Longtime MMA official and Bellator commentator John McCarthy believes Eddie Alvarez’s disqualification against Iuri Lapicus at ONE on TNT was the product of poorly communicated expectations and overreach from the referee.
McCarthy said Alvarez clearly did not intend to strike Lapicus illegally to the back of the head in the first round of the fight this past Wednesday and should have been warned more clearly before he was disqualified by referee Justin Brown.
McCarthy didn’t mention Brown by name, but indicated the ONE referee fell far short of his duties inside the cage.
“You guys need to understand, you have a responsibility to a lot more than your understanding,” he said on his video podcast “Weighing In” with retired fighter Josh Thomson. “You have a responsibility to those fighters. You have a responsibility to the promotion, and you have a responsibility to the fans of MMA and the sport of MMA that you’re going to do something that’s reasonable within what you can do.
“Just to take a championship fight and throw up a red card or to disqualify somebody, you’re not using your brain. You’re not being reasonable, and you’re not thinking of the full context of what you have.”
Alvarez said after the fight that he believed Brown made a call and said ONE should overturn the result. ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong appeared to defend the disqualification, pointing to several illegal shots landed by Alvarez in the sequence that stopped the fight.
McCarthy said it was clear Alvarez was guilty of fouling Lapicus. But it was how he committed the fouls that should have been taken into consideration.
“When Eddie takes Lapilcus down, he laces the legs, a la Khabib [Nurmagomedov], to keep him in that position,” he said. “But you’ve got to look and see where is Eddie’s head. Because Eddie’s head is up, and he’s using it as a third arm and it’s right up against his opponent. So to think he can see exactly what’s going on, he can’t.”
The rule when it comes to illegal strikes to the back of the head, McCarthy said, is that they can’t be directed, or specifically aimed at a particular target by the fighter. It’s different, however, when a fighter can’t see the target. McCarthy cited another fight that took place this past week, a bout at Bellator 256 where Talita Nogueira was penalized one point. There, it was clear that she could see the target and struck it anyway.
“In this situation, Eddie is looping shots from the side,” McCarthy continued. “Directed means you’re coming straight at it. When a fighter is looping a shot, it’s telling you that he’s trying to hit the ear, so he’s hitting the head and hitting the ear, because that’s why he’s looping that shot, and if his opponent starts to turn their head, then if the opponent turns the head and Eddie hits that spot, you tell them, ‘Watch the back of the head.’
“What I’m telling you is, you just struck the back of the head, but it’s on your opponent because he turned his head into it, which caused it, but I need you at this moment to redirect to either another target or use another weapon so you can continue on with your attack.”
At that point, McCarthy said, it’s incumbent on the fighter to change the weapon he uses, say from a punch to a hammerfist, or to target something else on the opponent. If the fighter continues to make contact with the same area and weapon after being warned, it’s the responsibility of that fighter.
But with Alvarez, McCarthy said it was clear the veteran was trying to follow the rules.
“You can see that Eddie at a point where he hears the referee, he goes from trying to loop shots to he turns it into a hammerfists, which is telling you, ‘Oh, you want me to change,’ and he starts to do it, and the referee comes in,” he said.
McCarthy said he didn’t know what instructions were given to Alvarez in the back. But he could only surmise that they weren’t clear enough because of what happened in the fight.
It’s the officials that correctly set expectations and then act by weighing all the factors at play that separate the good from the bad, McCarthy said.
“You have limited power in certain areas to do things, and you try to lend that out in a judicious fashion,” he said. “You don’t become the judge, jury and executioner, unless you have to. Was Eddie Alvarez attempting to foul Lapicus? No, he was not attempting to foul. So there was no intent there. If Eddie has Lapicus and turns over and bites his nose, then Eddie needs to be disqualified, because that is something that’s way outside the sport, way outside the rules. But to think that every fighter knows where everything lands and knows exactly where their opponents are, you’re asking too much of fighters.”
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