Herb Dean’s decision to halt the UFC 264 fight between Sean O'Malley and Kris Moutinho at the 4:33 mark of Round 3 was controversial, but not because Moutinho’s safety was at risk.
In the moment, the veteran official’s ruling was not popular because Moutinho appeared to be reasonably coherent— albeit in an increasingly lopsided bout. One person who believes Dean made the right call is UFC president Dana White.
“I think it could have been stopped three minutes before that,” White said at the UFC 264 post-fight press conference. “He could have stopped in the second round. That fight could have and should have been stopped at any moment. I have no problem with that stoppage.”
When all was said and done, O’Malley set UFC bantamweight records for most significant strikes landed in a single fight (230), in a round (83) and significant striking differential (+160). Moutinho, a short-notice replacement for Louis Smolka, deserves plenty of credit for remaining in the fight as long as he did.
“We all know O’Malley hits like a truck,” White said. “That kid has one-punch knockout power and he hit this kid with everything he had. Kicks, punches. He couldn’t stop him. I thought he held his composure really well.”
While O’Malley did his best to put Moutinho away, he also recognizes the value of an extended performance like the one he gave on Saturday night.
“I didn’t think he’d be that tough, honestly — 11 days notice. It was insane how many shots he could take,” O’Malley said. “He said, ‘You’re tired,’ and I said, ‘Hell yeah, I’m tired.’ I just kept hitting him in the face. You can say whatever you want, I’m still beating you.
“I think if I had put his lights out right away it wouldn’t have been the same statement. I really want to go back and re-watch it, so then I know what I’m talking about.”
O’Malley and Moutinho received “Fight of the Night” honors and $75,000 apiece for their efforts. Moutinho likely also earned another chance to prove himself in the Octagon after a career spent primarily under the CES MMA banner.
“That could have been stopped a round earlier,” White reiterated. “That guy took some serious punishment. We sent him right to the hospital, no stopping, no talking, no nothing. Right to the hospital.”