UFC Sacramento, The Morning After: Stopped Too Soon?

Here’s what you may have missed from last night!

On the whole, I don’t know what exactly to make of UFC: “Sacramento” — maybe I’m just too close to the whole situation. I watched the event in person, forking over the cash solely because some of my friends and teammates were booked in our shared home city. I knew it was a terrible card on paper with an awful main event, but I forgot about all that while watching the opening bout of Benito Lopez vs. Vince Morales and doing my best not to throw up.

That scene replicated itself six times over, as Team Alpha Male went 4-2 on the night, picking up some amazing wins and crushing losses.

That’s the glory of mixed martial arts (MMA): if you’re invested emotionally in a fight, even the worst bout can have you on the edge of your seat. However, to write a half-decent article about the aftermath, I also have to find something to look at objectively.

Luckily, Germaine de Randamie, Herb Dean, and Aspen Ladd teamed up to deliver some controversy.

Let’s set the scene: an experienced and powerful former professional kickboxer is taking on an undefeated prospect in her home city. Neither has lost a fight in years, and there’s a lot on the line given the the complete lack of contenders in their weight class. Hell, Ladd even cut an extra pound while already near death solely to prove that she could do it for a title fight.

Well, the fight doesn’t last too long before referee Herb Dean is forced to do some decision-making. Just a few seconds in, Ladd is pressuring forward and sticking out jabs. They’re not great punches, but she’s throwing them. De Randamie jabs back a bit, pulls back, circles left, then BING fires her first real punch of the night: a right hand directly into the chin of Aspen Ladd.

Ladd falls down, and it’s not a good knock down. She does not fall to her back and spring into a roll Frankie Edgar-style nor raise her legs in a guard to prevent further punishment. Instead, she falls face-first, barely catching herself with her hands. As Ladd hits the mat, she is facing away from de Randamie at a nearly 90-degree angle. Both are terrible signs.

Before de Randamie can even finish throwing her follow up punch, Dean is moving in to stop the bout.

Let’s clear this up right away: it was an early stoppage. As Dean pulled away de Randamie, Ladd sat to her butt and faced the Dutch striker in something of a guard position. Given the main event status and undefeated record of Ladd, Dean should have given Ladd the opportunity to defend herself.

Yet when Ladd hit the mat, she was knocked out. Her eyes might have been open, but Ladd was facing the wrong direction and unaware of the loaded left hand that was about to be fired her direction. There was no intelligent defense to be seen.

I am critical of referees, and Herb Dean specifically, often. This time though, his bad call did not leave me angry and ready to point the finger — only sympathetic. Dean’s veteran eye recognized that Ladd was mentally gone and saw the next big shot coming. He tried to save her from it, only to be vilified for it by Michael Bisping and fans alike. It’s really not his fault the second kill shot missed — it may have actually missed because Herb Dean was already stopping the fight — and that Ladd sort of woke up in the following second or two.

Sadly, it still was an early stoppage, and MMA will not be denied its violence without consequence and criticism, for violence is its very foundation. Everything is tainted and ruined and bad, and it’s all Herb Dean’s fault for failing to navigate an often impossible storm.

For complete UFC: “Sacramento” results and coverage click here.