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Diaz, Dillashaw and cut stoppages: Ringside doctor explains why it comes down to ‘comfort level’

Ringside physician David Abbasi provides some insight on the sometimes controversial nature of doctor stoppages.

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Doctor stoppages have been quite a conundrum in mixed martial arts. On Saturday at UFC Vegas 32, T.J. Dillashaw suffered a massive gash on his right eyebrow, a highly compromising spot. Nonetheless, he was allowed to fight on.


Then there’s the case of Nate Diaz at UFC 244 two years ago. The Stockton-based fighter also suffered a cut on his right brow in his headliner against Jorge Masvidal, but the fight was stopped in the third round.

UFC 244: Masvidal v Diaz
A typical Nate Diaz fight night.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

New York-based neurologist Dr. Nithin K. Sethi, who stepped in to halt the Diaz-Masvidal BMF title fight, defended his decision saying he “made an objective call” based on Nate’s “overall” health at the time. Feeling he couldn’t guarantee Diaz’s health and safety moving forward, Dr. Sethi called a stop to the action. It turned to be a costly decision that put him in the firing line of death threats from irate fans.

So what’s the deal here? How do cageside doctors decide on whether or not to stop a fight? Is there a cut-and-dried way of doing so?

Apparently, there isn’t, according to orthopedic sports surgeon and ringside physician Dr. David Abbasi.

“I think a lot of it comes down to the comfort level of ringside docs,” Dr. Abbasi told Chael Sonnen. “What people don’t understand is we come in all different specialties. You can have a primary care doctor. I’m, for example, an orthopedic surgeon, so I’m very comfortable with big, open wounds. I make incisions, I’m staring at bones and soft tissues all day.

“For me, a cut maybe is not a big deal. But if you have another doctor that maybe is not a surgeon or is not comfortable with incisions or lacerations… maybe they don’t feel as comfortable. But it’s definitely (a) risk and this is definitely a sport where there’s gonna be risk for injury, for sure.”

So if you’re a fighter prone to facial cuts, you better hope that you have someone like Dr. Abbasi overseeing your fight. Otherwise, you risk a questionable doctor stoppage that could haunt you for a while.