Herb Dean Defends Controversial Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler Stoppage

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Longtime mixed martial arts (MMA) referee Herb Dean came under fire last month for his stoppage of Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler at UFC 235.

After initially acknowledging that the fight was prematurely stopped, Dean is now defending his decision to stop the action. Speaking on “The Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show” recently, Dean explained why he made the decision to stop the fight (via Bloody Elbow):

“When I see some chokes, a rear-naked choke, especially with the guy on the back face up, I take a sigh of relief,” Dean said. “My job just got so much easier. It’s not like he’s gonna go out and in a second, take some extreme amount of damage.

“He may go out, I’ll have a second to make sure – not even a second – a half a breath, to make sure he’s OK. And then let it go out and he’s not gonna take any other damage. A bulldog choke – anytime you have a choke where there’s pressure on the neck and to see the spine backwards like that, that’s a rough situation for me.”

Precarious Position

Dean continued that he couldn’t know for sure that a fighter was holding their own neck up. In that case, he believes he should do what he did, and that’s stop the fight.

“So I see someone go limp, and I know that on top of it, they’re no longer putting tension on their neck, and their neck is just being bent, I can’t see that I should do something different than that. With that same situation with the arm going limp with that type of a choke on someone, I would think the arm should be doing something else. At this time, I don’t think that I should do something different.”

Lawler looked like he was going to run away with a quick first-round knockout win. However, Askren was able to regain his composure and get a dominant position on the ground. After he locked in the bulldog choke, Dean called the fight off.

However, once the fight was over, Lawler shot up to his feet and began to protest the finish. Everyone watching thought Lawler had gone unconscious due to his arm going limp. Yet that didn’t turn out to be the case.

A rematch was discussed, namely by Dana White. Ultimately, the UFC decided to grant Askren his wish to fight Jorge Masvidal instead.