Yoel Romero appeared to catch an extended break prior to round three. | Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa/UFC/Getty
Yoel Romero’s victory at UFC 178 was not without controversy.
Seemingly on the verge of defeat at the end of the second round following a volley of power punches from Tim Kennedy, the Cuban middleweight was the beneficiary of more than the allotted one minute a fighter usually gets between rounds.
The extra recovery time – 28 seconds, according to UFC President Dana White -- appeared to work wonders for Romero, as he floored Kennedy twice before finishing the Strikeforce veteran with a barrage of punches on the canvas to earn the stoppage 58 seconds into the final frame.
Exactly who was to blame for allowing a woozy Romero to remain on his stool for an additional 28 seconds? It’s complicated, but White believes that both the UFC and Romero’s corner, American Top Team, were at fault.
“Any of you guys that have followed the sport for a long time, this is the dirtiest trick in the book -- literally the dirtiest trick in the book,” White said. “What you do is you put on way too much Vaseline; you slow everything down; you don’t take the guys out of the corner. Everybody’s seen it happen many, many times.
“It was our guy, the UFC cutman, that put the Vaseline on his eye. So that’s what throws the whole wrinkle in. Then you have a language barrier. But I saw the guys from the commission, he was screaming, ‘Get the hell out of there.’ I don’t care what language you speak, you know what get the hell out of here means. You know what time you’re supposed to be out of the Octagon; you know how much time you had. To be fair to him and his cornermen, it was our guy who globbed all that Vaseline on his eye. Really weird situation; extremely controversial.”
That drastic turn of events could have had an effect on Kennedy’s momentum heading into the third round. In a matter of minutes, the Jackson-Wink MMA product went from thinking he was the winner of the fight to being hammered by his heavy-handed foe.
“We think we won, you get back in there and you’re kind of disjointed,” Greg Jackson, Kennedy’s trainer, said. “You’re like, ‘I won, I won. Oh wait, I have to fight still.’ It was a close fight where it was a back-and-forth battle and that does affect things.”
White acknowledged that while the UFC cutman applied the Vaseline to Romero, it was American Top Team’s responsibility to get the stool out of the Octagon.
“If you’re a cornerman, you’re supposed to be well-versed in what goes on, how much time you have left with the guy. Somebody takes the stool out, the other guys got the water and all the stuff,” White said. “The athletic commissioner was screaming at him to get that stuff out of there. You can’t pick up the stool if the guy is still sitting on it. Who’s gonna pick up the stool if the guy is still sitting on the stool?
“Absolutely (the stool is the corner’s responsibility). Who else would it be the responsibliy of: the referee? It’s the cornerman.”
Striking coach Brandon Gibson, who was also in Kennedy’s corner on Saturday night, initially saw Romero remaining on his stool past the customary one-minute mark as a concession of defeat.
“When I was in the corner going into the third, and I saw Yoel’s entire corner leave, and he was still sitting on his stool – as a corner man I would never leave my fighter if he was still on the stool and didn’t get up,” Gibson said. “I would think that we conceded the fight. As a cornerman I couldn’t leave the cage and leave the stool there.”
In addition to the controversial defeat, Kennedy suffered a fractured left orbital against Romero. It was the 35-year-old’s first loss in four appearances under the UFC banner. Shortly after their bout, the two middleweights had a heated exchange backstage.
“Yoel was just trying to apologize. I was wiping the blood off Tim, and Tim was just yelling at him, ‘You didn’t answer the bell.’ He just kept apologizing,” Gibson said.
NAC 467.728 If a combatant fails or refuses to resume competing when the bell sounds...the referee shall award a decision of TKO— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) September 28, 2014
It is currently unclear if a rematch is on the horizon for Kennedy and Romero. The unusual circumstances involved don’t allow for any easy answers.
“The thing that throws the kink in the whole thing is it was our guy that put the Vaseline on,” White said. “There was nobody trying to take advantage. They called his guy back in to wipe the Vaseline off; he didn’t understand what they were saying. It’s very unfortunate, and it’s an odd thing that absolutely never happens.
“Who knows? I’ll have to see how [Romero] feels. I’m sure Kennedy wants a rematch, but you can’t take anything away from the guys. It was an awesome fight.”