Being a referee is the most thankless task in MMA, and is in its own way every bit as difficult as fighting itself. There is no one who appears on the list of best referees, who does not as well appear on many fans' worst referee list.
Such is the case with perhaps the best ref in the history of MMA, Herb Dean.
There has been intense fan cirticism of Dean for calls he made at UFC 143 that appear at first galnce to be potentially contradictory. Josh Koscheck landed an accidental eye poke after being warned and received no point deduction, while Alex "Bruce Leroy" Caceres landed a groin kick after being warned and received an almost unprecedented two point deduction.
A two point deduction is a huge penalty, and in this case cost Caceres the fight. Caceres lost by Split Decision, with two judges scoring it 28-27 for Edwin Figueroa. If Dean had deducted only one point, the decision would have been a Majority Draw. If Dean had deducted no points as he did with Kos, Cacares would have won.
Herb Dean does not have to answer to the fans, or to the UFC (MMA devotees who think the UFC has influence on what officials are used would do well to consider the presence of Steve Mazzagatti on UFC cards, after UFC President Dana White has repeatedly named him 'worst ref in the history of the world!! Not just MMA!"). Herb Dean answers to the Commissions that regulate the sport, and Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer, the most prominent commissioner in the sport, supports Dean's call to deduct two points
"That's something I asked him about afterward," Kizer said. "We went through that at the post-fight meeting for UFC 143 and he explained himself from that point of view. It was a situation where [Caceres] had done it, [Dean] gave him a hard warning, the low blow wasn't just an accident -- it was gross negligence, to use a legal term. Sometimes accidental fouls happen, but he thought the fighter was being very negligent or very sloppy, so he gave him a very hard warning and then very soon afterward he did it again. This was a straight-on kick where the fighter had a lot of control over it, he kicked him very hard, the guy was very hurt, you could hear the kick, you could see his reaction when he landed the kick so you could see he was really hurt. The kick was one he could very easily control and the fighter didn't seem to care."
"What I liked from that was Herb's thinking process makes sense.It caused injury -- I didn't know if it was intentional but it was as near as it could be without being intentional -- either willful disregard or reckless disregard of the rules and the warning."
"It's the same with a referee when I ask, 'Why'd you stop a fight or why didn't you stop a fight?' I want them to be able to explain themselves in a way that makes sense. If Herb had only taken one point away I wouldn't have had a problem with that, either. If he hadn't even taken one point that's a situation where I would have said, 'Why didn't you take a point away?' The wrong answer would have been to ignore it, but the right answer could have been either one point or two points. Herb asked, How much damage was done? A lot. Was this something he could have controlled? Yes, it was a straight on kick. Had I given him a warning? Yes, and he didn't seem to care."
"If you want to take two points away you can as a ref, you have that discretion. It's very rarely used -- I think it was only Herb's second time ever."
Kizer agreed as well with Dean's decision not to take a point off for Koscheck'e eye poke.
"I didn't ask him about that," Kizer said. "That wasn't something where I thought to myself, 'What's Herb doing?' Never in that round did I think Herb should take a point away."
"I don't think that if a ref takes a point away in one fight he has to do it in another. That's not the case."
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