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Misperception at UFC Brisbane

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The Welterweight co-main event at UFC Fight Night in Brisbane was a slobberknocker by halfway through round one, with Hector Lombard dominating Neil Magny on the ground within inches of a win. But then, after some severe punishment, Magny impressively brought the fight back up on its feet. Nonetheless, the round seemed like it could have been scored 10-8 for Lombard.

While the round did ultimately go to the former Olympic Judoka, the official scorecard read 10-9 in his favor. Not quite as decisive as one might expect, but within reason given Magny’s recovery and subsequent control of the round. Referee Steve Perceval stopped the action at about the 10 second bell, after it looked like Magny took a groin strike, but the fighter said he was fine and they finished the round. “Good job, gentlemen,” said Perceval as each fighter was sent to their respective corner.

In round 2, Magny ramped up his offense with a barrage of strikes. And although he did hit the canvas hard once, this time Magny gained control on the ground time and time again, ultimately mounting and flattening his opponent with about a minute and a half left in the round. These 90 seconds were brutal on Lombard, who indicated he was good to continue, although there was very little perceivable intelligent defense on his behalf.

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This again raises the question of what the term “intelligent defense” actually means. Refs need an advanced understanding of fighters’ options when they are in compromised situations. They should know where the defending fighter’s exits are, and be able to determine whether or not they are effectively seeking them. Many in the MMA world – from the press to the UFC itself – argue that Lombard showed nothing of the sort, and that Perceval should have stopped the fight before the end of round 2.

Compounded with that, the judges also scored this round 10-9 (this time in Magny’s favor). That score has been pretty controversial, as Magny maintained a level of authority that could very well have warranted a 10-8, possibly even 10-7. And by the beginning of round 3, Lombard still hadn’t found his legs. Magny then achieved a mounted triangle and finished the fight with a TKO.

Matt Mitrione recently said that it’s a ref’s job to save fighters from themselves. Lombard likely thought he could probably take on whatever Magny had in store for him for just over a minute. But that seemed to be the extent of his plan: to simply endure it. Whether or not you agree that Perceval should have stopped the fight earlier, it was pretty evident that Lombard had his bell rung hard before round three.

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