(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.