The odds that Vyacheslav Kiselev is back as a referee for a UFC bout any time soon likely are pretty slim.
Kiselev was the third man in the cage for Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos’ (23-7 MMA, 9-3 UFC) unanimous decision win over promotional newcomer Benoit Saint-Denis (8-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) at UFC 267 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi. Dos Santos won the fight with a trio of 29-26 scores and was dominant.
But the story of the fight was not how dominant dos Santos was. It was not how much heart Saint-Denis had. It was Kiselev’s officiating – or perhaps, arguably, his lack of officiating.
In the second round, a little more than two minutes in, dos Santos wobbbled Saint-Denis with a big right hand. With the Frenchman backed to the fence, dos Santos landed punches and bunches, then knees on the canvas and more punches. Somehow, Saint-Denis got back to his feet and the punishment continued.
With about two minutes left in the round, Saint-Denis started to retreat with his head turned away from dos Santos – and the Brazilian even looked at Kiselev and gestured with his hands, as if to ask, “When are you going to stop this?”
Analysts Daniel Cormier and Paul Felder literally yelled from their cageside broadcast table for the Kiselev to stop the fight in a rare moment of outside interjection, and Cormier reported that longtime referee Marc Goddard was looking on from cageside with a befuddled look on his face wondering why the fight wasn’t stopped.
How's he still standing?! 😳
— UFC (@ufc) October 30, 2021
But because Saint-Denis kept throwing a few punches, maybe one for every 20 dos Santos landed, the fight continued. And miraculously, Saint-Denis, who was bleeding all over the face, stayed in the fight.
In between the second and third rounds, Cormier said he hoped Saint-Denis’ corner would stop the fight. But his corner’s advice to him was “You’ve got to stop getting hit.”
Saint-Denis came out for the third round after what was an obvious 10-8 second frame. But the madness of odd officiating wasn’t over yet.
A little more than 30 seconds into the final round, Saint-Denis took an accidental poke in the eye and appealed to Kiselev for a time out. Kiselev stopped the fight – and Felder chimed in that “he stops it for some things, huh?”
Play-by-play voice Jon Anik reported that Saint-Denis said he couldn’t see out of his left eye. Kiselev checked on him after 45 seconds – without bringing a doctor into the cage – and even though Saint-Denis signaled to him that he couldn’t see out of his eye, the fight was restarted.
With 51 seconds left, dos Santos landed a low knee – and Kiselev stopped the fight so Saint-Denis could recover. But even though Kiselev didn’t stop the fight for all the damage Saint-Denis took in the second round, and even though it was the first low blow of the fight, Kiselev took a point from dos Santos without warning.
Kiselev was scheduled to officiate the Magomed Ankalaev vs. Volkan Oezdemir fight that opens the UFC 267 main card, but it was reported by UFC broadcast partner ESPN that he was pulled from that assignment after his performance in the dos Santos vs. Saint-Denis bout.