other hand it wasn't a street fight...Vero knew was he was doing.

gotta go with bad call...Vera was defending...was not hurt...and Werdum wasn't really landing shit for power. Vera said he couln't escape...but he said that knowing the round was nearing it's end. if forced to he may have come up with an escape or submission eventually...fuk who knows...big let down though fer sure.

i wonder what the ref has to say.
Warcraft- June 8, 2008 at 9:39 pm
Ok if Vera was dominating the standup why couldn't he keep it there and KO Werdum then?
I saw Vera drop a few knees but Werdum is strong and just got the clinch and overpowered Vera on the ground. Even if there was a round 2 I could see Werdum getting the mount easily again.

Looked like a ok stoppage. Vera just accepted that mount and didn't even try to escape. I saw him squirming under Werdum and just hoping he didn't break his face somewhere. I don't care if he was telling the ref he loved the punches it will still get stopped. Defense means you fight back and Vera wasn't case closed.
Kaleb- June 8, 2008 at 8:58 pm
Vera was winning,
Werdum was doing nothing for 4 minutes
1 minute left,
he mounts . . .

4 > 1. nough said.
C-Bus Allstar- June 8, 2008 at 7:20 pm
Ben.. were you watching the same fight as me?

"Brandon Vera, you were not winning that fight. Werdum was controlling you and systematically taking you apart."


Are you mental? Did you even WATCH the fight?

Although, everything after that part I agree with you 100%. Maybe you should just like.. re-write that sentence, because it is REALLY taking away from the credibility of your argument.

Vera was dominating that entire fight right up until he got mounted. And even then he WAS intelligently defending himself. He was blocking, moving, rolling, everything except throwing punches from the bottom (which we all know is absolutely suicide). I don't see how he could have defended himself more intelligently. AND THAT'S NOT EVEN CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT HE TOLD DAN MIRAGLIOTTA THAT HE WAS OK 3 FUCKING TIMES.

I think this ref just needs his fucking license revoked and Vera deserves a re-match.
VEe- June 8, 2008 at 5:30 pm
Unfortunately this issue will happen again and again until a body of promoters, fighters, coaches and sports medical physicians agree and decide to review the rules governing an MMA match.

Ben, you're absolutely correct. Intelligently defending yourself is open to broad interpretation. But it is open to the sole discretion of the referee. With regards to the Ferguson-Thompson match, the referee allowed Kimbo to survive because he believed the blows were not doing damage. Kimbo was pinned into the cage. Vera was mounted and did not get the benefit of the doubt.

Bashing the referee does not solve anything. It will eventually take figures like Dana White, Gary Shaw, etc. to help get the rules changed. But unfortunately Dana White is still in the battle to get the sport legalized.

So I don't expect these questionable stoppages (or no-calls) to stop any time soon. In the mean time, "Protect yourself at all times." And keep the fight standing if possible, especially against BJJ experts.
martymarta- June 8, 2008 at 5:09 pm
This is definitely one of the more interesting topics as of late. Initially I thought that the solution was that once you have been mounted, regardless of how good your opponent's jiu jitsu is, you should still be trying to buck and roll. Your chances of landing in an armbar or getting your back taken are high, but I've seen plenty of fights that have had rounds end with 1min straight of failed rear naked choke attempts. As a fighter, you should never want to leave the fight in the hands of the ref or the judges. In my oppinion, taking punches from mount does this, but it's hard to mistake whether a guy/girl submits.
The other point I'd like to make is: Did Vera know how much time was left? If so, should it be a legitimate strategy to do basically what he did and count on getting saved by the bell?
Mondooh 3:17- June 8, 2008 at 4:41 pm
uhhmmm long time MMA fan, this may seem like a dumb question but what exactly is the criteria to be a Ref.???
what governing body says ok you are good to go as a Ref
Myles Kilometers- June 8, 2008 at 4:35 pm
Yeah...I'm not sure that the time left in the round should be considered. It adds a whole new element that will affect the consistency of the reffing.

So Vera only had like 25-30 seconds to ride out. What if it were 40 seconds? Or 50? Where's the line?

For me, time shouldn't be a factor in any of the refs decisions. What's a stoppage in the first minute of the first round should be a stoppage in the last minute of the last round. Same goes for any other call where the ref uses their judgment.

Having said was a bad stoppage and BenBen made a good point about how an "intelligent defense" should be more clearly defined.
DonBarzini- June 8, 2008 at 4:20 pm
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JoseMonkey- June 8, 2008 at 4:17 pm
I wonder if in the back of Miragliotta's mind, he was thinking about the Kimbo/Thompson fight, and the criticism he received for not stopping the fight when Kimbo was eating elbows. At some level, he may have been thinking that he didn't want to be criticized for the same mistake again, and therefore he let it affect his judgment.

Ironically, when you contrast the two events, it only makes him look worse.
bfowlkes- June 8, 2008 at 4:00 pm
@Russell: I'll agree that Vera was winning the stand-up, but the round wasn't all stand-up. To say Werdum wasn't doing much, I can only assume you mean he wasn't doing much until he got Vera to the mat, mounted him, and started punching. He was doing quite a bit then, and when you end the round by getting mounted and punched in the face, it's hard to think you won it on the judges' scorecards.
Russell- June 8, 2008 at 3:52 pm
I dont see how Vera wasnt winning the round. He lost the round when he got mounted, but he was winning the stand up.

"Brandon Vera, you were not winning that fight. Werdum was controlling you and systematically taking you apart." I think you should re-watch the fight. Werdum wasnt really doing much of anything.

But anyways, yeah, the ref sucks, and I make the same arguments about what a fighter can do while mounted.
lolwut- June 8, 2008 at 3:42 pm
im sick of these refs, these guys fight for a living let them take a fuking risk by letting it continue, Dan Mirgetloitta or what ever his last name is is a disgrace. Fuck between gary shaw and this dude i dunno who i hate more.
Sam- June 8, 2008 at 3:35 pm
ARe the refs professional? is it their only jobs?

As the stakes get higher it calls for more consistancy which Miragliotta is failing to offer, maybe its his gat interest tash?
Asbel- June 8, 2008 at 3:27 pm
I thought Vera won the standup. He rocked Werdum standing and may have been able to drop Werdum in the second round. Werdum stole the round with the mount though.
Old, Bald and Irish- June 8, 2008 at 3:20 pm
It's official....

Ben for President.

The guy is a genius and can't possibly do any worse than the current knuckleheads that are running.
JohnS- June 8, 2008 at 3:10 pm
The time left in the round can not be taken into consideration. If the ref determins that a guy is not defending himself and their are 10 seconds or 4:59 left on the clock he still needs to call it. I do agree that this one was a bad stoppage because Brandon was defending and was not even close to being out yet.