Mario Yamasaki and UFC should share blame for Priscila Cachoeira’s prolonged beating

Valentina Shevchenko, Mario Yamasaki

Former UFC bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko could not have been more impressive in her Saturday night flyweight debut, out-landing her opponent Priscila Cachoeira by a 230-3 margin en-route to a second-round submission win. Regrettably, much of the buzz surrounding this fight has been negative, as the widespread perception is that referee Mario Yamasaki let this ugly beatdown fester for far longer than it should have.

Among those to trash the referee for his poor officiating was UFC President Dana White.

Several fighters also dumped on Yamasaki, criticizing him for his willingness to let Shevchenko’s beatdown of Cachoeira continue for so long.

The criticisms levied against Yamasaki are fair. He was in terrible form last night. He was gambling recklessly on Cachoeira’s toughness, heart and durability, and the stakes were her braincells. He should have stopped the fight earlier, and given that this isn’t his first officiating blunder, he should probably never be allowed to ref a fight again.

The blame for this unnecessary beatdown, however, does not rest solely on Yamasaki’s shoulders. While he is the easiest target of our blame, a portion of the onus lies with the UFC and its matchmakers for ever booking this Shevchenko-Cachoeira fight.

Pound-for-pound, Valentina Shevchenko is one of the best female fighters in the world. Despite being a natural flyweight, she has bested much larger, world-class fighters like Holly Holm and Julianna Pena. She also very nearly dethroned increasingly dominant women’s bantamweight Amanda Nunes in her next most recent fight. Without any exaggeration, she is one of the most well-rounded, experienced, and dangerous female fighters in the UFC today.

Cachoeira, meanwhile, was making her UFC debut after just 8 professional fights. While the Brazilian has had an impressive run, and seems to have a very bright future, the simple fact is that at this stage, she was never a match for Shevchenko. 

Sure, Cachoeira deserves her spot on the UFC roster, and by signing with the promotion, she essentially agreed to fight the toughest women in the world. Yet last night, a thin but crucial line was crossed. The UFC claims to be the home of the best fighters in the world, and it is. But not all of its fighters are equal. Some are in the prime of their careers. Others are older, fighting with broken bodies and failing reflexes. Others still are on the way up, rich in raw talent, but lacking in big stage experience and veteran savvy. In the same way that it is wrong to pit a declining legend against a fearsome, young contender, it is wrong to pit an inexperienced prospect against a fighter in the prime of their fighting career. 

At the UFC Belem post-fight press conference UFC executive David Shaw told reporters that the promotion would be taking action, working with athletic commissions to ensure situations like this one don’t occur in the future. 

“We’ll be working with the commission to make sure a situation like that doesn’t happen again,” Shaw assured. “First and foremost, Priscila’s health is the number one priority. We’ve got a team with her at the hospital, and we’ll be taking very good care of her to make sure she recovers quickly.”

It’s good to hear the UFC plans to work more closely with commission to avoid future errors of this kind. Yet if the promotion truly wants to make sure things like this don’t happen again, it needs to take greater care in its matchmaking going forward.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/4/2018.