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Opinion: Instant Replay in MMA Would Create More Questions Than Answers

(“Okay, we’re going to restart you guys in the position you were in when the foul occurred. Mirko, please put your index finger on Mostapha’s eyeball.”)

By Marcus Mitchell

It wasn’t the vicious first-round submissions that followed it. It wasn’t the stiffening spinning wheel kick knockout that preceded it. It wasn’t even the devastating KO from the champ’s knee in the main event. It was a single controversial decision that had everyone’s attention after the UFC’s last visit to Brazil.

How is it that names like Rousimar Palhares, Gabriel Gonzaga, Jose Aldo, and even Vitor Belfort paled in comparison to Mario Yamasaki? Never mind that Gonzaga finally got a big win or that the Phenom had rebounded from his embarrassing loss to fellow Brazilian Anderson Silva. Yamasaki’s decision to overturn an apparent first round TKO had everyone up in arms.

Most notably incensed by the fight’s result was UFC President Dana White. Steve Mazzagatti could only listen in disbelief as Dana White actually defended a referee that made a mistake. Instead of blaming Yamasaki personally, Dana White rekindled the ever-smoldering topic of instant replay: “There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes. There’s nothing wrong. We’re [expletive] human. We’re going to do it. But you have to be able to go back and say, ‘We made a mistake. Here’s the proof. Let’s overturn it.’

But would the addition of instant replay in MMA really be the answer to botched referee decisions? Or would it create even more unforeseen problems?

Consider the situation where a fighter is on his back and receives a deep cut that could be interfering with his vision. The referee stands them up and takes the bleeder over to the fight doctor. After a short break, they are re-positioned and the fight continues. The break so brief because a large part of fighting is about stamina and recovery time. Each fighter is allowed one minute between each five-minute round to rest. The only other breaks in action you see during a fight are when a foul is committed (a shot to the groin, an illegal knee to the head, etc.) or a mouthpiece accidentally falls out of a fighters’ mouth. In those scenarios there is an evident sense of urgency from the referee to get the fight to continue. One of the referee’s many duties is to maintain the pace of the fight.

Imagine that the UFC used instant replay when Brock Lesnar fought Shane Carwin. If for some reason the referee wanted to check for an illegal strike, he would be out of the cage for a fair amount of time viewing each angle. All the while, the beast that is Shane Carwin is regaining oxygen. A fighter with a serious disadvantage is having the playing field leveled for him. By the time the ref finally returns, Carwin would be rejuvenated and someone in the first row would be taking home Lesnar’s massive head.

And if instant replay were allowed at UFC 142, what would Mario Yamasaki have done? Would he stop the fight while he checked the tape? If he returned and saw that Silva had indeed landed a blow or two to the back of Prater’s head, would he deduct a point or stop the fight? Prater could not continue, so stop the fight, right? Or does he just give the fight to Silva because in between smacking the direct center of Prater’s head he landed some convincing blows on Prater? But, if Yamasaki does restart the fight, after giving both fighters ample time to recover, does he put Prater right back into Silva’s clutches like he would for a doctor check?

And where are you while this is taking place? Have you lost interest? The length of break and commentary are similar to the time before and after Bruce Buffer announces the decision of the fight. Do you want to wait while Yamasaki puts on headphones and sticks his head into a small television screen?

As a fan, the right call is the major concern, but is it something you’re willing to wait for?
Let’s refer to one of the oldest cases in need of instant replay: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Marcus Silveira at UFC Japan in 1997. Sakuraba was being abused by a barrage of strikes by a man that outweighed him by 60 pounds. Sakuraba decided he did not enjoy having his skull reshaped and went for a single-leg takedown. “Big” John McCarthy, who is widely regarded as MMA’s most beloved referee, immediately stopped the fight stating that Sakuraba was knocked out. When the Gracie Hunter popped to his feet, McCarthy knew he made a mistake. There was no instant replay to fall back on.

Instead, like the situation with Erick Silva, Sakuraba had to wait during an appeal. In both cases, replay was looked at and the right call was determined. Essentially, a replay was used for the right call, but not an instant replay. For safety purposes, the fights were stopped and decisions were made afterwards. Luckily for Saku, the decision was overturned and he got his rematch the same night.)

