Referee Herb Dean was widely criticized after UFC 143 for two decisions he made in two separate fights: His decision to deduct two points from Alex "Bruce Leroy" Caceres after his second low blow of one fight, and his decision not to deduct any points from Josh Koscheck for an eye poke after being warned.
But the man who oversees Dean and the other referees in Nevada has no problem with Dean's calls.
Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer told MMAFighting.com that he asked Dean why he took two points -- rather than one point -- away from Caceres for kicking Edwin Figueroa in the groin, and Kizer was satisfied that Dean had made a well-reasoned decision under the rules of MMA.
"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."
From Kizer's perspective, the most important thing is that Dean had a clear rationale for taking two points away, which was that Caceres's kick appeared to be either intentional or at the very least in complete disregard of the prior warning, and that Figueroa was hurt by it.
"What I liked from that was Herb's thinking process makes sense," Kizer said. "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."
Kizer said he routinely talks to referees after fights to find out what their rationale was for decisions they made in the cage, and the most important thing to Kizer is that the referees show they had a logical thought process, based on the rules of the sport, for what they did.
"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," Kizer said. "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."
Kizer acknowledged that deducting two points in a three-round fight is an incredibly costly penalty, especially to Caceres in that fight: Caceres lost by split decision, with the two judges who ruled against him scoring it 28-27. If Dean had only deducted one point the fight would have been a draw, and if Dean hadn't deducted any points Caceres would have won by unanimous decision. But Kizer stressed that while it is rare, the rules allow for a two-point deduction.
"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 said.
As for not taking a point away from Koscheck, Kizer said that didn't strike him as a bad call.
"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."
Seeing Dean deduct two points in one fight for a foul following a warning, and then not deduct any points in another fight for a foul following a warning seemed inconsistent, but Kizer said each fight needs to be refereed independently, and refs aren't in the business of basing a point deduction in one fight on a decision they made in a previous fight.
"I don't think that if a ref takes a point away in one fight he has to do it in another," Kizer said. "That's not the case."
So while some fans didn't like Dean's work in either fight, the man who functions as Dean's boss when he's working in Nevada thinks Dean was right on.