On March 2nd, 2019 at UFC 235, one of the most exciting MMA events of the year, referee Herb Dean awarded Ben Askren a win that was almost immediately deemed controversial. Some fans argue that since Robbie Lawler appeared to go limp, the referee intervention was appropriate and in fact necessary. Others argue that there was not definitive evidence that Robbie did in fact go out and that Herb’s stoppage was too soon.
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It would be easy to argue both sides of this decision, UFC fans have seen their fair share of both early stoppages and late stoppages due to disagreement between what the fans see and what the referees decide to do. This has led to some mistrust of the referees between some fans of MMA referees and even backlash from Dana White on some occasions.
Sometimes the backlash and arguments by are valid, but the real problem is that there can be a difference what the referee sees and what the fans see. Referee’s also have pretty much the sole experiential role in actually refereeing matches up close while fans are tainted by limited judgment and poor camera angles, both of which are not preventable.
If you pay attention to the few seconds before Herb Dean interferes, you will see Robbie Lawler release a grip he has on Askren’s head and drop it in a way that seems obviously limp, at that moment Herb appears in front of the camera blocking our view of what proceeds. Two things that are obstructed from our view potentially have happened, first, is that Robbie was not limp and continued to move, or that Herb was checking on Robbie’s arm to see if it was limp.
Personally, I agree with Herb’s decision because Robbie Lawler made a limp motion with his arm indicating that he was out, and although it is possible Lawler did go out and then regain consciousness, ending the fight is clearly warranted. This is not the first time fans have seen this kind of stoppage but it is up to the fighters to clearly indicate that they are in fact conscious if they are looking to continue fighting and prevent a referee stoppage.
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