Mixed Martial Arts: Carlo Prater
January, 21, 2012
By Chad Dundas
Josh Hedges/Getty ImagesLoser Erick Silva might not agree, but upholding the DQ result is the right thing to do.Of all the oddities that emerged from this month’s UFC 142, none caused a bigger firestorm than Erick Silva’s controversial disqualification loss to Carlo Prater.
More than Jose Aldo hanging on to the Octagon fence like Sly Stallone in “Cliffhanger” to ward off Chad Mendes’ takedowns, or Vitor Belfort coasting to victory over Anthony Johnson on some stand-ups that would have made a Pride official blush, Silva's DQ for strikes to the back of Prater's head understandably struck a chord with fight fans. Here was a fast-rising welterweight star handed his first loss in the UFC -- and his first defeat anywhere since 2006 -- on what seemed like, at best, a technicality.
In a sport as typically cut-and-dried as MMA, that type of outcome is admittedly hard to stomach and there will no doubt be even more kvetching after the organization announced on Thursday that it won’t overturn the decision. Prater will be allowed to keep his win over Silva, as explained in a statement released by UFC executive Marc Ratner.
“Based on the referee's verbal warnings and his determination that the blows were intentional and a disqualifying foul, this is not the type of decision that can be reviewed,” said Ratner, the company’s vice president of regulatory affairs and a former executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. “Therefore the decision stands.”
Fair warning, some of you aren’t going to like this next part: The UFC made the right call here.
There’s no question that public perception will always be that Silva got jobbed. The rule outlawing punches to the back of the head, while a necessary one, has always been a little like holding in football -- refs could probably call it on every play if they wanted. Sometimes the offender gets away with it, sometimes it costs him dearly. Did referee Mario Yamasaki mishandle his enforcement of that rule in this particular instance? Maybe. Even after his verbal warnings, you could make the argument Yamasaki should have called time, deducted a point from Silva and checked to see if Prater could continue.
That he instead chose to disqualify Silva appears to have tied the UFC’s hands on this issue. You can hang Yamasaki out to dry if you want to -- fact is, he’s a human being charged with an almost superhuman job -- but if you don’t like the end result of this decision, your beef isn’t really with him or with the UFC, it’s with the rules.
AP Photo/Felipe DanaStop right there: Erick Silva's celebration was short-lived.
If the rules say you can’t punch your opponent in the back of the head and you can get disqualified for doing it, then that’s that. Furthermore, if the rules dictate that regulators can’t overturn this kind of referee’s call after-the-fact, then the UFC had no choice but to let Prater’s victory stand.
See, that’s the tricky thing about rules: In professional sports, you’re duty bound to follow them, even when they force you into decisions that occasionally feel unfair. Rules, after all, are the one thing that keeps our sport -- any sport, really -- from devolving into an uncontrolled spectacle. They’re the difference between a bar fight and prizefight and once you start to bend them, well, you know the rest.
If we decide at some point we don’t like the rules -– and let’s face it, there are a lot rules in MMA that are poorly written, poorly defined and poorly enforced -- then by all means, let’s change them. For now however, the rules have to be enforced as written.
Credit the UFC for having the good sense to adhere to the letter of the law. Credit the company also for being proactive enough to take steps to try to ward off these kinds of unfortunate circumstances in the future, announcing in the same statement that it will implement the use of instant replay at all self-regulated international events and will encourage regulators stateside to do the same.
“While instant replay would not have reversed the call in the Silva-Prater bout,” Ratner's statement said, “we believe that it could be valuable to referees and the sport in the future.”
Letting Yamasaki's decision stand was doubly important at an event where the UFC itself was in control of the regulation. Zuffa deserves a pat on the back for taking on the job of self-policing at events where no governmental oversight exists, but in doing so it also enters somewhat slippery territory. The very idea of self regulation is problematic, and the fight company is wise to do it only when absolutely necessary. When it does, it's also smart to adhere strictly to the same rules the NSAC would employ.
With no athletic commission overseeing UFC 142, the promotion had the power to overturn Silva-Prater, but doing so could have set a dangerous precedent. The UFC, after all, isn't really a regulatory body, it's a fight promoter. How much do we want fight promoters manipulating the outcome of bouts? The answer, of course, is not at all.
