Although it was marginally overlooked in our weekend wrap-up of the event, you guys might have heard that Marius Zaromskis was nearly ground into a fine white powder by the fists of Andrey Koreshkov in their co-main event matchup at Bellator 78 this past weekend. Despite the fact that referee Jerry Poe was literally watching the action from the perfect angle, he apparently suffered a case of sudden onset blindness at the worst possible moment, allowing Koreshkov to reign down some 11 unanswered blows — which were each fight-ending power strikes in and of themselves — before calling a stop the fight. It made Josh Rosenthal’s stoppage of Chris Weidman vs. Mark Munoz look like Rick Fike’s stoppage of Aaron Riley vs. Shane Nelson 1. Word has it that even Steve Mazzagatti started screaming “Wake the fuck up ref!” at his television during the fight. Needless to say, people were pissed.
But we can rest assured for the time being, because Ohio Athletic Commission Executive Director Bernie Profato recently told BloodyElbow that the fight was “under review.” While we truly appreciate that notion on behalf of the fighters, we’re not exactly sure what potential punishments could arise from a review (although an attempted manslaughter charge for Poe seems appropriate) or how they could be carried out.
The problem is, we’ve seen these kinds of referee blunders go unpunished before — as will likely be the case in this instance — so it almost begs one to ask what exactly a referee has to do (or not do) in order to be held accountable for their decisions. Reffing a fight is no easy task and requires a level of split-second decision making that most people are simply not capable of making. The argument over what constitutes a “correct” stoppage is solid in theory, but often comes under fire when actually applied in the cage.
Just take the Brock Lesnar/Shane Carwin fight at UFC 116, for example. Was Lesnar “intelligently defending” himself after getting rocked in the first round? If you consider turtling up and trying to kick out Carwin’s ankles intelligent defense, then yes, yes he was. Josh Rosenthal, who is considered one of the best refs in the game, would agree with you. But many MMA fans or even referees for that matter probably wouldn’t. In the end, Rosenthal’s no-stoppage proved to be the “correct” decision, but again, it’s completely a matter of opinion. And with each new referee that enters the game comes a new opinion of what justifies a correct stoppage and a new set of variables.
Obviously, Poe’s flub was an extreme instance of referee subjectivity being completely off base, but dependent on whether or not the OAC decides to hold Poe accountable for his actions could mark a huge turning point in the refereeing of the sport. Because any unnecessary accumulation of blows to the head can be even more devastating to a fighter in the long run than in the immediate. Just ask Gary Goodridge.
Then again, handing out suspensions to referees for late stoppages could conversely lead to more premature stoppages than we are already used to. It’s not a problem that poses an easy solution, but the Ohio Athletic Commission’s decision could move things in the right direction to say the least.