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Dustin Poirier to appeal no contest against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 211

UFC 211 photos
Referee Herb Dean tells Eddie Alvarez to back away he hit Dustin Poirier with illegal knees at UFC 211.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dustin Poirier won’t sit idle on the events of Saturday night.

The UFC lightweight plans to file an appeal over the result of his UFC 211 bout with Eddie Alvarez with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TLDR), Poirier’s manager Robert Roveta told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani on Sunday.

The fight was ruled a no contest by referee Herb Dean after Alvarez landed repeated illegal knees to Poirier’s head in the second round. Poirier believes the result should be overturned into a disqualification victory for him.

The actual rule is a divisive one and very much open to a referee’s interpretation. If a foul is deemed intentional, then the referee will rule the bout a disqualification. If it’s accidental, the result will be a no contest.

While Alvarez clearly meant to knee Poirier in the head in that position, Dean seemed to interpret that Alvarez was not intentionally trying to commit a foul in that situation. The knees were intentional, but the foul was not, at least according to Dean’s interpretation.

“I was in a fist fight,” Alvarez said afterward. “I thought I had Dustin hurt and I thought he was a little tired. The first knee, I thought he was playing the game where he had his hand down. Herb (Dean) was very clear about you can’t play the game, so I hurt him with the first one, I think the second one may have been legal, but the third knee was illegal. I saw it on the prompter afterwards that it was illegal and I apologize to Dustin.”

UFC president Dana White said Saturday night in multiple post-fight interviews that he thought it should have been a disqualification. He even said former UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta texted him saying the UFC needs instant replay to get calls like that right. Instant replay is available in some states, but not in others. It’s unclear if replay would have helped in this particular situation, since it was Dean's judgment call.

The entire scenario is muddied by changes to the Unified Rules of MMA that were passed by the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) last year. Under the new rules, two of those knees Alvarez threw would have been legal. The third, with Poirier’s knee down, was illegal under both the old and new rules.

Texas, though, has not adopted the new rules yet, so all three of those Alvarez knee strikes were illegal. Some states have passed the new rules, others have not, making it confusing for both fighters and officials. A controversial ending via thought-to-be-illegal knees occurred in a big middleweight fight between Chris Weidman and Gegard Mousasi at UFC 210 last month.

The new rules for a grounded combatant make it so fighters cannot just place one finger or one hand down to make themselves grounded, thereby making knees or kicks to the head a foul in that position. Both palms or fists, or anything else other than the soles of the feet, must be down to be grounded under the new rules. The previous and longtime ruleset says anything other than the soles of the feet being on the mat — even a fingertip — makes a fighter grounded.

There was a similar scenario to Poirier-Alvarez in December in Las Vegas, before any new rules were implemented. Tim Means hit Alex Oliveira with multiple knees that were clearly illegal, because Oliveira’s knees were on the ground at the time. Oliveira could not continue. Referee Dan Miragliotta ruled the fight a no contest, because while Means clearly meant to knee Oliveira in the head he did not know what he was doing was a foul.

The Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) declined Oliveira’s appeal of that result. The commission deemed that Means was not intending to commit a foul and that the referee is the “sole arbiter of a contest.”

Poirier had won the first round against Alvarez and had Alvarez badly hurt in the second. Alvarez, though, was firing back and rocked Poirier, too.

Both men expressed interest in a rematch Saturday night.

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