Sometimes you get frustrated with this MMA game — and you forget that great fights still happen. That’s when you’re thankful for nights like this past weekend’s UFC 178 in Las Vegas.
Top to bottom the show was as enjoyable as I’ve seen in 2014. There was Cat Zingano’s emotional comeback victory over Amanda Nunes to begin the show. Conor McGregor lit the crowd up with his TKO win. Eddie Alvarez and Donald Cerrone brawled it out, with Cerrone’s leg kicks making the difference. Demetrious Johnson’s brief MMA clinic in the main event wasn’t half bad either.
Yes, great fights can happen in life.
But hey, like life, the event wasn’t perfect.
A brouhaha has developed over the confusion between rounds two and three of the Yoel Romero and Tim Kennedy bout — with accusations of cheating and poor officiating marring one of the night’s most action-packed and dramatic fights.
If you missed it: Romero dominated the early going with his typical hard-punching style, but Kennedy took over towards the end of the second with a flurry of punches.
The round ends with Romero crumbling against the cage.
Romero looks spent in the corner as the horn sounds to begin — and he’s still on his stool.
A Nevada official is in the cage. Is Romero getting disqualified? No, referee John McCarthy is yelling that there’s too much Vaseline on Romero’s face. (Since a similar controversy featuring Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn, Vaseline is applied by UFC officials, not a fighter’s corner.)
Romero ended up receiving about 30 additional seconds to recover — while sitting on his stool. When the bout’s third round finally began, Romero was able to take control again and finish Kennedy with strikes.
And “stool gate,” or #stoolgate, was born.
Here’s UFC on FOX’s video highlight reel of the bout:
Kennedy, who sustained an orbital fracture in the TKO loss, wants the result changed, and has taken to social media and interviews to plead his case:
NAC 467.728 If a combatant fails or refuses to resume competing when the bell sounds…the referee shall award a decision of TKO
— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) September 28, 2014
In an MMA Junkie interview, UFC President Dana White calls applying too much Vaseline to a fighter an “old dirty trick, but the thing that throws a kink in the whole thing is that it was our guy that put the Vaseline on, so there was nobody trying to take advantage, and they called his guy back in to wipe the Vaseline off, and he didn’t understand.”
White says a language barrier may have exacerbated the scenario with the Cuban-born Romero — although it’s hard to imagine the UFC can’t find a Spanish speaker in Nevada.
“It’s very unfortunate, and it’s an odd thing that absolutely never happens,” White says. “I’m sure Kennedy wants a rematch. But you can’t take anything away from the guy. It was an awesome fight.”
To be fair, White’s right: Tim Kennedy and Yoel Romero’s fine back and forth bout was still a a great fight. That’s why the two middleweight contenders were awarded with “fight of the night” honors — a $50,000 post-fight bonus for each.
But the left a bad taste in the mouth of many observers. Including this one. The extra 28 seconds where a dazed Romero was allowed to sit and recover is a substantial effect on the bout. If an error happens with application of Vaseline, deal with it quickly with the fighter standing. If we can’t expect a fighter to be on his feet and ready to engage as the horn sounds to begin a round, we should expect that fighter to be disqualified.
It didn’t happen like it should, and it was a great fight. It needs to happen again.