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John McCarthy on Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus no contest ruling: ‘The right thing was done’

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One of the writers of the unified rules of mixed martial arts has responded to the ruling of Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus at UFC Vegas 38. 

Kevin Holland and Kyle Daukaus following their disappointing fight at UFC Vegas 38.
Kevin Holland and Kyle Daukaus following their disappointing fight at UFC Vegas 38.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

The fight between Kevin Holland and Kyle Daukaus at UFC Vegas 38 on Saturday night resulted in a No Contest. It was not the outcome that was expected, but one that was justified as an accidental clash of heads led to the fight-ending sequence that saw Daukaus submit Holland with a standing rear-naked choke in the first round.

Upon seeing the accidental clash of heads, it appeared as though referee Dan Miragliotta was about to pause the action, but opted not to once a briefly knocked out Holland showed signs of life on the ground. Miragliotta instead signaled for the use of instant replay by the replay official, which was employed following the conclusion of the fight. It confirmed that Holland was indeed compromised after the unintentional foul, and since the submission from Daukaus came as a direct result of that moment, the fight should — and would — be declared a No Contest.

The decision was somewhat controversial as some believed it was ultimately the right one to make, while others thought Daukaus was robbed of what would have been the biggest win of his professional career thus far. ‘Big’ John McCarthy, a former referee and one of the writers of the unified rules of mixed martial arts, fell into the category of the former and explained why on a recent edition of his Weighing In podcast.

McCarthy began by describing what should have happened when the aforementioned Miragliotta acknowledged the unintentional foul.

“The real telling part was, you don’t know what the referee sees,” said McCarthy. So I’m looking at it and I’m like, that one you should have seen. Based upon where you were at, the position he was at, and the way that Kevin fell when they came apart. He went face first, he was out. When he hit the ground, he woke up. It was like getting punched. He got hit on the jaw, it wasn’t like it was his forehead or anything like that, and it snapped his head. He was not in any way prepared for that and it put him out. But the telling part was when Dan said, ‘Oh, I saw it and I rushed in there but then he started fighting’. This is where all, all, MMA referees make mistakes.

“This is not, ‘Oh, he’s fighting. Let it go’,” continued McCarthy. “You don’t do that because if you see the head clash — many times, you’ll see a head clash and neither guy responds to it at all, right? So instead of stopping the action, if there is no cut, no damage you can see, you’ll just come close to them and say, ‘Hey, watch your heads inside,’ or something to that effect because you can see it did not affect either fighter. But if you have anything that shows a guy had an effect and a guy getting knocked down, if you say, ‘I saw that was a clash of heads’ and you see a guy getting knocked down, it’s time to go stop. Time. No matter that he comes back out of it because I’m gonna get him up, I’m gonna take him to the corner and let him clear out the cobwebs if there is that there, and then I’m gonna have the doctor look at him and if the doctor says he’s okay, we’ll put him back into the fight.

“You’ve got to take that time. The thing is, the referee doesn’t want to interfere with the action of the fight, but you have to interfere with the action of the fight if you can see that it visibly caused damage to one fighter or to both fighters. You gotta give them time.”

McCarthy then gave praise to the officials for the way they handled the situation. There was a small group of people that convened cageside to discuss and determine the correct course of action, which saw Miragliotta reverse what would have been a win for Daukaus.

According to McCarthy, that is exactly how the situation should have played out.

“Now in the state of California, we can go and look at that instant replay and we can reverse it,” said McCarthy. “Same as now with what Nevada has implemented with their ringside official being the replay official. They handled this, and it’s okay if it takes more than one person to come up with the idea of, ‘This is the direction we need to go’ as long as that direction is the right direction for the fighters. So, I’m very happy that they have Herb [Dean] being that replay official. I’m very happy that you saw Jeff Mullins, who is in charge of the fight for the state of Nevada. He was definitely part of it and talking to them, you saw other officials coming in and giving information about what they saw, which in the end forced or made, because we kind of thought Dan was going to go with, ‘Nope, I’m going to leave it the way it is,’ but all of that input told him, ‘No, I need to make this a no contest,’ and that was the right call for what occurred in this fight.

“Kevin Holland did not deserve to lose the fight based upon being hurt by a clash of heads,” continued McCarthy. “That’s not within the legality of the sport and so he shouldn’t lose based upon the injury that he suffered and the damage that he suffered from which put him in a position where the choke ends up making him tap later on. So in the end, the right thing was done and that’s good for the sport of MMA…

“I thought overall, great job by the state of Nevada and the athletic commission in allowing all of those officials to come together and to talk about what’s the best thing, not only for the fighters, but for the sport.”

Both Holland and Daukaus spoke about an immediate rematch in their respective post-fight press conferences, but nothing has been confirmed yet.