Last weekend, in the main event of the UFC’s debut in Santiago, Chile, former middleweight and welterweight title challenger Demian Maia attempted to correct a two-fight losing streak in a short-notice fight with the dangerous Kamaru Usman.
This fight began quite will for the BJJ wizard Maia, as he managed to tangle up with Usman early. Regrettably, however, the referee inexplicably separated the two fighters as Maia worked to improve his position and secure back-mount. After this brief moment of success, Maia was dominated for the remainder of the fight, ultimately losing a lopsided unanimous decision.
In the opinion of former UFC welterweight champ Matt Serra, the referee’s choice to separate Maia and Usman at the very moment that Maia was attempting to advance position might have cost Maia the win.
“This is the thing, he had his back,” a fired-up Serra said on the UFC Unfiltered podcast (transcribed by Jed Meshew for MMA Fighting). “I was not surprised the way things went after that. You have one shot sometimes in a fight like this, especially because he didn’t have a camp. People do not understand. That’s why I predicted a first-round choke by Demian Maia. He was on his way there.”
“They weren’t just holding each other up against the cage,” he continued. “It might have looked like it but Kamaru had an overhook and that overhook was the only thing stopping Demian from taking that back. It was a very awkward position where [Usman] was not getting out of that. The only way he could look to free himself was to let go and expose his back. Otherwise, you’re just stalling. Now, could he keep that up for another minute and 15 seconds or whatever it was? Maybe. If so, alright, let’s see what happens in round two. Or, with thirty seconds left, he could try to scramble and still get strangled.
“Just in the montage before [Maia] walks out, look at how many times he’s strangled guys — powerful wrestlers like Rick Story, gutsy, gritty guys who do not tap easily like Carlos Condit or Matt Brown. This is not a coincidence. So for [Roberts] to take away his one shot, Leon Roberts, you should be ashamed of yourself and I think you possibly could have cost him the fight. Leon, you f**ked up, Leon. You really did.”
“I am so livid! I’m livid over this ref! This was [Maia’s] shot and he had him in a position! People can say what they want, that ref screwed him. Maybe he would have rode out the round but you never know. It was such a horrible thing to do to him because he never got that position back.”
Do you think the referee cut-off Demian Maia’s path to victory in the first round?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 5/23/2018.