On Saturday night, Junior Dos Santos demonstrated incredible gameness, conditioning and strength of will in a fight while also being beaten to a pulp. That was the second time it’s happened to Dos Santos in the last year.
Cain Velasquez battered Dos Santos for five straight rounds last December, taking his UFC heavyweight title in the process.
At UFC 166 on Saturday, Cain did it again. The champion blasted dos Santos for nearly five full rounds but the bout should have been stopped in the third.
Cain dropped Dos Santos in the third round and continued the onslaught as referee Herb Dean watched on closely. Dos Santos lay prone on the mat and the fight appeared to be over.
Moments later, the tough Braziian got back up. Even then, however, Dos Santos appeared to be “out on his feet.” His brain had rattled around in his skull but he was too tough and well-conditioned to actually go unconscious.
"I wanted to throw in the towel," UFC president Dana White told reporters after the event, remembering how he felt watching Velasquez bludgeon Dos Santos.
"I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but I'm a believer. I always like to say that if anybody in his [expletive] corner cares about him, please, throw in that towel. I thought the fight was done in the third round. Is Junior dos Santos tough enough and does he have the heart to go through it? Yeah, but does that mean he should?” White went on.
“If you look at the fight, it ended in the fifth. That guy took seven, eight minutes more punishment that he didn't need to take until it ended. That seven or eight minutes, I don't know man. I just, I don't like it.
"There's no need for a young, talented guy to take that kind of punishment when he's out on his feet," White said. "I was kinda hoping somebody was going to throw the towel in or the ref would come stop it, or the doctor was going to stop it…If you watch that third round again when he's getting hit, his arms are [out]. He's not defending himself, he doesn't have his hands up. He's out."
White can be called a lot of things but squeamish isn’t one of them. He’s also dead-on about Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III being allowed to go on too long.
Herb Dean did not stop the fight in the third. At one point, Dean looked like he wanted to.
In a bizarre moment, Dean appeared to tap Velasquez on his right shoulder as the champ pressed Dos Santos against the cage and hit him. There’s no telling what the shoulder tap was supposed to communicate to Velasquez and no reason to believe he even felt it while fighting.
When it is time to stop a fight, like it was in the third round of the UFC 166 main event, referees throw their whole body into the fray in order to let the fighters know it is over. Herb Dean has done that countless times before.
Dean has, in fact, likely saved the careers of a number of fighters with his excellent refereeing. On Saturday night, however, he made two big mistakes.
The first was not stopping the fight in the third round and letting Dos Santos take un-needed damage. The second mistake was in being indecisive when he apparently was considering stopping it.
Dos Santos, with his punching power and conditioning is always a threat as long as he’s breathing in a fight. But that doesn’t mean that his corner, the ring side doctors and the referee should allow him to take damage that will undoubtedly color his health in the years to come.
Prodding Dos Santos on when they should be protecting him by refusing to let him out of his corner was not good enough from the former champ’s coaches. Asking Dos Santos to perform an instant self-health evaluation with a simple “are you ok?” was not good enough from the attending physician. And, letting Velasquez pound on Dos Santos for extra rounds as “Cigano” mounted no defense or offense just because he’s tough enough to take it was not good enough from the referee last night.
Of course, Dean did ultimately stop Velasquez and Dos Santos. With Dos Santos once again prone on the mat, face down, and having just eaten another punch to his ear from Velasquez, Dean stepped in with certainty in the fifth round.