Ben Askren’s UFC debut did draw attention, but for many observers, it was for the wrong reasons.
After being on the receiving end of a Robbie Lawler beating, the undefeated “Funky” one remained patient, played his game, until he eventually got hold of a bulldog choke.
Here’s where things got tricky. For a few moments there, Lawler’s right hand seemed to have gone limp. And in the eyes of presiding referee Herb Dean at the moment, it was a good reason to wave the fight off and call for a stoppage.
Part of a referee’s primary duty is to protect the fighter’s well-being inside that cage. What’s not commonly addressed is that they do everything on the fly. He/she will need to make decisions, and some of which like this one, may end up drawing questions and controversy.
Herb Dean, as great and respectable as he is, is merely human prone to committing errors. But did he make a mistake here? Not entirely. If it was indeed a face crank instead of a blood choke as Dominick Cruz observed, he may have saved Robbie from possibly injuring his jaw, which could’ve easily happened if that headlock stayed on for a few more seconds.
For a matchup of such hype and magnitude to end in a controversial, anti-climactic manner, it is natural to call for an immediate rematch. I don’t fully agree with it, but I won’t be surprised if it happened, either.
For the time being, UFC 235 is Ben Askren’s night, and he deserves some mad props for a successful Octagon debut.