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CABMMA issues statement, shoots down toughness argument in controversial UFC Belem stoppage

The Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission has discussed Mario Yamasaki’s decision-making at UFC Fight Night 125 last Saturday with the veteran referee. Yamasaki’s future as a referee in Brazil is unclear as of now.

UFC Fight Night: Shevchenko v Cachoeira Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The UFC Fight Night 125 co-main event shouldn’t have gone on as long as it did simply because of the overmatched underdog’s toughness, according to The Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA).

Last Saturday in Belem, Brazil, Valentina Shevchenko made her UFC women’s flyweight debut against newcomer Priscila Cachoeira. Shevchenko, who nearly won the bantamweight title last year in a rematch with Amanda Nunes, was a nine-to-one betting favorite — for good reason.

“Bullet” dominated the Brazilian from start to finish, pounding away at Cachoeira nonstop. The fight was never close to competitive. There seemed to be several instances at which referee Mario Yamasaki could have — and should have — stepped in, but he did not. Cachoeira had to tap — twice — to a rear-naked choke from Shevchenko to put an end to the contest.

On Monday, Yamasaki issued a statement partially defending the non-stoppage. The veteran referee admitted he could have waved the fight off sooner, but said he “allowed [Cachoeira] to be a warrior and keep fighting,” implying that toughness — on top of her movement — was the main reason he did not call a halt to the contest.

But CABMMA, who oversaw the Belem event, wrote in a statement sent to Monday evening that heart or toughness shouldn’t come into play when a referee is making in-cage decisions.

“Priscila Cachoeira demonstrated toughness and heart during the two rounds but those are two attitudes that should not interfere or confuse the referee when it comes to stoppages,” the statement read.

CABMMA “discussed” the stoppage with Yamasaki at the commission’s post-fight meeting Saturday night, per the statement, and made “all of our concerns regarding the incident” clear to Yamasaki.

CABMMA wrote that there was enough offense from Shevchenko and not enough intelligent defense from Cachoeira to warrant a Yamasaki stoppage earlier in the bout — even in the opening round.

“In the first round, in the last couple of minutes, it was clear that Priscila could not defend herself efficiently nor technically,” the statement read. “Round 2 was the same, but obviously with Priscila not physically recovered enough from the previous round to demonstrate her chance against Valentina, the fight should have been called off right in the initial moments.”

Yamasaki was not the only individual or group criticized after the controversial stoppage in Belem. Many fans and media members have shown concern towards the UFC and its matchmakers for booking Shevchenko vs. Cachoeira despite both fighters drastically varying in skill.

CABMMA defended the promotion’s matchmaking in the statement. However, if it was evident during the bout that it was indeed a mismatch, it was Yamasaki’s responsibility to identify that and call it off, per CABMMA.

“The fight was approved by CABMMA,” the statement read. “If it was not well matched and that being evidently demonstrated during the fight, it should have been identified by the referee in charge, as he is the highest authority in that moment, whose role is to protect the fighter at all times including stopping the fight at the proper moment.”

Per CABMMA, Yamasaki’s future officiating in Brazil is unknown at this time.

“We will discuss the next steps together and decide what is certainly best for all parts involved in the process,” the statement read.

You can read the statement in full here.

UFC Fight Night 125 was headlined by a middleweight bout between Lyoto Machida and Eryk Anders. Machida won by split decision.