The star-studded UFC 217 had no shortage of remarkable moments. While most of it was for good reasons, such as massive upsets and unexpected finishes, there was also some negative attention – specifically, some head-scratching refereeing.
The first confusing moment of the night happened in the second bout, when an illegal blow thrown by Curtis Blaydes (8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) on Aleksei Oleinik (55-11-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC) prompted the referee to step in and halt the action. The replay showed that while an illegal kick had been thrown, it had only grazed the ear of Oleinik.
When a doctor’s assessment determined that Oleinik could no longer continue, suspense set in as to what would follow. By the letter of the law, an illegal strike had ultimately made its way to a fighter. But, quite obviously, the fight-stopping damage had not stemmed from it.
Ultimately, Blaydes was declared the TKO winner of the heavyweight bout. And, amid the mess, the MMA community seemed to agree the right call was made. But considering both intent behind the strike and the fact that the blow did touch him, would Oleinik be right in disagreeing with the result?
According to longtime referee “Big” John McCarthy, the answer is a clear no. The referee’s job, he explained, is first and foremost to ensure the safety of the fighters. And, with that in mind, all the steps taken by Blake Grice on that night were the correct ones.
“Blaydes did something that was illegal,” McCarthy said. “He threw a kick and he did touch the ear of Alexi Oleinik. Blake Grice comes in, he calls a stop to the action. When he calls a stop to the action, he separates the fighters – he does exactly what he’s supposed to do.”
When the doctors of the particularly cautious New York State Athletic Commission stepped in to assess the wobbly Oleinik, who’d been through the ringer in the minutes prior to the stoppage, it was decided he was too hurt to go on, which posed additional questions.
“So what was he damaged by?” McCarthy said. “Was he damaged by a foul or was he damaged by legal blows? Well, he was damaged by legal blows. All of the blows that hurt him and made it to where the doctors are now saying, ‘He is unable to continue’ were all done legally in that fight.
“What stopped the fight was an illegal action by Blaydes. He ends up throwing a kick. Did the kick touch Alexei? Yes, it did. It touched his ear. Did it have any effect? Did it hurt him? No. It had no effect on any of the damage he had occurred. ”
Faced with an illegality, the referee had to weigh the options.
“(The referee) says, ‘Yes, there was a foul. And if the fighter can go on, I may take a point for that foul. But I can’t take a point because the fight is not going on,’” McCarthy said. “And I can’t go to the judges scorecards based on the round that this is in.
“So I can now determine that this is either a no-contest, or I have a disqualification, or I can say that because the doctors say that the fight can’t go and that was caused by legal blow, this is a TKO victory by Blaydes.”
Ultimately, McCarthy believes that Grice’s thought process was one that did right by Blaydes, by the commission and even, as unhappy as he may have been hearing it at the time, Oleinik.
McCarthy also took the time to address what became yet another controversial point of that fight. Once the instant replay was requested, UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Rather could be seen showing it to officials on a screen octagonside.
Considering that the commissions are supposed to work independently from the UFC, and that Ratner is ultimately an employee who looks out for the interests of the promotion, his seeming involvement in NYSAC’s decision raised some eyebrows. And it wasn’t the first time.
Ratner’s role, McCarthy explained, is to use his expertise to provide insight and answers to the UFC’s commentary team – not commission officials. And, while he’ll admit that Ratner has in the past been (unwillingly) “stuck” in situations that he shouldn’t be involved in, that’s not at all what happened at UFC 217.
“What occurred was, Blake asked for instant replay,” McCarthy said. “And the commission has a monitor, but they couldn’t get the replay up on the monitor. So Marc took and swung his monitor around, said, ‘Here it is.’ And let them view his monitor.
“If you look, Marc’s not giving him any information. He’s got (referee) Dan Miragliotta there and he watches the replay on that monitor that is Marc’s monitor.”
To hear more from McCarthy on refereeing, instant replay and UFC 217 controversy, check out the video above.
And for more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: 'Big' John McCarthy breaks down bizarre situation that led to Curtis Blaydes' TKO win at UFC 217