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Referee Jason Herzog explains Bellator 292 stoppage after body kick-low blow confusion, responds to critics

Tofiq Musayev and Alexandr Shabliy
Lucas Noonan, Bellator MMA

It took some doing, but in the end referee Jason Herzog made the right call.

Herzog was the third man in the cage for Alexandr Shabliy vs. Tofiq Musayev, a quarterfinal bout in the Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix that kicked off Friday in San Jose, Calif., at Bellator 292. The bout ended in a third-round TKO when Musayev was felled by a body kick and was unable to recover.

However, the closing sequence was anything but clear when it went down in real time, with Herzog initially pausing the action to deal with Musayev apparently reacting to a low blow. Replays showed that Shabliy’s heel glanced Musayev’s cup as it descended after the kick landed. Herzog spoke to the hurt Azerbaijani fighter via assistance from a translator, asking if he could continue, but twice Shabliy declined.

Though Herzog received confused and critical comments on social media, he was vindicated later in the evening when Bellator President Scott Coker announced post-fight that Shabliy’s kick broke Musayev’s rib.

Speaking to MMA Underground shortly after the fight concluded, here is how Herzog explained his call:

“We can see from the replay and I can see in real time it was a fair blow. But there’s incidental contact to the cup on the way down, we can also see this. Cup shots are very difficult because as we know, sometimes a light brush causes a lot of damage, so we must give him a little time for this. But the fair blow is what caused the real damage here. We’re not going to allow a fighter to continue, obviously if he can’t continue we’re going to stop this fight. The fair blow is what caused the significance of this damage that he is feeling. The incidental contact with the cup is what gave him time.”

Herzog also responded to a pair of online critics later in the evening:

In his comments to MMA Underground, Herzog also explained how his conversation with Musayev’s translator went down.

“We brought his translator up to make sure it was communicated to him fully that if he cannot continue, this fight is going to be ended due to that fair blow and it will be a TKO,” Herzog said. “The translator did it once, [Musayev] shook his head, kind of half nodding. The translator walked away and I said, ‘Come back. I want to make sure this is very clear for you. If you cannot continue, this fight is over for a TKO.’ He said that again as best as I expect, [Musayev] shook his head no, he can’t continue, so the fight’s ended because of a TKO strike.

“A little bit ugly to watch, like, ‘Hey, what’s happening here?’ But there’s two things that we can see very clearly from the replay. One, that the initial strikes was fair; two, that he brushed the cup on the way down. So we give both of those things a little bit of time and the credit goes to the TKO strike, which it was.”

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