Michael Chiesa Appeals UFC Fight Night 112 Loss to Kevin Lee, Cites ‘Referee Error’

By: Tristen Critchfield
Jun 29, 2017

Michael Chiesa has filed a formal appeal of his controversial loss to Kevin Lee at UFC Fight Night 112 in Oklahoma City this past Sunday.

Sherdog.com obtained a copy of the appeal from Chiesa’s manager, Daniel Rubenstein, on Thursday. Chiesa is protesting the decision of Mario Yamasaki to wave off the lightweight headliner after Lee secured a rear-naked choke 4:37 into the first round. At the time, Chiesa neither tapped out nor appeared to be rendered unconscious when Yamasaki made his decision.

Chiesa is seeking to have the bout overturned to a no contest due to “referee error.” Oklahoma State Athletic Commission Executive Director Joe Miller confirmed to Sherdog.com that he has received Chiesa’s appeal.

“During the second-half of the first round, my opponent applied what is commonly referred to as a ‘body triangle.’ While in this position, my opponent made multiple attempts to secure a ‘rear naked choke.’ Initially, my opponent utilized a traditional rear naked choke grip. I fought this grip with what is commonly referred to as ‘hand fighting,’ pulling down the top of his hand in an effort to break the grip. My opponent then engaged an entirely different grip - ‘palm to palm.’ Because of the location of the grip, the defense to this form of rear naked choke is entirely different,” Chiesa wrote. “As a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for more than a decade, I engaged my years of experience by (1) relaxing, (2) engaging my core and shoulders to "shrug" to release some pressure and (3) flex my neck muscles. It may not look pretty, but the positioning provides three important benefits (1) allowing increased blood flow and breathing ability, (2) creating space to ‘turn in’ to the opponent, and (3) forcing the opponent to exhaust strength to pursue a finish that may never come.

“I was in this specific position for less than two seconds before Mr. Yamasaki wrongfully ended the contest,” Chiesa continued. “Mr. Yamasaki offered no warnings that he may stop the bout and did not make any effort to check my condition or offer any verbal commands of any kind. As you will see on replays, I was not only awake, but animated. Again, I did not tap, I did not verbally submit, I was not knocked unconscious and at no point did I go unconscious.”

Chiesa also claims that in addition to incorrectly halting the fight, Yamasaki allowed Lee to land illegal downward elbows from back mount at the 3:46 mark of the first round.

“These illegal strikes cut my head open, and I required four stitches after the fight was over,” Chiesa wrote.

Chiesa also specifically references questionable calls Yamasaki made in previous bouts as an official.

“While I understand that mixed martial arts referees have a very difficult job, licensed combatants like me enter into combative contests with the understanding that referees will follow highest standard of conduct,” Chiesa wrote. “Mario Yamasaki, the referee in this contest, has a long history of failing to meet the standards officials are held to. For example, at UFC 142, Mr. Yamasaki improperly disqualified Erick Silva in a contest against Carlo Prater. Recently, at UFC Fight Night 105, Mr. Yamasaki publicly said he had ‘no excuses’ for his late stoppage in the main event bout between Travis Browne and Derrick Lewis.”

As precedent, Chiesa points out a couple of recent bouts where decisions that were a result of referee error were overturned.

“Just this year, the Missouri Athletic Commission overturned a contest at Invicta Fighting Championships 20 where the referee improperly gave a fighter a warning for what he thought was a foul, which in actuality was not a foul, causing her to not be able to defend an armbar successfully,” he wrote. “At UFC Fight Night 62, the Brazilian MMA Commission (CABMMA) overturned the decision the referee made in Leanardo Silva vs Drew Dober, where the referee stopped the bout because he thought Drew Dober was unconscious though Drew was fully coherent.  Similarly, this commission is fully within it’s rights to overturn the improper ruling in this contest based on referee error.”

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