Not surprisingly, there was a fair amount of controversy surrounding Rousimar Palhares’ first round heel hook submission of former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) welterweight champion Steve Carl at last Saturday’s WSOF 9 in Las Vegas.

In watching referee Yves Lavigne pry Palhares’ hands off of a screaming Carl, many thought that “Toquinho” had cranked yet another damaging leglock on an opponent who had already tapped.

But, there were many others who thought that Palhares won fair and square. Carl, WSOF Executive Vice President Ali Abdel-Aziz, and WSOF President Ray Sefo were among the people in support of “Toquinho’s” win.

Sefo said that anyone who thought Palhares held onto long was “crazy,” and Abdel Aziz appeared on today’s “The MMA Hour” just moments ago to discuss his and Carl’s feelings about Saturday’s main event finish:

“I sat down with him (Carl), and I asked him, 'Do you think he held too long?' And he said, 'Honestly, the damage happened way before I tapped.' And he was limping a little bit walking, you know, but people have to understand, when you put an inverted heel hook on somebody, people in training, they don’t go for it and just let go. I think he did not hold long at all because when you’re back in the dressing room, the refs say, 'Do not let go without me telling you to let go.'"

That may be in fact be the case, but host Ariel Helwani pointed out that Lavigne had to come in and pull on Palhares’ arm twice to get “Toquinho” to release the hold. Abdel-Aziz responded that Lavigne did the right thing in a quickly unfolding scenario that took less than a second:

“I really, really think he’s (referee Lavigne) legit. He went and he pulled him off. Steve Carl tapped. If somebody taps, I’m not going to let go, have the ref pull them off. That’s what he did.”

Palhares did release the hold much sooner than he did against Mike Pierce at last October’s UFC Fight Night 29, but that doesn’t mean he released the hold immediately. Abdel-Aziz may believe the right thing to do is to not release a submission when an opponent taps, but when the referee intervenes.

However, that strategy will get Palhares banned from every MMA promotion in the world if he continues to abide by it.

Regardless, Abdel-Aziz was adamant that Carl did not dispute the maneuver and everyone should just leave Palhares alone and respect him as a legitimate titleholder:

“Honestly, everybody just needs to shut the hell up and leave him alone and embrace him as a champion. He went though a lot already, and he had some problems in the past. People are always going to wait for him to make a mistake. Steve Carl had no problem with it; Steve Carl is a man.

Rousimar Palhares is a true champion. He’s a bad match-up for anyone in the world right now. I can rank him in the Top 3 right now. He’s so dominant; he does one thing so well.”

Palhares may be a bad match-up for most welterweights in the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that “Toquinho” received a suspension following his last two UFC fights, not to mention a lifetime ban.

That stigma will follow Palhares around until the day he retires whether he (or Abdel-Aziz) likes it or not. Should we leave Palhares alone as the WSOF Executive Vice President has called for, or does the polarizing mat wizard deserve all of the bad press he gets?

Photo: Jason Silva for USA TODAY Sports