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Mark Henry worries he ‘put a black eye on our team’ with Eddie Alvarez 12-to-6 elbow call

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Eddie Alvarez leaves the Octagon on Saturday night at UFC on FOX 30 with coach Mark Henry behind him.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Mark Henry’s fighters have been on a red-hot run lately. From Marlon Moraes to Zabit Magomedsharipov to Frankie Edgar to Sijara Eubanks to Katlyn Chookagian, the New Jersey-based team Henry coaches, along with the likes of Ricardo Almeida, has been on a heck of a roll.

Eddie Alvarez was up last Saturday in a main event fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC on FOX 30 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. And Henry feels like he might have been the cause of his team’s streak getting upended.

Alvarez fell via second-round TKO to Poirier, just seconds after he was stood up out of mount due to throwing an illegal, 12-to-6 elbow. A clip surfaced right after the fight of Henry calling for that downward elbow from the corner, making the motion with his arm. When the fight went back to standing, Poirier was able to muster a flurry and finish Alvarez.

“I felt bad that I put a black eye on our team,” Henry told MMA Fighting. “It’s pretty disappointing. All those other fights just went down the toilet bowl quick. I was so proud of our team and I felt like I put a damper on it for everybody.”

Henry, one of the most well-respected striking coaches in MMA, is putting the blame on himself for the loss. He wishes he would have done something a bit different to show Alvarez exactly what he meant — throw a side elbow to Poirier’s head. Obviously, Henry said, he knows 12-to-6 elbows are illegal. With Alvarez mounting Poirier against the fence, Henry said he was envisioning Alvarez throwing an elbow similar to the one fighters throw when opponents are going for a high single leg takedown up against the cage.

“You just see something, you’re gonna trust your corner,” Henry said. “I’m not an idiot. The referee, every single place, if they’re your referee, they go down a list of what not to do. And that elbow 12-to-6 is 100 percent on that list every single time. It’s equivalent to me telling Eddie to knee him in the balls. I’m not gonna do that and have him get stood up. Why am I gonna make that call? It’s stupid.”

Henry said in his second motion to Alvarez calling for the strike, he was more specific, angling his arm and touching the inside of his elbow. But the damage was apparently done. Henry felt like shouting at Alvarez wouldn’t have worked, because the loud crowd was drowning everything out. So, he was trying to show Alvarez the best way he could at the time to throw an elbow. Henry joked that it was like “playing charades.”

“I would have wanted an elbow,” Henry said. “I just don’t know how else I could have conveyed it. ‘Inside elbow?’ He wouldn’t have heard me, but on the second one I did, you can see me touching the inside of my elbow. I don’t even remember doing it, but I guess I had his attention. But I guess it was too late.”

The elbow didn’t land to Poirier’s head. It grazed his shoulder. Poirier told Goddard that it missed at the time. But Goddard took Alvarez out of the mount, because, as he wrote on Twitter afterward, that Alvarez was accumulating fouls. Goddard wrote that Alvarez had grabbed the cage and gouged Poirier’s ear previously.

Henry said he would have liked Goddard to have warned Alvarez at least once before pulling him off and standing him up out of a position that was extremely dominant. Worst-case scenario, Henry said, Alvarez would have been up two rounds to none if he had remained in that spot.

“I definitely think he should have been warned, but [Goddard] was on the wrong side,” Henry said. “It hit him on the shoulder. And for the fact that I’ve heard it a thousand times, you warn the guy. You have, I have. You’ve heard guys warned so many times for that elbow. You’ve heard guys warned for that elbow being hit on the top of the head, let alone hit barely on the shoulder. And even the fact that Dustin was even like, ‘It missed.’”

Henry holds no ill will toward Goddard, though, and won’t question his judgment.

“He’s a great ref, man,” Henry said. “I’ve had him before. I wouldn’t mind him in the next fight. I think he’s a great referee. And by the rules, can he do it? Yeah. So, if he can do that by the rules and he was going by the rules, then he did absolutely nothing wrong. I’ve just seen so many times that they give a warning.”

In the end, Henry doesn’t blame Goddard and he surely can’t blame Alvarez for following his corner’s advice. Though his intentions were good, Henry is placing the onus on himself for this one.

“Eddie saw the first one,” Henry said of his arm motion, “and that’s what he did.”