Overturning a combat sports bout result is a difficult exercise. Although the criteria can vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction generally successful appeals are limited to cases of proven collusion, scorecard math errors or misapplication of relevant rules. Exercising discretion (even if other officials may have exercised their discretion differently) rarely gives rise to a successful appeal. This was demonstrated in the recent dismissal of an appeal with UFC fighter Ion Cutelaba.
Cutelaba was handed a TKO loss in his bout with Magomed Ankalaev at UFC Norfolk earlier this year. In the bout Cutelaba appeared stunned by strikes and referee Kevin MacDonald stopped the bout just 38 seconds into the first round. Cutelaba appeared unhurt after MacDonald stopped the bout and protested. He filed an official appeal with Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. Cutelaba argued he was simply playing possum at the time of the stoppage and was not actually hurt. While this very well may have been the case the regulator dismissed the appeal noting MacDonald stopped the bout properly within his discretion applying the rules in play at the time. As first reported by MMAFighting.com below are the full reasons from the regulator:
In response to your request for review, Regulation 18 VAC 120-40-411.14 states, in relevant part:
C. The department shall not change a decision rendered at the end of any contest unless:
3. The department determines through investigation there was a violation of this chapter that adversely impacted on the fairness of the contest or decision.
Therefore, absent evidence of a regulatory violation, the technical knockout (TKO) decision resulting from referee Kevin MacDonald’s stoppage of the February 29, 2020, bout between Ion Cutelaba and Magomed Ankalaev must stand.
I have reviewed the materials in this matter and the regulation applicable to your request. Section 18 VAC 120-40-190 enumerates the duties each assigned referee must perform, including the obligation to:
4. Immediately stop any contest when, in his judgment, one of the boxers or martial artists is outclassed by the other, injured, or otherwise unable to safely continue to participate in the contest;
10. Assure the health and well-being of the boxers and martial artists to the greatest extent possible.
There is no evidence to substantiate a claim that Referee MacDonald made his in-the-moment decisions based on any factor other than his best judgment to avoid injury to the participants. I find the account given by the referee, who has the authority and responsibility to stop a contest when he believes a participant is injured, to be credible. Whether video replay or popular opinion or hindsight makes one second guess a decision later is not at issue.
I do not find evidence of any regulatory violation. Accordingly, the TKO decision remains.