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Steve Mazzagatti & Bad Refereeing in MMA


John Hancock

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The fact that Steve Mazzagatti is terrible at his job is back in the news after he completely failed to notice Josh Burkman had choked Jon Fitch unconscious (Burkman had to basically stop the fight himself, and tell Mazzagatti he'd won). This follows years of Mazzagatti being criticised; Brock Lesnar, refused to allow him to referee his fights after he incorrectly penalised Lesnar for an illegal punch in his first UFC fight (Lesnar also threatened to punch his moustache off), Kenny Florian has revealed that his manager was on strict orders to prevent Mazzagatti from refereeing his fights, UFC President Dana White has labelled him "dangerous" and assured that his bad refereeing will end in someone getting seriously injured, and even Mazzagatti himself has been forced to apologise to UFC fighters from some of his obviously incorrect calls.

 

Yet he's still one of the most senior referees in the sport, and Keith Kizer, the head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (a man labeled by Dana White as a failure) has come to Mazzagatti's defence saying that no one else realised Fitch was unconscious either.

 

The UFC's referees are supplied by outside commissions like those run by Keith Kizer, and the UFC itself has no ability to choose it's own referees (although fighters can refuse to have certain referees referee their matches, which several fighters have done with Mazzagatti). Dana White is now predicting that, as punishment and as a show of authority, Mazzagatti will be given an important match to referee at next month's show in Las Vegas.

 

What do you think of Steve Mazzagatti, not just the Fitch call, which was obviously incredibly bad, but in general? Is he the worst, or is he just the scape goat for all bad refereeing, and is the NSAC responsible to defend him, and keep putting him in fights?

 

Also, if you think that refereeing in MMA is bad, what can be done about it? Should the UFC have more power over it's referees, or does that open the door to potential fight-fixing?

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Good point, judge's should be a part of this conversation too, seeing that they fall pretty much exactly into the same category as referees in that they're not chosen by the UFC, and they don't seem to ever get in trouble for f*cking up, no matter how obvious it is. If anything, judge's are worse, because fighters don't have the right to veto a judge like they can veto a referee.

 

I'm trying to think of the worst judge's decision I've ever seen. Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia at the Ultimate Fighter Finale in 2010 is the first one to come screaming out at me. Phan destroys, absolutely destroys the guy for three rounds and then loses 29-28. That was the first judge's call that made me actually quite a bit angry about how obviously wrong it was. Apparently, Dana paid Phan like he'd won because he was so embarrassed by it.

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I dont know how you qualify to be a judge for an MMA show, but the fact these fools are getting to sit cage-side at UFC shows for the biggest fights in the industry with their severe lack of education on the rules of the sport is quite disturbing. I mean, I've never seen a sport with so many obviously wrong decisions.
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I've seen Mazzagatti make plenty of really good stoppages (some of which he automatically gets criticised for as a knee-jerk reaction to him being involved), but he has his bad moments too. I think a lot of it is to do with the fact that he referees more high profile/televised fights than most of the other referees.

 

Dana hates Dan Miragliotta as well and refuses to have him officiate on UFC-regulated shows, but my personal dislike goes to Kim Winslow. She makes a lot of mistakes, not just in finishes but in separations during the fight, and I think whilst she gets criticised a lot, she really isn't good enough to be a referee but is kept in because of her gender.

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It's kinda weird that they sit ringside at all. Even the commentators get TV screens, you don't get the best view from ringside when the guys are on the ground on the other side of the cage.
The differences in opinions between people who watch on TV and those ringside can be hugely different and this subject makes me remember fans really being angered when Nikolai Valuev beat Evander Holyfield a few years ago. Pretty much every fan had the fight 118-110 or something like that, so they thought it was a really wide decision in favour of Holyfield, yet the two judges gave it to Valuev. They were called cheats and so on, yet I think 48 out of 49 journalists ringside also scored the fight to Valuev, so that shows how you can get an entirely different perspective from up close. I'd be more inclined to believe that the people who are right beside the action are a better judge of what is going on inside the ring/cage, though there are certainly some odd decisions on a routine basis across the fighting world.

 

In the UFC though, the cages are huge. Boxing rings tend to be around 20ft, so with three judges around the ring, they can all get a good view. A UFC cage is over 30ft in diameter, so it's a much harder task to see intricate GnP work being done. If the action is on a part of the cage where no judge can see the GnP and they can't hear the blows landing, they have a very tough job. They're being asked to analyse something which they can't see or hear, so how can they be expected to get it right? In those cases, maybe having a monitor to show them the action wouldn't be a bad idea.

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