For two UFC events in a row, we’ve seen illegal knee strikes end fights prematurely. The first one happened at UFC 259 between bantamweights Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling. A week later, middleweight Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart were involved in the same predicament.
The difference, however, was in the fight result. Yan vs. Sterling ended in a DQ win for the latter, while Anders vs. Stewart ended in a No Contest verdict.
So what was the difference? Here’s the explanation provided by UFC Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner.
“In the Yan fight, Mark Smith was the referee, and he felt that the knee was intentional,” Ratner told MMA Junkie Radio. “And therefore, because Sterling couldn’t go forward, that became a disqualification.
“The difference from last Saturday’s fight was Herb Dean felt that maybe (Anders), who landed the knee, (and Stewart), who was putting his hand up and down, kind of baited him into that knee. He felt it was an accident. Therefore it became a no-contest or a ‘no decision.’ If it would’ve (gone) two rounds full, we would’ve gone to the scorecards.
“What we start with is the referee’s judgment,” he explained. “That’s the most important thing. He’s going to determine, in his mind, whether it was intentional or accidental. It certainly changes the way the fight is scored or the outcome.”
Ratner is willing to make the necessary changes to further improve the sport. One other thing he’s calling for is that warnings from the referee should be given in the locker room, not in the cage mid-fight.
“I do believe hard warnings should be given in the dressing room, saying, ‘I’m not going to warn you during the fight,” Ratner said. “I’m telling you right now. Don’t grab the fence. If you’re leading with your fingers out there, I can take a point. I want you to know that. This is a hard warning, so think about this stuff very clearly.’
“Sometimes you’ve got language barriers, hoping the Portuguese, that their interpreters tell them these things. Sometimes you don’t know. We have a lot of international fighters now, but there’s no excuse for breaking the rules. They all know the rules. You just have to enforce them. Not every referee is going to enforce them the same way.”