Kudos to Ratner and the UFC for recognizing that.
January, 10, 2012
By Chuck Mindenhall
Sherdog.comNo one can blame Jose Aldo, left, and Chad Mendes if they feel lost in the shuffle.It’s fight week, and the most we’re hearing about UFC 142 is coming from concerned third parties about how nobody’s talking about UFC 142. It is a pay-per-view, after all, with a title at stake. It is happening only one time zone removed from eastern standard in Rio de Janeiro, so it can’t be a hindrance to sleep schedules.
Yet this card is tiptoeing across the calendar. Even Dana White didn’t exactly tweet out his traditional “It’s Fiiiight Weeeek!” He merely wrapped quotes around Anthony Johnson’s tweet to the same effect.
Maybe it’s because of Stanislav Nedkov’s visa problems.
But more likely it’s something else, possibly what some western types are calling “inundation.” How many fight cards can be promoted as “big events” in the space of a calendar year? How many fight cards can be promoted, period? How many can be completely cared about?
Zuffa is planning to roll out in the vicinity of 40 fight cards in 2012, hitting hot markets (Montreal), old ones (Sydney), barren ones (Omaha), familiar ones (Japan) and new ones (Stockholm) -- on Fox, FX, Fuel and PPV. There are only 52 weeks in 2012. With plans to run concurrent “Ultimate Fighter” shows in the States and in Brazil, plus the live coverage of the weekly fights on the reality show, that makes for a year of constant action. No offseason. Just fights after fights after fights.
That’s not even factoring in Bellator’s schedule. All told, MMA is requiring us to be obsessed to catch it all. (Note: In the quest to attract mainstream fans, has anybody thought about the casualization of existing diehards? Saturation does things to a man.)
But you know what gets lost in that many fight cards? Hype. And hype has been joined at the hip of the fight game for better than a century -- hype is White’s raison d’etre. We need somebody to tell us that Yushin Okami is the best fighter to ever come out of Japan, because that sounds outrageous coming out of our own imaginations. We need healthy delusions, strong enough to make hard-earned income appear to us as disposable income. White’s a master here. He can burst the seams of what looks otherwise ordinary. But in 2012, with the worldly takeover Zuffa is planning and the merciless globetrotting schedule, he can’t possibly be the same circus barker. This year will have to involve inertia.
Which brings things back to this weekend’s fight card. UFC Rio will have to go off without a lot of hype. In a roundabout way, that makes it perfectly hyped. There is nothing epic about the matchups. There’s a featherweight fight between Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo, and if the wrestler Mendes has a say in things it could be a five-round toil where he eats a lot of punches in dogged pursuit of single-leg takedowns. It doesn’t help that featherweights haven’t yet caught up to the bigger weight classes in fetching PPV dollars.
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comEdson Barboza, left, is one to watch -- but not necessarily one who can carry a promotion.
The co-main event is intriguing, with Anthony Johnson debuting as a middleweight against Vitor Belfort, but then the night becomes about Brazil’s own -- which is fine for a card that’s realistically all about Brazil to begin with. If there was a fight that stood out like a Donald Cerrone versus Nate Diaz, it’s got to be Terry Etim versus Edson Barboza. That’s a lightweight clash of two highly explosive future stars. Erick Silva is also one to watch. But this weekend he’s stepping into the Octagon almost anonymously against Carlo Prater (remember him?). There’s some intrigue on the card, if you care to find it. It’s not a bad night of fights, and it’s not a spectacular one.
But from the promotional standpoint, you know a card is adrift when the biggest story heading into a main event is that Gray Maynard is helping train one of the participants. Things feel a little detached this week -- and it’s a feeling that could become familiar going forward, particularly as the UFC breaks from being strictly America-centric. There will be more cards that sneak up on us in this way, more cards that feel like nonevents.
That’s new terrain for the fight fan, at least when we’re used to the buzz traditionally beginning with fight week. When we changed into 2012, it became something grander and less immediate, something like "fight year."
Now it’s a matter of adjusting our enthusiasm.
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