Worst Refereeing Moments of Herb Dean

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Herb Dean (2-3) is the gold standard when it comes to refereeing Mixed Martial Arts. Many people within the MMA sphere have publicly complimented him for his skills, from Joe Rogan to Dana White. At UFC Fight Island 3, Dean caught some criticism for failing to stop Francisco Trinaldo (26-7) from beating Jai Herbert (10-2) after knocking him flat. Dean took to Instagram to defend himself and passive-aggressively snub Dan Hardy who criticized Dean during the broadcast. Well refereeing MMA is a tough job, and Jai Herbert isn’t the only person Dean allowed to recieve excessive damage, so let’s have a look at the worst reffing moments of Herb Dean.

Number 5: Lawler vs. Askren

Can a fight be called too late and too soon? When Herb Dean officiated Ben Askren‘s (19-2) UFC debut against former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (28-12), we learned the answer is yes. Askren had shot on Lawler, who then sideways suplexed the former Bellator and ONE champion. Once Askren landed on his head, Lawler continued to deliver shocking blows. It appeared that Askren was out, but Dean allowed Lawler to revive Askren with the healing effects of more punches to the face. Now restored, Askren continued to shoot and scramble with Lawler.

Eventually, getting a dominant position, Askren began to threaten a bulldog choke. Lawler dropped his hand, seemingly unconscious, so Dean stopped the fight. So far, so good. However, Lawler immediately got up and claimed that the choke was not around his neck but his head. This means that Lawler was not in any danger of having his blood flow stopped by Askren’s choke, and Dean had no reason to intervene. This gets worse when footage shows that Dean checked on Lawler’s hand, and ignored Lawler’s thumbs-up, indicating he was in no danger. You can find a decent breakdown of the sequence here.

Dean defended his decision stating that Bulldog chokes are incredibly dangerous. The risk comes from it being a blood-choke, which can cause permanent brain damage. However, pretty much any effective choke is a blood-choke since it takes about 5 minutes to make someone pass out from strangulation. He also failed to explain why he ignored Lawler, giving him the thumbs up. Dean’s reaction to criticism for this fight shows a tendency to shift or ignore blame no matter how valid it may be.

Number 4: Dollaway vs. Murtazaliev

When C.B. Dollaway (17-10) fought Khalid Murtazaliev (13-2), he had a tough task ahead of him. With two opponent replacements and a rough weight cut, it seemed like everything was going wrong for the UFC veteran. Things would only get worse for Dollaway, though. In the first round, he ate a body kick that took the wind from his sails. Dollaway managed to recover and rebound in the second landing a takedown and getting to work. There he nearly synched a rear-naked choke, but Murtazaliev was able to escape. After a scramble, Dollaway tried to get a d’arce choke, but Murtazaliev escaped that too and reversed the position.

Suddenly Dollaway was being worked on with ground and pound. Dollaway appeared to be exhausted and could not defend himself from the punishment he was taking. Murtazaliev kept pouring it on and the seven-time Fighters Only referee of the year winner continued to watch Dollaway take life-altering damage. Eventually, the round ended, and Dollaway lay in his corner, exhausted and dazed. His corner got him to sit up and tried to coach him. Dean began instructing Dollaway to get up on his stool. Dollaway continued to sit. Dean asked if “The Doberman” could continue. Dollaway said he couldn’t, and Herb Dean finally called off the fight.

Interestingly enough, Dan Hardy, John Gooden and Paul Felder were on commentary at that fight. They called for Dean to stop the match in the same way they called for an end to Trinaldo vs. Herbert. As far as MMASucka is aware, Dean has not commented on the fight. Dollaway himself felt that Dean had not protected him, although he credited Dean as a great referee and recognized how difficult the job must be.

Number 3: Ladd vs. De Randamie

Here’s another interesting philosophical question. Is it better to call a fight too late, or too early? When Aspen Ladd (9-1) lost to Germaine De Randamie (8-3), she probably would have wished for a bit more time to work. Herb Dean stepped in after De Randamie caught Ladd with a hard shot. The fight had gone for just 19 seconds.

