Refereeing was the hottest topic in MMA not even a month ago. Dana White's critiscism of Steve Mazagatti was all over vlogs and forums with fans weighing in on the issue. Last night however saw some excellent refereeing as Herb Dean and Josh Rosenthal had to make some tough calls and showed that there are refs out there who can handle the pressure and make the hard decisions.
First off was Josh Rosenthal overseeing the Sakara vs Irvin fight. Sakara's left hook hit Irvin in the eye and Irvin winced and fell to the ground holding his eye as Sakara jumped on him. Josh Rosenthal stepped in to what people initially though was a break to check the eye, but was actually the end of the fight. Rosenthal was in position to see the strike and recognized that the fist was closed when it landed. Since it was a legal strike that did the damage rendering Irvin unable to intelligently defend himself, the stoppage was a TKO win for Sakara. A perfect by-the-book call by Rosenthal who did not let the boo's from the crowd or the protestings of the fighters get to him.
The next scenario was not as clear cut but I believe Herb Dean made the best decisions possible during the Kongo vs Buentello contest. I will preface this by saying that Check Kongo needs to tighten up his game as far as fouls go. In this one fight we saw knees to the head of a grounded opponent, 12 to 6 elbows (which wether I like it or not, are currently illegal), a groin shot against the cage unseen by the ref (where Buentello also did not call attention to it aside from a look of pain) and some grabbing of the shorts. Is Kongo lucky he didn't get DQ'd? Maybe, but that result probably wouldn't have pleased the fans or the fighters. There was also a tough call where Kong had Buentello in a front headlock and was throwing knees to the head which were perfectly legal. Buentello then, without changing his body position, placed a hand on the ground to make himself grounded, rendering those same knees illegal. This was a few moments after Kongo had a point taken away for the clearly illegal knees to the head. Herb Dean stopped the action which was correct because the knees were infact illegal. However, he did not deduct a point from Kongo because he said that Buentello was "playing the game". This is why I like that call. For one, he stopped the action when the foul occured which was by-the-book. There is no arguing that Buentello became grounded and received knees to the head. It is absolutely the attacking fighters responsibility to make sure they are throwing legal techniques. Now I like the decision to not deduct a point because after throwing legal knees, he continued to do the same thing that seconds before was perfectly legal. Kongo was not in a position to see the hand change and while it is still his responsibility to do so, it was not technically an intentional foul as the previous knee was where Kongo was in position to see that Buentello was grounded.
Overall, a great night of fights where two of the fights could have ended in controversy, and while still awkward, the better fighters got the W's.
Image via ufc.com