Why am I leading this article with a photo of a slightly chubby and bloodied Fabio Maldonado leaning against the fence?
Because this picture was taken while Mario Yamasaki nearly let his brain get turned into grey pudding inside the Octagon Saturday night. The fight doctor and Fabio's corners too share the blame for the needless infliction of two straight 10-7 and 10-8 rounds.
Once it was obvious that Maldonado could not stand straight or walk unaided by the cage wall back to his corner at the end of the first round, it was the responsibility of at least one of the triumvirate charged with preserving a fighter's health - the referee, the doctor or the corners - to stop the fight. And none of them did so then. It was only after another full round of the heavy handed Glover Teixeira punching, punching and punching Fabio over and over again in the head that the fight doctor called the bout.
Look also at the late third round of the Jon Fitch and Erick Silva fight. Fitch had pushed the pace so high and so fast over the match that Silva was exhausted, mounted and eating a steady stream of thudding punches and elbows. Referee Marc Goddard was asking Silva to defend and in response, he was moving his hands to cover up - slowly and ineffectually. This happened again and again as Fitch kept raining down strikes. The kid had nothing to offer anymore and the fight should have been called with roughly 90 seconds to go.
Instead, Goddard, the corners and the doctor let the young prospect take a few dozen more blows to his skull. It was as if all three groups simultaneously decided "Brain health and career future be damned, we're taking this to a decision to deny Jon Fitch a finish."
In the Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado fight, we were lucky in that nothing terrible like another eyepoke or Bellator-style crotch kick happened. However, Prado grabbed the fence seemingly 10 plus times - even after being warned by Goddard not to do so. A point deduction would have been understood and appreciated after that round. Goddard chose to issue a brief warning during the break in between rounds. It is his call, but the deduction would have been a strong statement for the enforcement of rules.
Lastly, examine the quick stand-ups that Fernando Yamasaki, the third referee on the card is becoming known for. The Rony Jason vs. Sam Sicilia fight was arguably altered by a too quick stand-up in the first round. If Sicilia is allowed to work after his second time bringing the fight down to the canvas, perhaps Jason doesn't get his late round flurries off and stagger Sicilia. Perhaps the second round KO that built off that late first round success doesn't happen.
Why do referees love standing up fighters during the ground game phase, yet so often hold off in the clinch? We get far more stinkers like Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera than we do Tyron Woodley fights.
To be objective and fair, Goddard and both Yamasakis were generally positioned very well in cage and conducted themselves well in enacting the submission and knockout stoppages. Goddard also let Francisco Trinaldo and Gleison Tibau work on the feet and on the ground. They are mostly doing the best they can - which means that the doctor and the corners are the ones that need to step up and preserve the health of their fighters.
What does Erick Silva gain from an additional 90 seconds of getting his skull bounced off the canvas? Fabio Maldonado absolutely wanted to keep on fighting, but is his toughness a detriment to his career and long term health? Are ground-game fighters ever going to get a fair chance to work their game in the modern UFC or have we all gone Pete TUF?