At UFC 210, the Mousasi-Weidman fight ended rather controversially, when it was ruled as a TKO win for Mousasi after an apparent mistake by referee Dan Miragliotta when he stopped the fight due to an illegal knee, in order to let Weidman recuperate.
The most important thing to remember here is that New York State Athletic Omission doesn’t allow the use of instant replay in order to determine what really happened, which means that the immediate referee decision is final. There is no reason to change it later due to use of replays.
Doctors were let in to the Octagon to check on Weidman, while Miragliotta was notified, in direct violation of that New-York rule, that after checking the replays it was discovered that he had made a mistake and the knees were legal. He then decided, in light of this new, forbidden information, that the fight must continue immediately. The doctors who were checking Weidman found meanwhile that he has trouble recollecting what day or month it is, and therefore decided he cannot continue. Since the Miragliotta decided that fight should continue immediately and it the doctors decided that Weidman was not fit to continue, it was declared a TKO win for Mousasi.
Now let’s look at what should have happened.
- Since replays are not allowed to be utilized for in New York, Miragliotta should never have been notified of his apparent mistake. Miragliotta decided that it was an illegal knee, giving Weidman 5 minute to recuperate, and that decision should not have been changed mid-way the 5 minute break.
- Weidman, then, should have been given 5 minute to recuperate from the illegal knee, and the fight shouldn’t have been stopped before those 5 minutes were over, unless the doctors would have felt that the situation was so critical that he should be taken to a hospital immediately, which they obviously didn’t.
- Since Weidman’s medical situation was caused by what was decided to be an illegal knee, if the doctors had decided at the end of the 5 minutes that Weidman can’t continue, the fight should have been declared a disqualification win for Weidman.
- Later on, Mousasi would have been able to appeal that decision, since the knees were actually legal, and then the fight result would have been changed to No Contest.
The only way that this fight should have been declared a TKO win for Mousasi is if Miragliotta would have stopped it knowing that the knees were legal. If he stopped it on the assumption that the knees were illegal the fight should have been ruled a No Contest at the very least, if not a DQ, as long as replays cannot be referred to.
So much for what should have happened according to the rules. Now let’s take a look at Weidman’s behavior. Weidman was obviously trying to use the rules for his advantage, which is exactly what the new rules regarding knees are trying to prevent. We all want fighters to try to fight and protect themselves at all times, and rules like the ones prohibiting knees and kicks to a downed opponent are intended to protect fighters who are in a situation where they can’t protect themselves, and those shots could have too brutal consequences. This was definitely not the situation with Weidman. He obviously could have protected himself with his hands, but decided to try to use the rules to prevent Mousasi from throwing the knees, or maybe even get him disqualified.
Sometimes when a foul is made but the fighter the fouled fighter doesn’t seem hurt, the referee wouldn’t stop the fight or penalize the offending fighter, but if a fighter is truly hurt by an illegal move there is a much higher chance that the referee would penalize the offending fighter even if the offence was exactly the same. So, it is advantageous to fighters to appear hurt by illegal moves even when they are not, because this would raise the chances of the referee penalizing the other fighter. It’s definitely not beyond the realm of possibility that Weidman was acting more hurt than he actually was, because he knew this might give him an advantage score-wise. And so, the decision to stop the fight based on his medical condition might have been based on him acting trying to milk the perceived illegality of Mousasi’ strikes. It might also be that he was tired and he was trying to use this time to rest. Seeing how he stood up immediately when he heard the fight was stopped I tend to doubt how hurt he really was.
Taking all this into account it’s difficult to feel too bad for Weidman for how things turned out. The new rules regarding knees were made exactly to prevent Weidman’s behavior, but if the rules were followed correctly according to the no replays rule in New York, then Miragliotta’s mistake wouldn’t have been challenged and Weidman would have gotten away with this strategy, just like so many fighters have had in the past. I think there is a real possibility that this fight would be a benchmark fight, after which fighters would stop trying to put their hands on the ground when they are getting kneed at, and instead try to protect themselves like they should.