Ref Mario Yamasaki aids and abets a robbery; Joe Rogan makes it worse
Referee Mario Yamasaki made one of the biggest officiating errors in UFC history at UFC 142 on Saturday. Erick Silva blasted fellow Brazilian welterweight Carlo Prater with a knee and followed up with punches on the ground before Yamasaki stepped in to halt the bout after just 29 seconds of the first round. A spectacular, dominant finish, right? Silva’s 10th straight victory, right?
That’s what everyone thought until Yamasaki ruled that some of the blows had been to the back of the head and Silva was disqualified. That’s when things got even weirder. Commentator Joe Rogan corralled Yamasaki and forced him to watch the replay and explain his decision, something which I don’t recall ever happening in any sport ever. Obviously, Yamasaki said the only things he could say, that he had to make his call in the heat of the moment and that he saw illegal blows to the back of the head, although from the look on his face you could tell he knew he’d screwed up. The whole exchange was about as comfortable as an erection in tight jeans.
Now, I’m the first person to complain about illegal blows to the back of the head. Dan Henderson’s skull crushers against Fedor Emelianenko, for example. But watching the replay, as Rogan made Yamasaki do, I counted only one punch to the back of the head, and it wasn’t even among the first half-dozen punches thrown and it had no impact on Prater’s ability to defend himself. It was only after Yamasaki had already moved to stop the fight that this one insignificant illegal blow was thrown. The rest of the strikes clearly hit the side of Prater’s head or his hands and arms. If the illegal blow had come during a stand-up exchange, or if Prater hadn’t already been dazed and defenseless and had instead been able to keep fighting, the most that would’ve happened is Yamasaki gives Silva a warning to watch the back of the head. Instead, because Prater has already curled up and died, Silva gets disqualified.
Something needs to be done about this decision. It needs to be appealed and reversed. And something needs to be done about Yamasaki, who clearly made a mistake that cost one fighter and big win while saving another from a huge loss. But having the commentator, a supposedly objective observer, intervene to confront the referee in the cage is wrong on so many levels. This isn’t baseball, where a manager can kick dirt at the umpire when he doesn’t like the call. It’s not Rogan’s job to cross-examine the referee when there’s a questionable decision, as much as we might all enjoy seeing him do that. It’s inappropriate and unprofessional and makes the entire sport look like amateur hour.