Controversial Finishes: Stranger Stoppages

November 15, 2023
8 months

UFC 294 was a great event, with numerous exciting fights throughout the card. It wasn’t without controversy, however, as the fight between Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker was ruled a no contest. How did this come about, and are there any other questionable stoppages from the world of MMA that compare?

UFC 294: Ankalaev vs. Walker

The reason why we’re all here is the controversial story all over MMA news sites right now: that unusual stoppage at UFC 294. The official doctor assigned to the fight was called into the ring when an illegal knee (but an accidental one) hit Johnny Walker in the head. The doctor assessed him before asking him multiple questions to judge his cognitive ability as well as his condition. He was reportedly asked what country he was in; Walker didn’t answer with any nation name but said, ‘I’m in the desert,’ This, as well as other factors, led the doctor to force the ref to stop the contest, having it declared a no-contest despite both Walker and Ankalaev wanting to continue.

Dana White had to step into the octagon himself, albeit with droves of security to separate the fighters from each other and the officials as particularly ugly scenes transpired when the bout was waved off. In the post-event press conference, White stated that he believed the doctor was inexperienced and there was a substantial language barrier between Walker and the official, as English was neither man’s native language. Later, White added that he would talk to refs and doctors to ensure that these types of stoppages don’t happen in the future.

UFC 61: Ortiz’s Early Win over Shamrock

2006 was a different time altogether, but it was blessed with the MMA rivalry between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock as they fought for the second time at UFC 61. Herb Dean, however, had different plans. Instead of letting the feud play out, he forced himself between the two men when Shamrock was still responsive to Ortiz’s attacks from the top. Even the cage-side commentary team at the time was confused as to why Dean had called a halt to proceedings as Shamrock was still able to defend himself. Ortiz was able to win more convincingly in the third-and-final encounter later in the year, winning the knockout of the night award and making MMA breaking news at the time.


Ladd Stopped Without a Chance to Get Up

Aspen Ladd was 8-0 when she stepped into the octagon at UFC Fight Night 155. She was headlining the card with Germaine de Randamie in a fight that would shake up the Women’s Bantamweight Division. Herb Dean was assigned to the fight and didn’t fancy a long stint in the cage, so called a stop to the action after just 16 seconds. Ladd was knocked down but visibly still moving and was already getting up when Dean called a stop to proceedings, and she was visibly displeased at a very early stoppage call.

UFC 170: Rousey’s ‘KO Stoppage’

Ronda Rousey might or might not have been one of the most popular fighters in 2014, but that didn’t stop a chorus of boos ringing out when the ref, Herb Dean (seriously, this guy again?), stopped her fight against Sara McMann for the UFC Bantamweight Championship. Whatever Dean saw was quickly refuted as McMann got up to her feet soon after being knocked down and looked more than able to continue. Rousey had a few more contentious stoppages, especially in her strikeforce tenure when multiple opponents claimed they didn’t tap out, but the ref at the time ruled they did. Of course, Rousey had the last laugh as she made more MMA breaking news when she left the sport to join the WWE.

UFC Japan: A Stoppage So Bad, They Had a Rematch on the Same Night

Back in the infancy of the UFC, the company held its first international event in 1997 when it hosted UFC Japan: Ultimate Japan in Yokohama. One of the heavyweight tournament semi-finals pitted Marcus Silveira against the Japanese favorite, Kazushi Sakuraba. The ref assigned to the fight, ‘Big’ John McCarthy, waved the fight off as he believed that Sakuraba was knocked out.

Bruce Buffer announced Silveira as the winner in the ring despite Sakuraba and his corner vehemently stating that the Japanese submission fighter never lost consciousness and was fine to continue. Whether it was the audible booing from the crowd or another factor, the officials in attendance believed that the original decision should have been overturned. As such, it was changed to a no-contest, and the fight rematch took place later on the same night.

Interestingly, there was even more at stake in this fight as the other semi-final took place and the winner, Tank Abbott, could not compete in the final due to an injury sustained in his victory. As such, Sakuraba vs. Silveira II would determine the Heavyweight Tournament Final. Sakuraba managed to lock in a tight armbar and made his opponent tap out, and the fans got a proper finish. It’s hard to think about this happening in the contemporary MMA world, as any instant rematch would cause a media frenzy among MMA news websites.

Far Too Late: Curran Keeps Fighting

Bellator wasn’t as prominent in the MMA scene back in 2012, but the card of Bellator 60 was enough to get fight fans excited. The main event saw Joe Warren try to defend his Featherweight Championship against Pat Curran. This stoppage wasn’t controversial because it came too early; rather, it was called far too late in the day. Joe Curran took total control of the fight in the third round as Joe Warren was rocked onto the floor, propped up by the cage.

The ref assigned to the fight, Jeff Malott, watched a defenseless Warren unable to fight back and take needless damage. Curran, at one point, probably could have stopped it himself as it was clear that the official was slow to react. Even for fight fans, the footage is hard to watch by contemporary standards. Luckily, Warren was able to recover from the fight and even went on to win championship gold again.

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