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While boxing got corner stoppages, UFC 273 showed MMA still fails at protecting fighters

Korean Zombie’s corner failed to protect him at UFC 273

If you are a combat sports fanatic, there’s a chance you saw two title fights on Saturday end when the corner threw in the towel and one title fight conclude when a corner did not use the option to protect their fighter from further damage.

In the first of those three bouts, Ryota Murata’s corner threw in the towel with 50 seconds left in the ninth round of Murata’s boxing match opposite Gennady Golovkin. Seconds before the towel flew in from the corner, the commentator said, “Murata, not willing to quit, not on this stage, not on his big night.”

His corner, knowing that he would not quit, did what was best for him and ended the fight.

The second fight stopped by the corner was the Erickson Lubin vs. Sebastian Fundora contest. That boxing match ended when Lubin’s corner tossed the towel at the end of the ninth round. At the time of the stoppage, Lubin was ahead on two of the judge’s scorecards (85-84) and the other judge had the bout as a draw.

In the title fight that wasn’t stopped by a corner — but should have been — Chan Sung Jung was outclassed and outworked by Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 273. By the time the third stanza came to a close, Volkanovski had landed 129 significant strikes and been hit with 46. Before that round ended, the UFC commentary team questioned if Jung should go on and remarked that he was “too tough for his own good.” While the camera lingered in Jung’s corner during the pause between rounds, Joe Rogan said, “There’s a real good argument to stop this fight right now.” That thought did not seem to cross the mind of anyone in Jung’s corner. Instead, referee Herb Dean was left to wave off the contest 45 seconds into the fourth round.

The night once again showed the difference between boxing and MMA corners. The fact of the matter is, boxing corners are more likely to stop a fight than MMA corners. That’s a mindset that needs to change before that reluctance ends up with a fighter badly injured or dead. It’s not a matter of if that will happen in the UFC, but when it will happen in the UFC.

For his part, Volkanovski saw the signs that the fight should have been waved off before the fourth round began. The UFC featherweight champ was concerned enough about his opponent that he took some time before engaging Jung to ask if he was sure he wanted to continue into the championship rounds.

Volkanovski, speaking on The MMA Hour tried to wrap his head around the thinking of MMA corners when it comes to protecting fighters who have nothing more than the hope a miracle to earn a victory.

“It’s tough. You’ve got to remember what the MMA fighters are like as well,” Volkanovski said. “You take an opportunity away from them and they all feel like it’s quitting, you quitting for them. I think that’s what they worry about. Maybe they worry, ‘I think my student is gonna be more angry with me if I stop it than they would by me taking care of them,’ which they shouldn’t care, but at the same time they’re weighing their options. They’re like, ‘He’s gonna be very unhappy, why’d you do it, why didn’t you let me go out on my shield?’ That type of stuff.

“I think it’s that ego and that type of mentality a lot of mixed martial artists have. But again, it shouldn’t really matter,” he argued. “You should just look after your [fighter]. But in the heat of the moment, he was still in it. It wasn’t like he was literally out of it, but he was definitely defeated. But it wasn’t long before the ref stopped it, so it was all right.”

The featherweight champion is being kind in his assessment. What happened in his bout with Jung was not all right. Just because Jung didn’t end his night unconscious doesn’t make the decision of his corner to let the fight continue okay. Barring a miracle, Jung was not going to win that fight. The right move would have been to throw the towel and prevent Jung from taking any additional — unnecessary — abuse. Jung’s corner failed him and get away with it. One day that will not be the case.