As Khalid Murtazaliev rained uncontested punch after uncontested punch down on C.B. Dollaway in the final minute of the second round in their UFC Moscow middleweight matchup on Saturday, commentators Dan Hardy and Paul Felder echoed the thoughts going through the minds of nearly every fan in the arena and around the world watching on UFC Fight Pass: What was referee Herb Dean thinking?
Dean stood by as Dollaway went belly down and covered up on the mat, which is nearly always a sign the fighter is through for the evening. But the referee did not wave things off, as Murtazaliev continued the onslaught until the horn sounded. Dean then questioned a dazed Dollaway, who had not yet gotten back to his feet, before finally waving the fight off.
On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour with Luke Thomas, Hardy says the spectacle in Moscow was all the more confounding a scene because Dean is one of the longest-standing and best-respected officials in the history of mixed martial arts, one whose name is rarely in the center of controversy.
“It’s difficult to criticize Herb Dean because he’s refereed me before and he’s been excellent,” the former welterweight title challenger from England said. “He’s had an excellent career as a referee so far. I mean, I don’t know what went wrong, to be honest. For me and I think for everyone in the arena who starts to boo, I think we all saw the fight was over.”
And that’s why Hardy believes that Dean simply had a momentary lapse of reason in the heat of the moment.
“I feel like Herb did him a disservice there,” Hardy said. “He could have saved him from at least 10 seconds of punches. He was curled up on his side, then he moved belly down, and for me, that’s too many, when they’re belly down, they’re done.”
Hardy can see the fighter’s side of things. Elite competitors want to be given every opportunity to get out of their jam. But sometimes they’re too tough for their own good and will wait for the ref to wave things off rather than tap to strikes, and Hardy feels this is where Dean made his mistake.
“I watched the fight back today and I think it was 26 seconds before the end of the round, I said something about Dollaway, fatigue had taken over and he had not a lot to give,” Hardy said. “He was trying to fight back he’s a warrior, he wouldn’t give up. I always appreciate a guy who will take a beating until the referee stops it, but that’s what the referee is for is to save the fighters from themselves and from their ego and pride.”
Hardy doesn’t believe Dean should be disciplined too strongly for the error, he, after all, has a long track record of fine officiating. But there’s no getting around the fact it was simply viewed by nearly everyone as the wrong decision.
“I’m sure there was a conversation with Herb Dean about it, and I’m sure he sees the error in the stoppage now. He was even confused at the end. The round ended, and with one arm he pushed Murtazaliev away and with the other arm he waved the fight off. But then the impression was given that the fight was continuing and Herb was seeing if C.B. Dollaway wants to continue, I don’t know there was a momentary lapse of concentration there for Herb Dean and it was very, very dangerous for Dollaway.”