Benoit St. Denis’ Coach Defends Decision Not to Throw in Towel at UFC 267
While Vyacheslav Kiselev has taken the majority of the blame for the amount of punishment Benoit St. Denis endured at UFC 267, the French welterweight’s corner has come under scrutiny as well.
St. Denis was on the wrong side of a lopsided second round in his preliminary matchup with Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, and the Octagon newcomer appeared to be on the verge of being stopped on multiple occasions. The UFC commentary team criticized Kiselev for not stepping in to halt the bout, as did a large portion of the MMA community on social media. However, St. Denis survived the second round and ultimately made it to the final horn – even after informing Kiselev he couldn’t see out of one eye due to an eye poke later in the bout.
Kiselev, who was scheduled to officiate the light heavyweight clash between Magomed Ankalaev and Volkan Oezdemir on the main card, was pulled from that assignment. Meanwhile, St. Denis’ coach, Daniel Woirin defended his decision not to throw in the towel after the second round in an interview with BoxeMag.
"Never in my life would I have thrown in the towel! The referee, sure he could have stopped it at some point, I thought he was going to stop it but he didn't,” Woirin said (h/t MMAFighting.com). “Benoit has been able to pull himself together over several stages. He took a lot of punches but he was able to pull himself together, which allowed him to survive.”
Woirin said his judgment was backed by St. Denis himself after the bout.
This is the fight, the fight is hard, ... people are too sensitive. Benoit is a warrior, in his first UFC fight he's going to lose before the limit? That's not possible,” Woirin continued. “We talked about it after the fight and he told me I was right not to throw in the towel. But it didn't even pass a second in my head anyway, not even a second, and you can see he got back into the fight. He had a great fight. The guy he [fought] is a Top 12 [fighter], the guy has 30 fights, 14 knockouts. Benoit had a great fight, I'm really happy.”
While Woirin questioned Kiselev’s decision not to have a cageside physician examine St. Denis following the eye poke, he accepted the official’s judgment in allowing his fighter to continue during the brutal second round. He admitted that other referees would have likely halted the contest during dos Santos’ onslaught.
“The fact that he didn't stop him ultimately made the fight even more interesting, as Benoit picked up the pace…. It was amazing, even I was amazed you know,” Woirin said.
"But yes, another referee would have stopped him. The referee made mistakes like finger in the eye, he didn't call the doctor, that's odd. But hey, there are referees like that, there are referees who stop the fight too quickly. But hey, it is true that he was a little [extreme] in his way of [officiating]. Besides, he was [removed from his other assignment].”
There is some truth to Woirin’s claim. After being outlanded 94 to 28 in significant strikes in Round 2, St. Denis was significantly more competitive in the final stanza, as dos Santos only held a 25-to-20 edge over the final five minutes. A veteran of the Brave Combat Federation, St. Denis entered his promotional debut unbeaten in his first nine professional outings. Woirin stated in the interview that St. Denis would prefer to compete at 155 pounds in the UFC going forward.
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