The main event of last weekend’s (Sat., May 19, 2018) UFC Fight Night 129 from the Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile, was a rather anticlimactic one.
Rising welterweight contender Kamaru Usman outlasted short-notice replacement Demian Maia in a pedestrian main event following an undercard full of electrifying finishes, but it wasn’t a bout many considered ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’s’ performance.
Still, Usman did completely nullify the decorated grappler’s many takedowns attempted, rendering him unable to get the fight to the mat at an astonishing 0 for 15 rate. With his legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree neutralized, Maia could do little in the form of offense against his younger foe. However, there was a brief moment in the first round when Maia sank one hook in on Usman while they were in the clinch. Working to take his back, Maia methodically plied his craft until referee Leon Roberts restarted the action.
Some viewed it as a questionable call, and that includes former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, who revealed his opinion on the UFC Unfiltered podcast (via MMA Fighting) that Roberts had ‘screwed’ Maia be restarting the fight because he was on his way to potentially securing a submission:
“This is the thing, he had his back,” said Serra. “I was not surprised the way things went after that. You have one shot sometimes in a fight like this, especially because he didn’t have a camp. People do not understand. That’s why I predicted a first-round choke by Demian Maia. He was on his way there.
“They weren’t just holding each other up against the cage. It might have looked like it but Kamaru had an overhook and that overhook was the only thing stopping Demian from taking that back. It was a very awkward position where [Usman] was not getting out of that. The only way he could look to free himself was to let go and expose his back. Otherwise, you’re just stalling. Now, could he keep that up for another minute and 15 seconds or whatever it was? Maybe. If so, alright, let’s see what happens in round two. Or, with thirty seconds left, he could try to scramble and still get strangled.”
Serra chose to focus on the many submission wins Maia has secured over top opponents, blasting Roberts further by insisting he had ‘f***ed’ up:
“Just in the montage before he walks out look at how many times he’s strangled guys – powerful wrestlers like Rick Story, gutty, gritty guys who do not tap easily like Carlos Condit or Matt Brown. This is not a coincidence. So for [Roberts] to take away his one shot, Leon Roberts, you should be ashamed of yourself and I think you possibly could have cost him the fight. Leon, you f**ked up, Leon. You really did.”
We’ll never know if Maia could have taken the fight to his one main area of strength, yet Serra said that was a travesty because the 40-year-old Maia had saved the main event on short notice. He admitted Roberts’ decision was angering him a vast amount after knowing that was Maia’s one chance to possibly stop Usman:
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“Are you getting influenced because you’re maybe hearing some boos in the crowd or something?” said Serra. “Your job is not to make this s**t entertaining. It’s one thing if a guy is stalling.
“I get worked up because Demian Maia took that fight like a f**king warrior and he saved that card and he had his position, he had what he wanted. He was this close! We don’t know what would have happened!
“I am so livid! I’m livid over this ref!. This was his shot and he had him in a position! People can say what they want, that ref screwed him. Maybe he would have rode out the round but you never know. It was such a horrible thing to do to him because he never got that position back.”