As the most violent mainstream sport in existence, there is one sole factor that stands as mixed martial art's saving grace: safety.
Most of the hoopla surrounding the momentous UFC on Fox 1: Velasquez vs. dos Santos show centered around our beloved pastime nestling in alongside America's traditionally accepted circle of sports. While the echoes of yesterday's jeers of "human cockfighting" are probably less present than ever before, make no mistake about it -- one procedural mishap resulting in unnecessary blood or bodily harm will expedite those aspersions back to the forefront.
The Fox show represented the opportunity for a new level of mass exposure and, while the excitement of the main event was the cardinal dictator, we often take for granted how imperative the responsibilities of the referee are. This is exactly why being an MMA official is an utterly thankless role: if you execute flawlessly, you are merely doing your job and no one takes notice; if you are out of position or a split-second late on a crucial call, you are mercilessly pilloried by the wrath of angry fans and become the scapegoat for all that is imperfect in the world.
MMA's uniqueness is what makes it the best sport on earth, yet we can never forget that a referee blunder has potential repercussions on the reputable image it's built over the last decade as well as the health, family and future of its prized competitors.
One minute into the heavyweight title bout on the Fox broadcast, Junior dos Santos clipped Cain Velasquez with a massive overhand right. The champ went down but maintained his wits and tried to endure the incoming volley of strikes that the pouncing Brazilian followed up with. After a series of blinding left hands there was a distinct change and Cain Velasquez was no longer defending himself intelligently.
Big John McCarthy immediately recognized the fallen champion's inability to protect himself and intervened with precision timing. McCarthy has been in that exact situation hundreds of times before but, as with all the other elements of last night's precedential show, this circumstance might have been the most important of all.
There are those of us who are aware that anything but a flawless enforcement by the referee could have spelled disaster and, for that reason alone, I'd like to acknowledge Big John McCarthy for another commendable performance.
Velasquez vs. dos Santos gif via IronForgesIron.com