It was another night of main event controversy for the UFC in Oklahoma City where an exciting back and forth battle between Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee ended with a bit of a thud when the referee may or may not have kept Chiesa from escaping a deep rear naked choke from Lee. Lee had actually just escaped from a similar choke being attempted by Chiesa before strapping on his own potential fight finishing submission, but instead of waiting for a tap or letting Chiesa go unconscious, referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in and stopped the fight.
Chiesa jumped to his feet to protest the stoppage, proving he hadn’t already passed out as perhaps Yamasaki had believed. But would he have escaped the hold? We have our doubts. And regardless, it’s more the principle of the thing: you have to give fighters every chance to escape, no matter how obviously screwed they may be. Earlier in the night, Justine Kish escaped an equally bad choke (crapping her pants in the process), so let’s not pretend there’s no way it couldn’t happen.
One person who was particularly salty about the finish was UFC president Dana White, who took to his Instagram shortly after the call with this tirade:
Mario Mazzagatti does it again!!! This guy is more concerned with doing this dumb ass heart bullshit then Ref'n the fight!!! 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.
“Mario Mazzagatti does it again!!!” he wrote, implying Yamasaki is his new Steve Mazzagatti (or ‘Worst Ref’ in Dana speak). “This guy is more concerned with doing this dumb ass heart bulls**t then reffing the fight!!! Steals a great moment from Lee or let Mike fight it or tap. Nobody gives a s**t that you can make a heart with your hands like a 12 year old girl they want you to pay attention to what’s going on in the fight and do your job.”
This is the first we’ve heard of Mazzagatti in a while because the UFC took the rare step of telling regional athletic commissions they don’t want him anywhere near their events. And while the UFC doesn’t have a lot of swing regarding who refs what, the request to keep Mazzagatti away has largely been accepted. Could Yamasaki be next on the UFC referee blacklist?