Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009 | 1:52 a.m.
When referee Steve Mazzagatti waived his arms signaling that Matt Hamill was in no shape to continue fighting, Jon Jones figured he had just sealed up consecutive win No. 10 at The Pearl at The Palms on Saturday.
He celebrated by doing a cartwheel in the Octagon and invited his teammates into the cage to pose for photos.
While Jones was busy celebrating his undefeated record, however, Mazzagatti was utilizing the first instant replay option ever in Nevada to see if Jones needed to be disqualified for illegal blows he threw that helped end the fight.
“There was a deep, jagged cut on the bridge of (Hamill’s) nose,” said Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. “Steve stopped the fight initially to take a point away and then realized Hamill couldn’t continue.
“He then came over to see the instant replay and saw that there was damage done by the illegal blows. If there is any contributing effect of illegal blows it is a disqualification.”
The illegal blows came when Jones threw a direct, downward elbow to Hamill’s face from the full-mount position in the first round of their light heavyweight fight.
Although Jones (9-1) was clearly winning the fight before the illegal blows, Mazzagatti determined through the replay that the illegal blows contributed to Hamill’s (8-2) inability to continue in the fight.
The NSAC voted in August in favor of implementing the replay rule to assist referees in these situations.
Jones, who accepted the decision despite appearing visibly disappointed, said he felt that the situation could have been avoided had Mazzagatti called the fight prior to the illegal blows.
“I’m not positive on the rules, but I think after 14 or 15 unanswered punches the fight should be stopped,” Jones said. “In so many interviews I said I had a lot of respect for (Hamill) because he’s an inspiration and it felt awkward to keep hitting him like that.
“I looked up at him and was like, ‘Let’s stop this.’ But what are you going to do?”
Mazzagatti has become an easy target for officiating miscues throughout the years, specifically for UFC President Dana White, who has often criticized the referee’s knowledge of the sport.
Kizer, however, came to Mazzagatti’s defense Saturday night, stating that although Jones had been winning the fight, the illegal blows contributed to the TKO and that, by the book, there was only one thing to do.
“If you look at the end, there is a lot of nice blocking by Mr. Hamill,” Kizer said. “At the end of the day, the illegal elbows were what cut him up, and the only call you can make is a disqualification.”
Use of the instant replay was brought in specifically to assist referees with illegal blows that end boxing and MMA matches, such as head butts or eye pokes.
The decision to disqualify Jones and stop the fight can only be made by the acting referee.
Immediately following the announcement that he had been disqualified, Jones paced around the Octagon telling certain people outside that “this one really hurts.”
By the time he reached the post-fight press conference, however, the 22-year-old seemed determined to put a positive spin on the unfortunate circumstances.
“I try to look at everything in life for the best, and now I don’t’ have to go out and worry about being undefeated anymore,” Jones said. “Everything happens for a reason.”
Kizer said it was clear Jones had not acted inappropriately and would not face any discipline from the NSAC.
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.