It may have been unfortunate, but there was no problem with referee Herb Dean’s decision to end the Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler fight at UFC 235, Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett has explained.
Askren survived some early adversity in the first round of his UFC debut at UFC 235 before eventually locking Lawler in a bulldog choke. After a few seconds, Lawler’s arm appeared to go limp, suggesting that he was unconscious. This action prompted Dean to step in and end the contest. Lawler – entirely conscious – immediately rose to his feet and criticized Dean for stopping the fight.
The controversial finish came at the end of a wild three minutes of action. After Askren shot in for a single-leg takedown early in the round, Lawler managed to lift and slam Askren head-first into the mat. After the impact, Lawler trapped Askren’s arm and used his free hand to land several unanswered punches to Askren’s head.
Speaking at the UFC 235 post-fight press conference, Bennett explained that this moment was deemed a ‘borderline stoppage.’
“According to referee Herb Dean, who is a world-class referee, it was a borderline stoppage.”
“Robbie was doing significant damage, and he thought that Askren was fighting just enough back so that he didn’t have to stop that fight.”
No problems with UFC 235 stoppage
But there was nothing borderline about the way the fight came to an end at UFC 235, Bennett explained.
“You could see right in front of us that when Herb picked up his hand [Lawler’s] that his hand just dropped,” Bennett stated.
“It just dropped, which could be indicative of him being out. And then he went ahead and grabbed his hand again, and it came up a little, and it moved ever so slightly. There was no doubt in our mind that he was out.”
“Robbie is a phenomenal warrior. He’s been in the business quite some time. He was clearly out.”
“I can tell you right now, as the executive director and on behalf of the commission, none of us had a problem with that.”
Lawler expressed his disappointment to Dean at the time of the stoppage but quickly transitioned from expressing his anger to showing respect and professionalism inside the cage. The way Lawler handled the unfortunate ending to his welterweight bout gained praise from the commission and fans around the world.
“Kudos to Robbie because he was the consummate professional and talked to Herb afterward and came to whatever understanding they did, and congratulated the opponent and that was the end of the fight.”
Another point of discussion following Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler at UFC 235 was that the commission could have used instant replay to decide if the stoppage was warranted.
When asked about the use of instant replay, Bennett shared that it wasn’t required during the welterweight bout.
“In that particular instance, no, we didn’t need instant replay.”
“Herb didn’t ask for it, nor did I think we needed it because it was right in front of me. When you take a look at his arm, it was like a no-brainer from where we sat.”
“I’m not a ringside physician; I don’t have any medical background, could he have come back shortly after and oxygen come back to the brain; he was out, and then all of a sudden came back, sure? But when you see that arm just drop, it’s just not worth it for us or the fighter.”
“We wish Robbie continued success; it was an unfortunate situation because he was tuning up Ben pretty well.”