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Herb Dean breaks down referee protocol for 12-to-6 elbows in light of UFC on FOX 30 situation

The sequence right before the finish of the UFC on FOX 30 main event has drawn some serious conversation.

Right before Dustin Poirier beat Eddie Alvarez by second-round TKO last Saturday night in Calgary, Alvarez had achieved full mount with Poirier up against the cage. But when Alvarez threw an illegal 12-to-6 elbow, referee Marc Goddard stepped in, stood Alvarez up and moved the fight back to a neutral plane.

Some have questioned why Goddard just didn’t give Alvarez a warning and kept the fighters where they were. That was a possibility, highly respected referee Herb Dean told Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.

“So as a referee, we have some choices,” Dean said. “We can give warnings. We can stop the action, give a firm warning. We can stop the action and take away an advantageous position. Or we can also take away points. … Of course, if someone gained an advantage or harmed a person during an illegal technique, what we’re supposed to do is try to balance that out, we can take a point or take a position. We try to balance that out by those things.”

Alvarez did not hurt Poirier with the elbow. It landed near his shoulder. Poirier said afterward that it had no impact on him. But Goddard wrote on Twitter in response to Alvarez’s former teammate Kamaru Usman that there were other factors at play. Per Goddard, his decision was based on accumulation of Alvarez fouls.

“Mr Alvarez held the fence, clawed the ear & then threw the 12-6 elbow that is why the positional advantage was taken away,” Goddard wrote.

Dean said a referee is given leeway to make a choice on those matters based on the situation at hand. There’s no hard and fast rule in situations like this.

“What comes into play, there is some latitude on how the referee is gonna enforce the rule,” Dean said. “I know we try to lock these things down with a lot of rules and procedures and mechanics, so that we can take as much of that latitude out. But I don’t agree with doing that, because each fight is its own situation and we’re gonna have to trust the referee’s discretion at some times.”

Dean reiterated that even though Alvarez’s elbow did not land cleanly or do any damage to Poirier, it was still a foul.

There was a time, Dean said, when he thought the 12-to-6 elbow should be abolished completely. But after some discussion with regulators years ago and being presented the possibility of the sharp point of an elbow landing on a grounded fighter’s eye, Dean now believes the ban on 12-to-6 elbows has some viability.

“I think it’s a rule that we have to look at,” Dean said. “I think it’s a rule that everybody in the sport, all the regulators [have to] look at that rule. It’s one that definitely deserves some conversation.”

In this particular scenario — Poirier vs. Alvarez 2 at UFC on FOX 30 — Dean doesn’t think a 12-to-6 elbow should be illegal. But, of course, it still is. And that’s what referees have to go by.

“For the situation where the fight happened, I don’t think the rule really makes a lot of sense to use it there,” Dean said. ”I don’t think that elbow should be any different than any other elbow.”

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