Another question, as if there weren’t enough already, is who would be in charge of determining when instant replay should be used? As stated previously, Dana White is an advocate for instant replay. When discussing the topic, he frequently compares MMA’s lack of the determining tool to virtually every other major sport’s use of it. In American football, instant replay is generally determined, between plays, by one team’s head coach throwing a red flag onto the field to signify that he would like the previous play re-examined. In baseball, the umpires determine if instant replay is needed, between plays, if there is any argument over a home run’s validity. In both sports, the final call is still somewhat questionable and the process is always time consuming.

Would instant replay be determined by Dana White in MMA? Does he throw a red flag into the Octagon in between tweets? Should a fighter’s coach be in charge of throwing the flag? Joe Rogan apparently thought he was the deciding factor when he took it upon himself to publicly humiliate Mario Yamasaki seconds after his decision. The UFC could give him and Mike Goldberg a few flags and see what happens. However, going by how often they pre-emptively declare the ending to a fight, it wouldn’t be long before they tore a rotator cuff. Instead of anyone throwing flags, does the referee take it upon himself to judge when something needs to be reviewed? If so, prepare yourself for questionable delays while the referee checks if, in fact, that kick landed on the thigh or testicles.

Implementing instant replay in MMA opens up a gigantic can of worms. Imagine how many fighters wake up on a Bud Light logo to furiously debate whether or not he left consciousness. Does the referee look at the tape? If he does, is it safe to bring a fighter who may or may not have just been knocked out back into a fight?

Imagine an infuriated Gilbert Yvel demanding that Steve Mazzagatti check an instant replay. Now imagine Mazzagatti saying no.

Recall Cheick Kongo’s need to check Cro Cop’s bits and pieces. If instant replay were intact, how many times would this fight have been reviewed? Sitting through that many delays would make a Jacob Volkmann fight look interesting.

When it comes down to it, out of all the fights in the history of MMA, an almost negligible percentage has created a buzz for instant replay. The rest have been refereed absolutely correctly. Implementing instant replay in MMA would be like using a hatchet when a scalpel would do. There are other ways to adjust the issue at hand. The first, and probably easiest, would be for commissions to be absolutely sure that referees are consistent. If referees had penalized or even disqualified Vitor Belfort for the many times he has attacked the back of an opponent’s head in a heated adrenaline-filled rush to end the fight, then Yamasaki would not have looked so bad with his decision.

There are far too many questions with instant replay. Maybe some fights would be changed for the good, but at what cost? Without instant replay, there is only one question: Why doesn’t MMA have instant replay?

Cagepotato Comments

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XENOPHON- February 1, 2012 at 8:01 am
@Jawbreaker_46 - See I view it the opposite. Your right, give it to the manager-trainer, and maybe the referee has a counterpart in the room above to signal a replay of sketchy or missed calls.
SO what if the fighters get a breather for a minute, at least it becomes more accurate with the assigning of point deductions, fight stoppages, fouls, and disqualifications. If they breath of a minute extra, the fight temps picks back up, and sweat dries so that sloppy fighting is reduced. I don't pay $55 bucks to watch submission experts, slip and slide for 4 of 5 rounds - never able to land their technique, or have a punch deflected as it slides to the one side or another.
Its surely one way to stop the Josh Kosheck acting auditions...or verify if a point deduction is valid or in gross error. I would like to see it implemented at no more than 2-3 times per a fight. And knowing FOX, with their track record, they might like the idea too.
Jawbreaker_46- January 31, 2012 at 9:10 pm
Replay works in Football because there is down time between plays, and should be used in baseball on more than home runs. They say it would slow down the game, you know, even more than the game slows down the game, but if they ran it the way football does with only giving the manager so many per game, Armando Gallaraga would have a perfect game in the record books. I agree that it wouldn't work in MMA. This is one thing that is actually better in Dana's hands. Let him give rematches and/or win money to guys who get robbed. As far as nut shots and eye pokes and what not, the refs do get those right more often than not. You can't take a guy who just ate 5-20 Vitor Belfort hammerfists to the back of the head and send him back in for more punishment, so lets just take the bad with the good.
MitchellBSP- January 31, 2012 at 8:07 pm
I'm sorry amsterdamheavy, but I don't know what you mean. As a writer, you write it the best way you can and then send it to the editor of whichever website you write for. I also write for if you want to check my other articles out.
AndyInflammatory- January 31, 2012 at 8:01 pm
no replay in karate, boxing, muay thai, wrestling, BJJ, thugjitsu or pit fighting. So...there should be in the UFC because they use it in NFL?
amsterdamheavy- January 31, 2012 at 6:49 pm
Criticism that seems to fall on deaf ears.

