UFC 210 was steeped in controversy, as Pearl Gonzales was very nearly forced out of her fight with Cynthia Calvillo for having breast implants, and Daniel Cormier appeared to push down on his towel to make weight for his light heavyweight title fight with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Of all the controversies attached to this card, however, none were quite as confusing as the one that occurred in the co-main event.
In this co-main event, which pitted Gegard Mousasi against Chris Weidman, Mousasi seemed to land an illegal knee in the second round. The referee then paused the fight, while various doctors and other officials milled about the Octagon in confused chaos. For a moment, it looked as though the knees would be deemed illegal, which could have meant a Mousasi point deduction or even a Weidman disqualification win. In the end, however, a largely unknown policy called “referee polling” revealed that the knees were legal, which meant the dazed Weidman lost by TKO.
Speaking to BJPenn.com’s Chris Taylor, infinitely knowledgable UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon – who moonlights as a coach for many up and coming fighters – gave his take on the whole, hectic ordeal.
“I’ve heard of it [referee polling],” he said. “Obviously on such a big stage, it was a big deal. I think that referee polling does happen. Not all the time. But I think it does happen. I actually listened to that interview with Herb Dean on The Luke Thomas Show. You know I wanted to hear it and see what he had to say. I think it is kind of a case of consistency. And right now we have very inconsistent rules.”
Lauzon continued, riffing on the inconsistent nature of MMA’s ruleset.
“You know I have local guys that fight all the time,” he said. “And it is like when I’m fighting in Rhode Island, or fighting in Massachusetts or fighting in New Hampshire you have to always ask ‘what rules are we using?’ Then they will say ‘oh we are using the unified rules’. Then it is like ‘ok, but are we using the new ones or the old ones?’ It is tough as a coach, as a referee, as a judge, and as a fighter to understand. You know, you have to make decisions in a split-second and it is tough when you always have to think about which rules are we using. And which slight variations of the position were going on and stuff like that.”
“[The UFC 210 ordeal] sucks for everyone all the way around in the Weidman vs. Mousasi fight,” Lauzon continued. “It sucks for Chris because he doesn’t know [what’s happening]. He is being told he is getting time because he was hit with an illegal shot. So he was trying to take his time. You know the referee thought it was an illegal shot. So he was stopping it based on that. And again, this is a split-second thing. It was so close. When you stop and show it in slow motion, yea you can determine that it was legal. But in real time it is so tough to tell how that all played out and whether or not the strike was legal. So it sucks for Mousasi too. He did nothing wrong. He did what he is supposed to do and hit a legal shot. So now it is like ok he got the win but it wasn’t the win he wanted to have. So it sucks for him. It sucks for the commission. Because now that they have been brought in, they cannot let Weidman continue. It is just a really unfortunate turn of events for everyone involved.”
Lauzon then suggested that, from a big picture perspective, this mad moment was probably necessary.
“I love Weidman, I love [Matt] Serra, I love [Ray] Longo,” he said of Weidman and his team. “But it had to happen. You know where this up-and-down thing happened under the unified rules. The fighters are told, you know, ‘play by the rules’. Ok so we play by the rules. So part of playing by the rules is if you’re caught in a bad spot then put your hand down. You are told ‘ok put your hand down and you can’t get kneed in the head’. That was with the old rules. But now with the new rules, that is not ok anymore. So someone had to be that guy who was going to try and play by the old rules and put their hand down and then get kneed in the head.”
“I really hate to have it happen to Weidman because he is a guy I really like watching and he is just a super guy,” Lauzon continued. “You know I love his coaches and those guys are all awesome. But it had to happen to someone. You know someone had to try and play that game and get kneed in the head.”
“Some people are now saying to roll it back to the old rules, but I say no to that. I think it played out perfectly for the sport as a whole. Because you know if that happens to me, now I am not going to try and put my freaking fingers on the ground to try and avoid getting kneed in the head. I will instead keep my forearms low and try to block the oncoming strikes and under my own power get out of that position.”
“So like I say, it sucks that it happened to Weidman. But it had to happen to someone. [Weidman] kind of took one for the team. Now everyone realizes that you can’t milk that rule and that you better defend yourself and get out of there on your own.”
What do you think of Joe Lauzon’s in-depth breakdown of the bedlam that was UFC 210’s co-main event?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/18/2017.