Although many fight fans can agree UFC 166 was one of the best cards in recent memory and provided nearly non-stop action throughout the contests, another thing they seem to agree on is the lack of ability within the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which acts as the state’s athletic commission.

The run of bad decisions began with the women’s bantamweight contest between Jessica Eye and Sarah Kaufman. The end result were 29-28 scores across the board, but two of those scores went in Eye’s favor and only one went in Kaufman’s direction. It was a split decision in favor of Eye. The right call? Maybe not, but perhaps the fans were willing to give the judges a pass, as split decisions are always controversial.

However, then came the Tim Boetsch and C.B. Dollaway fight that would be a precursor of things to come. Dollaway lost a point during the contest for repeated eye pokes, which apparently caused a short circuit in the synapses of the judges. Two of the three officials scoring the fight cageside gave it to Boetsch by a score of 30-26, whereas the third judge gave the fight to Dollaway by a score of 29-27. The fact that the judges had a final scorecard that ridiculous was immediately added to the “Judges and Hilariously Bad Scoring” Hall of Fame. These scoring mishaps were comically amusing to most fans, but the fighters on the losing ends of those verdicts weren’t laughing.

It was on the main card where we saw another example of the questionable oversight of the event. Not in scoring this time, but rather in the lack of knowledge.

Everyone can agree that Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez put on quite possibly the “Fight of the Year.” It was entertaining and had many fans on the edge of their seats, and possibly even a few jumping out of them when Sanchez landed a thunderous uppercut to drop his foe. However, I think we can also all agree that it was a one-sided beatdown that should’ve been stopped well before the 15 minutes were up. Sanchez was never knocked down nor did he seem to be out on his feet, but just one look at the cut sustained above his eye would make anyone cringe and call for a stoppage. Not only was the cut nasty looking, but it also happened to be in the worst possible area—above Sanchez’s eye. With blood pouring—you could see it dripping out after it was checked by a cageside official—into his eye and face, it’s hard to believe Sanchez saw any punches coming from his left side.

And when you listen to Sanchez’s post-fight mumblings and his slurring of words, it’s hard to ignore the belief that he could’ve saved himself some brain cells along with quite a bit of blood had the doctors done their job. But, hey, Sanchez was always “there” in terms of being in the fight and nearly capped off a huge comeback in the final round, so maybe it was okay letting him slide by with the gash above his eye, right?

Well, if the commission had any goodwill left with fans after that bout, it quickly eroded with the evening’s main event. Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez were meeting for the third time in a highly anticipated rubber match. Dos Santos had won the first bout via a one-punch knockout, and Velasquez executed a complete mauling in their second meeting. To most fans, either of those outcomes was possible in the rubber match. Dos Santos did his best to emulate the success he had in their first contest by swinging for the fences in the early going. Alas, it was much ado about nothing as Velasquez completely negated dos Santos’ offense by pressing him up against the cage.

But not only did Velasquez press dos Santos against the cage, he battered the former champion for seemingly every second the two men spent locked up. This was no “wall and stall” tactic, it was “wall and maul.” I mean does this look like Velasquez was simply stalling his way to a decision win?

That image was the result of a total failure by the cageside doctors, referee Herb Dean in the cage and dos Santos’ cornermen. The former champ’s’ crew has already come under enough fire from numerous outlets, so I’ll leave them be for the time being. What cannot be ignored, however, are the failures of the officials inside and outside of the Octagon. Dean seemingly stopped the fight in the second round by placing his hand on Velasquez’s back following a knockdown by the champion. Dos Santos somehow managed to scurry back to his feet, but fell back without even being hit. The Brazilian had jello legs and was effectively only being held up by the cage wall and Velasquez pressing him against it. Dean’s mishap was minor compared to the cageside doctors failing to call the fight.

Dos Santos had his left eye completely swollen shut. His other eye had a cut above it that caused blood to pour down his face. Re-watch the fight and notice how many times dos Santos wipes away at his face in the final rounds. Clearly it was affecting him. This is what Antonio Margarito looked like when his second fight with Miguel Cotto was stopped. Doesn’t look too different from the face that dos Santos was left with following UFC 166. It became clearer as the minutes ticked by that dos Santos had nothing left in the gas tank and was simply running on fumes. The beating he took from Velasquez in the later rounds shouldn’t have happened, and the fact the doctors checked him out between rounds and failed to notice the fight should’ve been over is borderline dangerous.

Oh, and there are also the interesting tidbits provided by Jeremy Botter about the conduct of the athletic commission. There were members of the commission who were completely intoxicated following the fights, the friends/family members invited to show up to the fights who proceeded to get drunk while being affiliated with the athletic commission and there was the doctor hanging out with dos Santos prior to the event.

MMA proponents love to argue that MMA is safer than boxing. In many ways, we know that’s not entirely true. After all, how can anything that involves serious head trauma be considered safe? But fans could always point to certain safety precautions. They could point to how stoppages prevent fighters from taking unnecessary beatings. They could point to the lack of standing eight counts. Now, though, they’re losing those talking points.

If officials continue to mess up in the manner that the Texas commission did at UFC 166, then how can we as fans legitimately claim MMA to be the safer sport? As a fan caught up in the moment, I was of course loving the back-and-forth action between Melendez and Sanchez. But some reflection on the long-term repercussions would cause even those with strong stomachs to glance away. Sometimes, fighters (and their coaches) are too tough and too full of pride for their own good. It’s up to the people put in a position to protect the fighters from themselves to step in at that point. It’s time for those people to do their jobs.

Photo: Cain Velasquez (L) battles Junior dos Santos (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.