While the strike had rocked Ladd, there was nothing to suggest that she was entirely out of the fight. De Randamie had not even been able to land follow up shots before the Dean ended the match. Comparing it to Trinaldo’s glorious knock out of Herbert, Dean instructed Trinaldo to continue hitting Herbet. Ladd was still conscious and, while still in danger, had more of a chance of defending herself intelligently than Herbert or even Dollaway. The MMA community at large questioned if there was sexism behind Dean’s choice to end the fight.

You know you’ve messed up when the MMA community is asking if you’re a sexist. While Dean may have spared her from physical trauma, he also secured Ladd’s first loss. Considering the implications of this decision, it may have been one of the worst reffing moments in Dean’s career. Ladd may have gone on to challenge for the title had she manage to turn the fight around. Ultimately we’ll never know thanks to Herb Dean.

Number 2: Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor

This entry is not for a single moment in the fight but rather Dean’s multiple failures of duty during the match. Throughout the contest between the returning Conor McGregor (22-4) and the defending Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0), the challenger fouled the champion. The “Notorious” was certainly living up to his name as he grabbed the cage, Nurmagomedov’s gloves and shorts. McGregor threw an illegal knee from the bottom while “The Eagle” was dominating him from top position. The Irishman even gave Nurmagomedov an “Oil Check” at one stage. Dean noted all of this, yet took no action to punish the many infractions.

When called on it, Dean correctly said that the Unified Rules of MMA dictate that if an offending party is on the bottom, then the referee cannot interrupt the action. However, the Unified Rules also say that at the end of a round, the referee must talk to the fighter, their corner and the judges and note the fouls and deduct points as necessary. Dean’s defense for this failure of duty was to say that McGregor did not commit the same foul and received different warnings for each foul. The problem with this line of thinking is that a competitor could hypothetically commit 27 separate fouls twice before the referee can take a point away. Obviously, this is not the intention behind the rules. No fighter should be able to foul their opponent multiple times. This fight was one of the worst reffing moments of Herb Dean’s career.

Number 1: Weidman vs. Rockhold

Mixed Martial Arts is a brutal sport. A single fight can change a whole career. For a lot of these, I have been relatively tongue in cheek, but what Herb Dean allowed to happen to Chris Weidman (14-5), I have nothing but sadness and anger. When Luke Rockhold (16-5) challenged Chris Weidman for the middleweight championship, the world saw the two best middleweights compete. The fight was competitive until Weidman threw a spinning wheel kick. Rockhold capitalized on the opening and pushed Weidman down and mounted him. Weidman tried to defend himself while the best top player in the division reigned down blows. Herb Dean watched Chris Weidman take non-stop heavy blows for a full minute.

At one point, Weidman attempts to fight back while Rockhold is in mount. His flailing fists were unable to do anything to stop the barrage of blows. This is the worst reffing moment of Herb Dean’s career. Herb Dean even called the fight at the end of the round. However, he let the fighters go back to their corners. Weidman showed a lion’s heart but was finished in the next round. Now Weidman defended Dean, saying that he was glad Dean did not stop the fight. It is understandable within a championship matchup for all options to be exhausted before the ref calls a fight. It is a once in a lifetime chance, and Dean would not want to take that from someone too early.

But Weidman has now lost four fights out of the last five he’s had since that beating. “The All-American” clearly lost a piece of himself in the loss to Rockhold and Herb Dean was the man in charge of ensuring Weidman’s safety.

Worst Reffing Moments of Herb Dean

Being a referee is like being a pilot. Nobody cares until you mess up. You’re going to be criticized, no matter what you do. The moment you start to seem swayed by public opinion is the point where you cannot be trusted to do your job. This necessary, resolute action is probably why Herb Dean is so resistant to criticism. He needs to be able to trust his subjective judgment in refereeing a fight. But Herb Dean has been messing up more and more. Four of his worst reffing moments have happened in the past two years. It’s clear that while Dean has done a good job overall, he’s starting to run the risk of ruining his golden reputation.

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Sam Ancer is a South African writer and MMA fanatic, he has spent several years training Sanshou, as well as Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

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