(Props: MMA TKO)
Though Joe Warren insisted that he didn’t tap and wasn’t in any real trouble when the referee stepped in to stop his Dream featherweight GP bout against Bibiano Fernandes earlier this week, the evidence seems to suggest that at least one of those claims is unfounded. Here we see Warren clamp his right hand on to Fernandes’ knee as the armbar is applied, and then, after he falls face first on to the mat, there’s the slightest hint of a tapping motion. It’s not enough to be a real I-give-up-and-would-like-to-go-home-now tap, but perhaps just the physical manifestation of the little voice inside Warren’s head saying, ‘Damn, we’re in a tight spot.’
But maybe that’s not the point at all. Maybe the question is, should a referee be stopping bouts because he thinks one of the fighters is about to suffer bone and/or ligament damage?
It’s one thing when a fighter is being beaten senseless. We understand the need for referee intervention then because a) brain damage and possibly even death might only be one more punch away, and b) the fighter might be too disoriented to know he’s even in a fight, much less capable of quitting one. But submissions are a different ballgame.
For instance, never do you see a referee stop a fight because a fighter is locked in a choke. At least, you never see it until he’s choked unconscious, at which point there’s usually not much disagreement. But the reason refs don’t stop fighters in chokes is because they realize that even if he doesn’t get out, the result isn’t going to be life-threatening or cause serious long-term damage.
It’s slightly different with an armbar, but not by much. In Joe Warren’s situation, a broken arm would have been the worst-case scenario. And while having a cast on your arm is a sure way to ruin your summer break, it’s probably not going to be a serious long-term injury and it certainly isn’t life-threatening. It’s just a bummer.
So why couldn’t the ref have let things go here, just to see if Warren’s arm ended up bending the wrong way? There was no way for him to know how much Warren’s arm could take, or how much strain it was under. There are times to err on the side of caution, and times to let a guy get his arm jacked up if that’s what it takes for him to learn. Kind of seems like the Warren-Fernandes fight was an instance of the latter.