Hey Danga of Bones Jones or whatever teh fuck youre calling yourself this week:

"...what lay beyond..." not "what lied beyond" - you didnt respond and ya didnt fix it.


I hope yer not a fuckin hack too Marcus. Get someone to proofread your copy before it gets posted (not DangaDaDamnDanga). The bar is really low around here lately, so I hope you can get over it. If you cant, youre probably fucked already and should see about an extra shift at Hooters or wherever youre workin tables.
MitchellBSP- January 31, 2012 at 5:48 pm
Also, thank you for welcoming me Crushco. I look forward to writing for a while. I enjoy the open criticism here.
MitchellBSP- January 31, 2012 at 4:19 pm
In the talks to write a second article now. I look forward to the comments there as well.
XENOPHON- January 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm
@MitchellBSP - I'm sorry, I was just fucking with the staff at CP, as I clowned on then earlier in the morning about hiring minorities - in that case it was women writers.
These fuckers you are working with talk all kinds of shit about being free of racism all the fucking time, but they are like me - all white guys.
You might think I am a racist cuss I joke a lot, but I only use that card around here - dry humor comes across hardcore when written. At home, this weekend my I had my chicks kids school friend spent the night. A black kid, and I didn't know what the fuck to feed him for dinner. So I played it safe, a bucket of KFC. GRIN
Just kidding, I got the boys Jack in the Box after seeing the commercial during the FOX fights.
If your a historian, I got Cage Potato to come running to the defense of women in car crashes (fabers sister), kids needing organ transplants (millers kid), Jewish fighters, Mexican border jumpers, Latino rappers, Asian hookers, and Blacks puffing a spliff...but here is the rub.
For all their insults at me, outside of guest speakers (and the HR expert Wilson) they don't have any workplace diversity. Yet, they want to feel that they should wear a cape like superheros. hahaha
They are fucking hypocrites.
If you are black all the better - you don't need to go on the record for me. Blacks are the best comedians in my book - followed by that half breed Jo Koy. The worse one, who I really can't stand is that fucker Carlos Mencia.
Anyway I am straying...
I will just call you Mitchell. Its a fine surname. My best mate (and the one guy I'd wanted around backing me up at every bar fight I got into at Porkys - Lake Geneva Wisconsin) in the Navy was named Mitchell.
He was black, Marcus.
Now, all introduction and niceties set aside, let us see what you got biatch! GRIN
MitchellBSP- January 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm
The infamous Xenophon. I've seen your work. I am impressed. You know my other job is as a waiter and I do my best to keep my head up. Thank you for the words of kindness.

I'm just not sure how my name should be brought into this or my race.
XENOPHON- January 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm
@ Marcus - didn't agree with your conclusion, it won't be the first time. I give you a nod, as at least your conclusion support your position. Just ask Mike Russell. He is usually on all fours too!

Since you managed to get a job in this economy I hope your happy with Cage Potato. I am sure you will be hounded just like the other Caged Potato writers.
Like Ben is trying to be, I mean your also like a writer too, right? Check it, I know some waitresses.
Some work at Black Angus or the Outback, others - well they end up wearing the Burger King / Happy Jacks uniform.
Keep your chin up, if they can smile everyday - so can you. GRIN
Ps...Your lucky I mentioned, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
I posted that this morning Marcus, and whammo you get hired a few hours later! See not all honkey's are all that bad.

Anyone want to make a bet that Mr. Marky-MarcUS Mitchell is a soul brother or not?
One rule, don't be like these chicken shits around here who post articles, but refuse to ever sign their names to them.
XENOPHON- January 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm
@RSparrow - what's the pay? I'm not sure I'd be any good at it. GRIN
XENOPHON- January 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm
@Goat Says- fucking "A" right.
It's used in nearly every other sport, and people (fans at home) forget how much like to see that they called it right and a second chance to see it rewound.
Plus human errors happen, and its a means to correct a wrong call.
Godoftheclam- January 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm
get your dick sucked
Goat- January 31, 2012 at 11:04 am
This article was terrible. A logic-less droll with more bias and less incite than a yahoo celebrity blog.

Instant Replay would be used sparingly, and only between rounds or after a fight has been called.

Having a second referee official at a replay-booth would also help with the flow.

Instant-replay is a great idea if used correctly. This article looks at none of its advantages and simply creates a stupid list of scenarios where nobody has ever wanted instant replay before.

