"Retreating to the fence, Lesnar almost appeared to want out of the fight. But he never did. Rarely thought of this way, professional fighting is a dance for three. And so even though it was Lesnar hanging in, remaining lucid, taking Carwin's absolute best, some credit for the result belongs to referee Josh Rosenthal, who intently watched while the challenger wailed away on the endangered champion. We so often harp on the poor quality of officiating in mixed martial arts. Done correctly, the way Rosenthal did tonight, refereeing is mindful not only of the welfare of the fighters, but it allows for competitors to peel off a bout's dramatic layers. A lesser official could have easily stolen several chapters of a classic, as Carwin (12-1) reigned down accurate punches."
There isn't a professional referee working today without glitches and dubious marks in their record of officiating. Josh Rosenthal is no stranger to experience. But this was a first-rate job by the referee of recognizing while Lesnar may have been dragged to the precipice, he never crossed the threshold.
When the stakes are high and the decision important, referees are allowed (and should be expected) to make sure their stoppage leaves no unanswered questions. Rosenthal exercised that freedom in a critical moment of sporting relevancy.
It's regrettable we create rules to make referees be stewards of "good" action. Stand-ups and separations on the ground are one such pressure. But this was a case where referees didn't have to add any effect to the fight to competently ensure both safety and entertainment. Rosenthal's patience, best practices adherence and wise reservation was all that was needed.
My hat goes off to referee Josh Rosenthal. Excellent touch today. It mattered for Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin. And it mattered for all fighters in the sport who deserve every opportunity to win.