The main event of UFC Fight Night 112 from Oklahoma City ended with controversy on Sunday night, as a battle between lightweights Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee appeared to be stopped early by referee Mario Yamasaki.
With roughly 30 seconds to go at the end of Round 1, Lee had Chiesa wrapped up in a body triangle and appeared to have a rear naked choke locked in. Even we have to admit that it looks like Chiesa was on the verge of either tapping out or going to sleep, but Yamasaki jumps in prematurely to call off the fight and declare Lee the winner via submission.
Chiesa immediately jumped up and protested that he hadn’t tapped. Even the play-by-play announcers questioned whether it was a legitimate stoppage or not. Even if the fight was seconds away from being over, pretty much everyone agrees that it wasn’t actually over when Yamasaki stopped it. UFC president Dana White, who has publicly criticized Yamasaki for similar mistakes in the past, took to Instagram on late Sunday night to express his frustrations.
Note that White didn’t make a mistake with Mario’s last name, but was rather combining the ref’s first name with the last name of Steve Mazzagatti, another MMA ref that has earned the ire of White for a number of high profile mistakes.
The UFC generally have no say in who referees their fights. Those positions are selected by the local Athletic Commission, in order to keep the officiating free and independent from any UFC bias. Still, you have to believe that White will be telling anyone who will listen that Yamasaki shouldn’t work another UFC main event any time soon.