Let’s Talk Daniel Cormier Eye Poke, Missed Calls and Nevada’s Instant Replay Rule

A few years back Nevada overhauled their combat sports rules to allow instant replay when fights concluded following injury to determine if the injury was caused by a fair blow or a foul.  More recently Nevada expanded their ability to use instant replay “at any time” to increase the ability of referees to get things right.  Let’s apply this to the recent Daniel Cormier situation.

Last night at UFC 252 Daniel Cormier was on the wrong end of a significant eye poke.  It occurred during the third round of the five round title fight.  Referee Marc Goddard missed the poke believing a legal blow landed.   Mistakes happen and Goddard, to his credit, fell on his sword and acknowledged his mistake tweeting as follows after the bout:

I practice what I preach and as a man I stand tall and head on. If you accept plaudits then you must with mistakes too, that’s proof that you are listening, honest and implore improvement. Rough with the smooth, acceptance and ownership. Immediately after the fight when seeing the replay I apologized to Daniel and his team and I do so publicly and unreservedly for missing what I shouldn’t have – but I cannot call what I do not see. I don’t have replays and multiple angles, it’s a one shot take in real time. I cannot convey just how much I have both lived and loved this sport for the past 20 years. I truly appreciate all who understand.”

The poke apparently caused Cormier to suffer a torn cornea. Cormier noted the injury left him unable to see out of the eye for the duration of the bout, normally a bout ending admission.

So what could have happened?

When Goddard missed the call in real time he could have been encouraged to immediately view instant replay to get it right.  Under NAC 467.682(5)  ”The referee may, at any time during a contest or exhibition, call a time-out to consult with officials of the Commission or to view replay footage“.

If this occurred it would have been apparent immediately that a foul occurred.  Presumably it would have been deemed an accidental foul.  With Cormier admitting he could not see due to the foul the bout likely would have been stopped.  From there NAC 467.7966 governs noting that

If a contest or exhibition of mixed martial arts is stopped because of an accidental foul, the referee shall determine whether the unarmed combatant who has been fouled can continue or not…If the referee determines that a contest or exhibition of mixed martial arts may not continue because of an injury suffered as the result of an accidental foul, the contest or exhibition must be declared a no decision if the foul occurs during…The first three rounds of a contest or exhibition that is scheduled for more than three rounds.”

If Goddard used the instant replay powers in real time the bout likely would have been declared a ‘no decision’.

So can the bout result now be overturned?  Likely not.  Once the real time decision is made Nevada, like most jurisdictions, has extremely limited appeal rights.  Specifically NAC 467.770 only allows an appeal if there is collusion, a mathematical scoring error or “As the result of an error in interpreting a provision of this chapter, the referee has rendered an incorrect decision.”.  Even though Goddard made a mistake and admitted to it that likely does not trigger any of these grounds.  A mistake was made.  Discretion was not used in the moment to review replay.

Fighters (and their corners) should be familiar with the nuances of these rules when competing.  When mistakes are made referees can be petitioned to immediately right the wrong.  The Nevada rules are flexible in allowing a referee to correct a mistake before a bout is officially over.  Rights are far more limited after that.


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