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Coach on Herb Dean’s stoppage of Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren: ‘You need to give these guys a little more of a chance’

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Robbie Lawler and Dana White weren’t alone in questioning the stoppage of Lawler’s controversial fight against Ben Askren at UFC 235.

Lawler suffered a technical submission loss to Askren on Saturday night after referee Herb Dean stopped the contest midway through the first round. With Lawler caught in a tight bulldog choke next to the fence, Dean lifted Lawler’s dangling left arm to check for consciousness then quickly called a stop to the contest, only to have Lawler immediately jump up and protest the decision. Replay appeared to show afterward that Lawler flashed a thumbs-up sign to Dean during the fight-ending sequence, indicating that he was okay.

Lawler and White both rallied against Dean’s call at UFC 235’s post-fight press conference and called for a rematch to be booked against Askren. And Lawler’s coach Henri Hooft can understand where the former UFC welterweight champion’s frustration is coming from.

“How can you stop the guy [prematurely] that’s, like, relentless, the toughest guy there is, one of the toughest fighters — how can you stop a guy like that?” Lawler’s coach Henri Hooft said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I just can’t understand that. I know it’s difficult because as referees, they need to make split[-second] decisions. But a guy like Robbie, you need to give these guys a little more of a chance.”

Prior to the fight-ending sequence, Lawler’s showdown against Askren was largely one-way traffic. In the opening minutes of the contest, Lawler slammed the UFC newcomer to the mat and showered him with a hellacious barrage of punches that almost sealed the deal early. Askren survived though, and ultimately pulled off the stunning comeback to win his long-awaited Octagon debut against one of the division’s best.

In the aftermath of the fight, both Askren and Nevada Athletic Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett disagreed with complaints about the stoppage. Bennett went so far as to call Dean’s decision a “no-brainer” in the moment, while Askren noted that even if Lawler wasn’t all-the-way unconscious, nearly two minutes remained in the opening round and Lawler’s situation wasn’t going to improve anytime soon.

Hooft can understand where Askren is coming from in that regard. He just simply wishes Lawler was afforded an opportunity to see things through.

“I don’t know, the fight, if he would have won the fight or not,” Hooft said. “He was beating Ben Askren very bad, of course. But they didn’t stop that fight when he was getting molested in the beginning of the fight — and I like that, but then give Robbie a little longer. You know? But you can’t change that anymore. We keep that to ourselves.

“Hopefully they’ll run it back and he gets his chance, but he looked amazing in the beginning of the fight, and another great guy, one of our team captains, Robbie Lawler, so he’ll be back, for sure.”