The heavyweight fight came to an odd stoppage when Dean appeared to restrain Marcos Rogerio de Lima amid a flurry of hard punches landed on Rothwell, only to stand by when Rothwell appeared to drive in for a takedown and toppled over as de Lima countered with a choke. Looking back at the ref, de Lima appeared to apologize to Dean, who clarified that he had stopped the bout just 32 seconds into the opening round.
“Herb needs to stop touching guys unless the fight’s over,” White said at the UFC Vegas 42 post-fight press conference on Saturday. “He goes in and grabs him by the waists, and decides, oops, maybe I . ... The good thing about this was, the fight should have been stopped when he stopped it. You didn’t see Ben jumping up and arguing about it.”
Reaction to Dean’s call was swift from several MMA fighters and pundits. Former UFC fighter and commentator Dan Hardy, who famously clashed with Dean cageside over a pair of calls at UFC Fight Island 3, voiced his disapproval of the stoppage.
G...Old standard.— Dan Hardy (@danhardymma) November 13, 2021
That was SO BAD! Smh! How is the commission still allowing terrible referring? It’s not an easy job, but dude, you can’t play hot potato with stopping fights like that. Because he looked at you?? Crazy man #UFCVegas42— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) November 13, 2021
Dean, one of the most experienced referees in MMA today, has been the center of several controversial calls in the past few years, though he’s also been praised by White for making the right decisions. Dean defended himself publicly after the controversy with Hardy and continued to work high-profile assignments with the UFC. But he has been repeatedly criticized for waiting too long to stop a fight or not acting decisively to call off the action.
In January at UFC 257, Dean was the center of attention over his stoppage in a fight between Amanda Ribas and Marina Rodriguez. After dropping Ribas with a huge punch, Rodriguez believed Dean was calling off the fight when he closed distance and made contact with her, only to be instructed to keep going.
According to White, the veteran official needs to take corrective action to fix the issue.
“He’s gotta pull the trigger and stop touching guys – don’t touch them unless you’re going to stop the fight,” the UFC exec said. “When they played it back in slow motion, he’s kind of like, dancing, like he doesn’t know what to do, whether he’s going to jump in or not jump in. I like him personally – he’s a nice guy. But he’s got to stop touching people until he’s ready to stop the fight.”