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25th Feb 2018

Controversial ending to brutal main event sparks heated debate

It got intense

Darragh Murphy

It was a hell of a fight and it ended in as devastating a fashion as any main event ever has. But should Jeremy Stephens have been allowed to deliver those final crushing blows?

We were always going to get fireworks when two of the hardest hitters in the UFC’s featherweight division shared the Octagon.

Stephens was rocked in the first round on Saturday night but rallied in the second to get the finish over Josh Emmett but there was more than a little controversy about the way that the fight came to an end.

A thudding right uppercut to Emmett is what ultimately dropped him before ‘Lil Heathen’ followed up with some Dan Henderson-esque elbows to force a halt to proceedings for Stephens’ third consecutive win.

But in the build-up to the final shots, Stephens landed an elbow to the back of Emmett’s head while he was in transition before grazing the Team Alpha Male fighter with an illegal knee.

The knee seemed to miss the grounded Emmett on its way up but made a slight connection on the way down and while it clearly didn’t hurt Emmett, it should still be considered a foul.

That was the topic of debate in the UFC’s Fox studios when the dust settled as former bantamweight king Dominick Cruz, who is a long-time training partner of Stephens’, and current UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier went back and forth in a heated discussion on whether the fight-ending sequence was illegal.

Cormier: As long as it makes contact, it is an illegal blow.
Cruz: Where did it make contact?
Cormier: Dom, as long as it makes contact… He threw an illegal shot!
Cruz: Where?
Cormier: This is an illegal shot.
Cruz: Look, it missed. Now it lands and touches him on the way down.
Cormier: It doesn’t matter.
Cruz: It does matter!

Emmett’s team was adamant that they would appeal the loss, with referee Dan Miragliotta criticised for not stopping the action after what could have been argued as two fouls in the lead-up to the finish.

Michael Bisping, who was also on punditry duty, threw his two cents into the debate too.

“Daniel, let me give you a little physics lesson,” Bisping told Cormier, who was adamant that Stephens’ knee had landed on the way up and the way down. “When something is moving towards something and it hits it and if it connects, then that thing goes backwards.”

Just another day in the world of mixed martial arts…