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The UFC debut of two Strikeforce light heavyweights was spoiled by a odd ending. Ovince St-Preux beat Gian Villante in a majority technical decision after the fight was stopped because of a poke to the eye.
After a back-and-forth, but not entirely thrilling bout, St-Preux threw a punch and accidentally poked Villante in the eye. Villante stepped back and crouched down, indicating to referee Kevin Mulhall that there was a problem with the eye. Mulhall asked Villante if he could see, and Villante said no, he couldn't see.
At that point, Mulhall waved his arms and the fight was stopped. Villante protested, but the fight was over. Because the round had started, it had to be judged. The scores were 30-28, 29-28 and 29-29 in St-Preux's favor.
“I couldn’t see. He did poke me in the eye so I don’t know," Villante said after the fight. "He said the fight was over and I didn’t expect that because I was just reacting to his question. I got poked and my eye was closed up so I thought he would stop it but he didn’t, he just kind of looked at me. I don’t understand how you score thirty seconds of a round and that’s how I lost? We were just getting going and I got poked in the eye. I don’t know what to say.”
Mulhall's stoppage adhered to the eyepoke rule, if not literally, then in spirit. When a fighter says he can't see, the fight is stopped. However, Mulhall could have used better communication and followed procedures. It would have been better if he explained to Villante that he didn't have time to recover and that the fight would be stopped if he said he couldn't see.
UFC 159's weird streak continued in the very next bout. Rustam Khabilov and Yancy Medeiros' fight was stopped halfway through the first round. Medeiros defended a Khabilov takedown attempt, but hit his hand awkwardly. His thumb ended up pointing a way thumbs are not supposed to point and the bout was stopped at 2:32 of the first round.
Two weird endings marred the preliminary card, but the UFC rarely lets a weird ending go. Quite often, these fights get a rematch, so don't be shocked if you see these fights happen again on a card this summer.
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