MONDAY NEWS DIGEST 6/26: Another UFC event, another controversy, as Chiesa vs. Lee ends with disputed finish (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

By Mike Hiscoe, MMATorch contributor

Mario Mazzagatti

Another UFC event, another controversy.

The heated feud between UFC lightweights Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee was supposed to reach a climax Sunday night. Instead, fans in Oklahoma City, and watching at home were left with a disputed finish.

Lee dominated nearly every second of the 4:37 fight. “The Motown Phenom” had Chiesa on the mat and had control of Chiesa’s back. Lee secured a rear-naked choke, a move that was one of Chiesa’s signature finishes. The choke was clearly tight and it looked like there would be no way out for Chiesa, who attempted for several seconds to find an escape from the hold with no success. Just as it looked like Chiesa was going to have to make a choice to either tap out or pass out, referee Mario Yamasaki called a stop to the action, awarding the fight to Lee.

Chiesa immediately began to plead his case that he did not tap, and his behavior made it apparent that he never lost consciousness. It was another controversial ending to an important UFC fight, but this time it appears it was human error and not confusion over new and inconsistently adopted rules.

Chiesa was vehemently critical of Yamasaki following the fight. “Mario Yamasaki should just crawl in a hole and never step inside of any type of professional mixed martial arts event,” Chiesa said on Fox Sports 1’s post-fight show. “He should never officiate ever again. He should spend more time going over the rules than making stupid little heart symbols to the cameras.”

The hand-heart that Yamasaki has made for the camera for years seems to be a sore spot for some as UFC President Dana White referenced it as well in an equally critical Instagram post after the ruling.

“This guy is more concerned with doing this dumb ass heart bullshit then ref’n the fight,” White wrote on Instagram. “Steals a great moment from Lee or let Mike fight it or tap. Nobody gives a shit that u can make a heart with ur hands like a 12 year old girl; they want u to pay attention to what’s going on in the fight and do ur job.”

Yamasaki has not made any public comment on his ruling, but Chiesa did share that he plans to appeal the loss to the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission.

Hiscoe’s Analysis: It’s really too bad that this happened as if Yamasaki had waited for another second or two, Chiesa likely would have tapped or gone unconscious. Watching the fight live and on the replay, it looked as if Chiesa was beginning the motion to tap but Yamasaki had already made the decision to break up the fighters and it was definitely too early. If Yamasaki saw something in Chiesa to indicate he wasn’t conscious or able to defend himself, I would love for him to have an opportunity to explain his reasoning. It’s too bad that referees are able to fade into obscurity without having to explain controversial calls. It leaves the rest of us to try to fill in the pieces and make assumptions about a referee’s competence. A rematch would be fair for Chiesa, but if UFC chooses to go in another direction, that would be okay too. Perhaps most disappointing about this is that Lee’s win is being overshadowed by the controversy as he was dominating the fight and made easy work of a talented and favored fighter in Chiesa.


-Four performance bonuses were awarded last night. They went to Kevin Lee, Tim Boetsch for his knockout of Johny Hendricks, Dominick Reyes for his 29-second TKO of Joachim Christensen, and to Jeremy Kimball who opened the card with a TKO of Josh Stansbury.

-The show drew 7,605 fans for a live gate of $549,302 to the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

-Justine Kish tweeted about an unfortunate escape as she was escaping a tight rear-naked choke from Felice Herrig last night. “I am a warrior, and I will never quit,” she wrote. “Shit Happens, haha be back soon.”

NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: SUNDAY NEWS DIGEST 6/25: Bellator features a mix of legends and up-and-comers with mixed results Saturday night in NYC (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

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