"This fight would be better if they were on their feet."
I don't want to be this guy. I hate to be this guy. But right now, I have to be this guy.
Why do we even call this sport "mixed martial arts?" In theory, it's because anyone that steps into the cage will be allowed to use any kind of martial arts technique that they desire, whether they have formal training in that martial art or not.
Dan Miragliotta, however, clearly disagrees with this position. Don't get me wrong; MMA is full of incompetent referees that make bizarre and infuriating decisions. None of them have the distinction of reffing fights like they have money on a certain guy, though. Miragliotta does. The ghastly Kimbo Slice-James Thompson stoppage comes to mind, where Danno stopped the fight after Slice landed two hard punches that didn't even put Thompson down (probably to make sure he hit his parlay); so does last night's Vitor Belfort-Anthony Johnson debacle.
After coming in at a comical 197 lbs. for his UFC 142 co-headliner against Vitor Belfort, Anthony Johnson figured to have a limited gas tank. Sure enough, he came out sloppier than hell, immediately desperate for takedowns. It was quickly apparent that this was his lone chance to beat the precise hands of Vitor, and after an early takedown, he was able to land a dive bomb right hand through the guard.
Then, right as Vitor was going for mission control, Dan Miragliotta stood the fighters up. After stumbling around for another leg, Johnson was able to press Vitor against the cage, hopeful that he would earn another thunderous takedown. While Belfort was easily defending this effort, and landing some damaging punches to boot, Miragliotta broke up the clinch. Johnson became even sloppier, now understanding that he was going to be given absolutely no time to work on the ground or in the clinch. He used his freakish strength to secure another takedown, and just as he was getting into his rhythm on the floor Dan Miragliotta (I hope you're sitting down) STOOD THEM UP AGAIN.
No longer than 2 minutes and several failed kamikaze takedown attempts later, Johnson was tapping the mat due to a rear naked choke. He was released from the UFC, and he should have been. His performance, coupled with his spectacular failure to make weight, were enough to warrant a release to me.
But you know what? That isn't what I took away from the fight. The story of that fight was that Dan Miragliotta couldn't make it through a piss at a urinal without preventing Anthony Johnson from attempting to do his job.
The fact that Johnson "would have lost anyway" might be true, but it misses the point entirely. It's revisionist history. It's creeping determinism. It was an even fight, with Belfort doing damage with punches and Johnson scoring points with punches and takedowns. And yes, Johnson gassed hard. But maybe he wouldn't have if he had been allowed to work.
Referees: Stop standing fights up! STOP. I don't care how aesthetically unpleasing a fight might be, and I don't care how loud the crowd is booing. The fact is, just as some fights are even on the feet, some are also even on the ground. But even fights on the floor always have this "they aren't doing anything, so they must be stalling" stigma attached to them. I don't want to watch the Ultimate Kickboxing Championship. I want to watch MMA. And referee standups prevent that from happening.