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UFC 297: Confusion erupts as ref raises the wrong fighter's hand

TORONTO, ONTARIO - JANUARY 20: Sean Woodson reacts after his victory against Charles Jourdain of Canada in a featherweight bout during the UFC 297 event at Scotiabank Arena on January 20, 2024 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Sean Woodson needed an explanation at UFC 297. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) (Jeff Bottari via Getty Images)

When you're a UFC ref and the fight has ended without a finish. You have one job: Raise the winner's hand.

That turned out to be an issue for UFC 297 ref Jerin Valel.

The fight in question was a featherweight bout between Sean Woodson and Charles Jourdain at the end of the preliminary card in Toronto. The fight went to a split decision and as soon as UFC announcer Bruce Buffer started pronouncing the winner's name, Valel raised Jourdain's hand.

Jourdain started celebrating, received a gracious embrace from Woodson and stepped forward for the victory interview with ESPN's Daniel Cormier. There was just one problem.

Courmier told both fighters that Woodson had won. Cue UFC's "Moonlight" Oscars moment.

To the fighters' credit, both seemed to take the mishap well. And in defense of Valel, you can kinda hear how "Sean" and "Charles" might sound similar coming from Buffer's enunciation. But it's also not like he shouldn't have waited for a little more detail before identifying the winner.

Woodson took reporters through his emotions in his post-fight news conference:

“I clearly heard them say 'split decision.' I heard that. I knew they read a card for me, they read a card for him, but at the end — I guess it was the crowd — I couldn't hear who they finally said. It sounded like they said, 'Charles.' Wasn't sure. I looked over and Charles and his team were celebrating. I thought I did enough to win, but I knew it was close.

"I went from being extremely low — accepted the loss, thought I lost — then they told me I won and elated, super happy. Yeah, roller coaster, crazy.”

Announcement aside, Woodson performed like a winner with a 102-78 striking advantage, an 80-60 significant strikes advantage and the only takedown of the fight.