Did you happen to catch Saturday afternoon’s UFC on ESPN 5 card?
If you did, you watched a Light Heavyweight fight between Darko Stosic and Kennedy Nzechukwu to begin the main card portion of the show.
Although it was the first main card fight of the afternoon from Newark, NJ’s Prudential Center, it was also the day’s most controversial contest.
The fight began with a dominant performance by Stosic in the first round.
Heading into round two of the three-round contest, he was besting Nzechukwu in total strikes landed by a 10-to-1 margin at 30-3.
Then the trouble began for Stosic.
Just a few seconds into the round, match referee Gary Copeland called time due to Stosic landing an inadvertent groin strike to Nzechukwu.
At the time, Copeland issued a warning to Darko Stosic that any further illegal blows would result in a point deduction on the judges’ scorecards in the event that the fight progressed to a decision.
Later that same round, Stosic landed a second groin strike to his opponent, resulting in the first point deduction of the contest.
In round three, Stosic connected on yet another illegal blow, and again Gary Copeland deducted a point from the scorecard.
With time called after the third groin strike, Copeland asked Nzechukwu if he would be able to see the match out, and if not, he was to be declared its winner via disqualification.
Nzechukwu, who was seen on the telecast crawling back to his corner in the wake of the final illegal blow, continued with the match and won on the scorecards by unanimous decision (28-27, 29-26, 29-26).
The illegal groin strikes cost Darko Stosic the match on Saturday afternoon.
This tweet from the Armchair MMA Twitter account says it all:
Kennedy Nzechukwu gets the unanimous decision win despite only landing 28 total strikes in the match. #UFCNewark continues next with:
Scott Holtzman (12-3) vs. Dong Hyun Ma (16-9-3) [Lightweight].#TakeASeat
— Armchair MMA (@Armchair_MMA) August 3, 2019
In my opinion, Gary Copeland should have called the fight in favor of Kennedy Nzechukwu after the third illegal blow of the fight.
Yes, I understand that the referee has to ask a fighter if they want to continue with a match after an illegal blow, but the fact that Nzechukwu had to crawl his way back to his corner should have been an indicator to stop the match.
The role of a referee in an MMA fight or a boxing match includes the responsibility of working in a contestant’s best interest when it relates to his or her own safety.
Still, you can’t ignore the fact that Stosic landed three separate groin strikes against Nzechukwu.
Bottom line: The third such blow should have triggered a disqualification.
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