Odd Man Out

Written by Tom Ngo
June 18th, 2008

Earlier this year, “Big John” McCarthy decided to retire from refereeing after 535 bouts over a 15 year span.  He left MMA years before it is set to hit its peek, however he did leave on top. He is regarded by all as the best “third man” to ever grace a Mixed Martial Arts fight. Oh how we miss him.

UFC 85 experienced many controversial calls that directly influenced the outcomes of important, title contending bouts, showing how sorely Big John’s experience and knowledge was missed.

Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera might be the UFC Heavyweight champion, but with no Randy Courutre, there is no consensus # 1 fighter. The lack of talent in the division has left the door wide for any and all to make a run at the belt. That is why the heavyweight showdown between Fabricio Werdum and Bandon Vera was so important.

Even UFC Color Commentator Joe Rogan stated that, “an impressive win here could put him (the winner) in a title fight.”

In a fairly even 1stRound, Werdum was able to secure a takedown and advance to a dominant full mount position. With 35 seconds left in the round, Werdum was reigning down punches directed towards Vera’s face, with only a few actually connecting.

None of the punches were of knockout power so at no time was Vera ever hurt. They were just coming down consistently and quickly. Even though Vera was actively defending himself, referee Dan Miragliotta decided to put an end to the fight with only 20 seconds left in the round.

Vera immediately jumped up in protest, and as the chorus of boos pelted the Octagon, the controversy began. Did Miragliotta stop the fight prematurely? McCarthy seems to think so.

“Would I have stopped the fight? No, I wouldn’t,” McCarthy told Sherdog.com. “You’ve got to give Brandon a chance to get out of that position, and you’ve got to give Fabricio the chance to make it a definitive victory.”

However, McCarthy does sympathize with the maligned ref.

“A lot of people are all over Dan (Miragliotta),” McCarthy said. “Refereeing – it’s opinion. Some people are going to look at you and say, ‘You’re right,’ and some people are going to look at you and say, ‘You’re wrong.’ We’re all human.”

With two consecutive losses, the up-and-coming Vera is surely to drop down the heavyweight ladder, further lengthening his wait for a title shot.

The night’s second controversy surrounded the Middleweight division, as Nathan Marquardt took on Thales Leites and the two warriors battled for their title shot in the depth deprived 185-lb. division.

After losing the 1stRound, Marquardt went on to dominate the final two rounds. However, Marquardt was charged with two illegal blows, getting two points deducted. 

There was little argument about the first one, where he unintentionally kneed Leites’ head when he was still on his knees. However, it was an elbow that referee Herb Dean felt Marquardt illegally placed to the back of Leites’ head that stirred up more controversy.

“Was it illegal? No, it wasn’t,” expressed McCarthy.

Marquardt wound up losing the fight via Split Decision (28-27, 27-28, 28-27). Add back the point due to the “illegal elbow” and Marquardt wins the close decision (28-28, 29-27, 28-28) and is a fight away from another title shot.

Appreciated, but rarely noticed when McCarthy was there, he is sorely missed now that he is gone. MMA can only hope that the 45 year-old gets the itch to ref again, and if things change that might just happen. 

“I left because people were put into positions based on who they know, not what they know,” McCarthy said. “It really drove me nuts. I did not want to be a part of that. It’s a problem within our sport, and it needs to change.”

UFC 85 further emphasized that the sport desperately needs Big John. That his skills are just as important as Anderson Silva’s knees, or Chuck Liddell’s right hand.  MMA can’t afford to have him as the Odd Man Out.

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