As Junior dos Santos dropped Shane Carwin in the final moments of the first round and proceeded to batter his turtled-up foe at UFC 131 on Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Herb Dean, as always, was right where a referee should be: in position, with an eagle eye on the defensive fighter. Dean’s presence is always reassuring, because he never panics and understands the difference between a defensive fighter and a helpless one.
With Carwin trapped against the cage on all fours, guarding the side of his face with an extended hand and nowhere to go, Dos Santos banged away. It was easily the kind of fight where a lesser referee could get carried away and jump in. The crowd was going crazy. Even Dos Santos gave Dean a look, as if to ask “Is this enough?” As usual, Dean was unruffled and paid attention to Carwin, who was hurt but in possession of his faculties.
An early stoppage in this situation would not have been the worst one the sport has seen, and Dos Santos’ effectiveness in the bout, along with Carwin’s bloody mask, would certainly supply some post-fight credence for waving it off. However, Dean gave Carwin a chance to continue and soldier through a three-round bout where he was able to show a lot of heart and conditioning.
Refereeing is always something I worry about when the UFC is outside of Las Vegas and, in some cases, California; thankfully, Vancouver knows to let the best refs work the big fights on the card while giving its local guys experience at the same time.
It is a fruitless exercise to argue about the best ref in the game, and every ref is going to have a bad fight, maybe even a bad night. The numbers make it inevitable, but no one can argue that there is anyone better than Dean.