Does the author, Marcus Mitchell, even watch MMA? Or does he just read about it on blog sites?
RSparrow- January 31, 2012 at 10:46 am
I think xeno should be shrunken, and float around In a little bubble, hovering around and pushing buttons as he see fit.
Get Off Me- January 31, 2012 at 10:11 am
Thanks Crusher.
I simply wanted to confirm your "fairly certain" thoughts for the audience.
Simply put, botched calls and professional sports go hand in hand. However, the UFC is perhaps the only "major" sport right now, where there is a considerable portion of the audience that are unable to clearly understand who wins and who loses a fight when judges get involved. This can corrected and it is not at the mercy of the comission, it lies with Dana and the boys.
CrushCo- January 31, 2012 at 9:51 am
@Get Off Me: Exactly what I'm saying. When abroad, the UFC has the freedom to do as they please, and if Dana believes in instant replay, which he has vocally supported, these excursions would prove an ideal opportunity to test the waters and prove their merit without interference. That being said, I believe some US commissions currently allow for instant replay. (I'll leave your question about 'hiring' to one of the big boys around here.)
Get Off Me- January 31, 2012 at 9:43 am
Replay>Instant Replay.
Replay should only be used in the appeals process. As stated very few fights end in controversy and saying the Prater decision eclipsed the rest of the action in Brazil is a stretch.
Along with in house testing(the biggest jonke), the UFC contracts security, referees and judges for their events where an Athletic Comission is not present.
Dana uses comissions as an excuse, it's amazing how the 5 round main event fight was so easy to accomplish, more changes to the rules of this sport need to be made and this should be discussed over something as inconsequential(on the grand scale) as instant replays.
Is CP hiring?
Fried Taco- January 31, 2012 at 9:43 am
I think the UFC should use the same instant replay used by other fast action sports, such as basketball. Comparing to baseball and football is ridiculous, since those sports have more stoppages and thus chances to review what just happened. No one stops a game during a play to check the tape, they do it afterwards. So after Mario stopped the fight, he could have checked the tape and then decided to disqualify. Then maybe he would have made the right decision.
Me likey- January 31, 2012 at 9:16 am
i think it should be used only in an instance when the fight is stopped due to a foul. the action is already stopped so there is no issue about allowing someone to recover. if there was no foul then the fighters could be placed back into position and the fight would resume.
CrushCo- January 31, 2012 at 8:51 am
1) Good job, Marcus (and welcome aboard).
2) I think the most interesting thing here is that the fight that largely re-raised this issue took place in Brazil, where there was no athletic commission to run the show. I'm fairly certain that the UFC hired the refs, who would normally be assigned by the third party athletic commissions. If the UFC wanted drug testing, they had to conduct it themselves. And guess what: if the UFC wanted instant-replay, they easily could have instituted it for this show with no one to challenge them. In fact, Dana said after the event that although he's calling for commissions to institute instant replay, the UFC doesn't plan on using it for shows taking place abroad. For a guy that usually claims he's handcuffed by the commissions, this was his chance to do things his way and he chose not to. It makes no sense to me.
jfjjfjff- January 31, 2012 at 8:38 am
jfjjfjff- January 31, 2012 at 8:37 am
"listen to my instructions at all times"
jfjjfjff- January 31, 2012 at 8:36 am
i think that yamasaki is 100% in the right here, even if there were ZERO strikes to the back of the head. he is in charge of fighter saftey and didn't like what he was seeing. issued a warning and that warning was not heeded.
that is the bottom line.
jfjjfjff- January 31, 2012 at 8:34 am
"Without instant replay, there is only one question: Why doesn’t MMA have instant replay?"
in football or baseball they use instant replay to see, DEFINITIVELY, that the ball bounced wide of the, very well marked white, line, or that feet landed inside the, very well marked white, line, or that the ball touched the ground, very clearly, before being caught. without overwhelming evidence, the call on the field stands.
in this recent case it wouldn't have applied. the back of the head is well defined on paper, but the angle of striking moves dynamically as that persons head moves or rotates, furthermore you might argue that the fist didnt contact the back of the head, but the wrist/forearm area were hitting it in a chopping style motion. at the end of the day yamasaki warned him to watch the back of the head, and he felt his warnings were not being heeded... THAT was the result of the DQ. instant replay wouldn't have mattered. just look at all the GIF's people tried to produce to prove that there was only 1 or 2 strikes to the head. you'd be an idiot to suggest that "evidence" was definitive in any way.