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A number of factors—most notably an officiating error by referee Chris Tognoni—conspired against Mike Rodriguez and resulted in Sherdog’s 2020 “Robbery of the Year” at UFC Fight Night 177 on Sept. 12. There, Ed Herman made the most of Tognoni’s misstep and rallied to submit Rodriguez with a kimura in the third round of their light heavyweight showcase at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. One of the promotion’s longest-tenured competitors, Herman drew it to a close 4:01 into Round 3.
The situation went sideways in the second round, where Rodriguez connected with a series of crushing knee strikes to the body while the two men were engaged along the fence. Herman slumped to the canvas in visible distress. As Rodriguez moved in for a likely finish, Tognoni interjected himself into festivities and paused the match for what he perceived to be an inadvertent low blow. Replays clearly showed there was no foul, but Herman used the unwarranted respite to recover from what appeared to be certain defeat.
Even with the reprieve, Herman’s circumstances did not immediately improve. Rodriguez again hurt “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 finalist with body blows once the second round was restarted and rang his bell with elbows to the side of the head while defending a takedown in the third. Nevertheless, the grounded Herman drew upon his considerable gumption and guile and managed to survive. He framed the kimura, swept into top position and stepped over Rodriguez’s head to maximize torque. Once there, the Lauzon MMA rep had no choice but to tap, defeat having been snatched from the jaws of victory.
Afterward, UFC President Dana White invoked the name of former referee Steve Mazzagatti when discussing Tognoni’s blunder.
“It’s hard not to bang on this guy,” White said. “The worst I’ve ever seen. He’s f------ Mazzagatti-level. That’s some Mazzagatti-level s--- right there. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. That kid wins by knockout, technical knockout, and loses the fight.”
White went on to call for current rules to be re-examined.
“I was all over them tonight about the replay,” White said. “We have to have a replay. There’s got to be a replay. All you’ve got to do is look at the f------ replay that is playing 6,000 times while Herman is on the ground and say, ‘Oh s---, I made a mistake.’ You can’t see everything. We’re human, and that’s a tough one. How you think that is a groin kick is next-level nuts, but whatever. It happens. What are you going to do about it? It happened.”
Indeed, the Herman-Rodriguez incident was one of the vehicles that brought about changes to the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s use of instant replay. The commission now allows for a referee to restart a fight at any point even when utilizing replay, where in the past such usage resulted in the end of the match. The decision offers little solace to Rodriguez, who remains saddled with a costly loss.