Anthony Smith has offered a thorough critique of UFC 259’s controversial disqualification, and it is mostly targeted at referee Mark Smith.
There is one man who is in a truly unique position when offering a take on the Petr Yan/Aljamain Sterling UFC 259 controversy that no one else can. Only Anthony Smith has been exactly where Aljamain Sterling found himself last Saturday: in a position to become a UFC champion off of a disqualification.
At UFC 235, Jon Jones also landed an illegal knee on a downed Anthony Smith. Had Smith been unable to continue, he could have won the fight via disqualification and been deemed the new light heavyweight champion. Instead, Smith opted to continue in a decision that some have praised as one of the most honorable acts in UFC history.
Anthony Smith is not one to place judgment on Aljamain Sterling for the UFC 259 bantamweight title fight ending the way it did nor is he lobbing accusations of “acting” at him. He is putting the onus on the authority figures who should determine whether or not a fight should continue, namely the referee of the bout, Mark Smith.
“Mark Smith right away just passed the buck right off to the doctor. Here’s your job as a referee — if we’re going to task you with the power and ability to know when someone’s hurt in a legal ending shot and you’re supposed to be trained enough and know enough in this sport to know when that guy’s hurt, that you’re going to stop the fight and you’re going to wave it off and no one says anything, why does the legality of that shot matter?
“That’s my point. The legality of the shot shouldn’t matter. If that knee was legal, he would have stopped that fight right afterwards. Had his knee come up, he would have stopped that fight because Aljo wouldn’t have continued.
“…There’s two people that are paid, that’s their only job, to protect the fighter from himself. Whether that’s getting back up and continue fighting, whether that’s the fighter won’t quit and he’s just going to keep walking forward but he’s losing the fight badly and needs to be stopped. That’s the referee and the doctor. If the commissions are going to pay these doctors to sit cage side and make sure that everybody is watching the fight. Mark Smith, Herb Dean, Jason Herzog, Keith Peterson, all of them know what a fighter looks like when he’s hurt and can’t continue. If they say they can’t, they should get a new f**king job. It’s so frustrating to me.”
Anthony Smith argues that Mark Smith was in the best possible position to judge the impact of the blow absorbed by Sterling and how he was responding to the damage. Based on how badly Sterling seemed to be hurt, Anthony Smith feels that he should not have been expected to fight another 1 ½ round, even if he did say he could continue fighting.
The former light heavyweight title challenger did not want to come across too critical of the official, though, and tempered his criticism of Mark Smith a bit in his closing thoughts on the subject.
“To be fair to Mark Smith, given the state of the sport and where we are in this current situation and this current problem, I think he did an OK job actually,” Smith said. “He could have just been better and been more black and white and said ‘nope, he’s compromised, he doesn’t look like he can continue, we’re going to call this fight.’
“He took a lot longer than he needed to, which aesthetically made Aljo look terrible. But at the end of the day, he got it right and he stopped the fight.”
Do you agree with Anthony Smith’s criticism of referee Mark Smith and his handling of the finish of Yan vs. Sterling?