UFC Vegas 42 took place on November 13, 2021, from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV. In the co-main event of the evening, Marcos Rogerio de Lima faced tenured heavyweight Ben Rothwell. Just 32 seconds into the bout, de Lima scored a technical knockout over Rothwell, but it was not without some controversy, thanks to referee Herb Dean.
The odd stoppage occurred when de Lima unloaded a flurry of stiff punches with Rothwell against the cage. Rothwell went down, and Dean appeared to step in, grabbing de Lima by the waist. At the same time, Rothwell shot in for a takedown, and de Lima countered it with a choke. Confused, de Lima looked back at Herb Dean, and at that point, the referee stepped in for the second time, declaring a stoppage.
Watching the fight live, there was confusion as to what Dean was doing. He appeared to step in when Rothwell went down during the flurry by de Lima but appeared to second guess himself when Rothwell changed levels and went for a takedown. Had Dean never touched de Lima, the fight would have likely continued, and there is no telling how things would have played out.
“He’s Got to Pull the Trigger”
Dana White was quick to criticize Dean’s indecisiveness at UFC Vegas 42 in a post-fight press conference. “Herb needs to stop touching guys unless the fight’s over,” White said. “He goes in and grabs him by the waists and decides, oops, maybe I. …The good thing about this was, the fight should have been stopped when he stopped it. You didn’t see Ben jumping up and arguing about it.”
White was not the only one who threw criticism at Dean’s decision-making on Saturday night. Former UFC welterweight contender Dan Hardy posted to Twitter, “This dude is a liability….” Current UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling commented, “That was so bad! SMH! How is the commission still allowing terrible refereeing?”
Despite being one of the most experienced referees in the UFC, Dean has come under scrutiny for his decision-making in recent years. At UFC 257 in January, Dean was the center of attention over his stoppage in a fight between Strawweight contenders Amanda Ribas and Marina Rodriguez. After dropping Ribas, Herb Dean moved in and contacted Rodriguez, leading her to believe Dean was stopping the action, only to be instructed to keep fighting.
“He’s gotta pull the trigger and stop touching guys – don’t touch them unless you’re going to stop the fight,” White said. “When they played it back in slow motion, he’s kind of like, dancing, like he doesn’t know what to do, whether he’s going to jump in or not jump in. I like him personally – he’s a nice guy. But he’s got to stop touching people until he’s ready to stop the fight.”