'Worst in history': UFC referee panned after 'abysmal' display

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
UFC referee Vyacheslav Kiselev has been fiercly criticised in the MMA world for his conduct during Elizeu Dos Santos' victory over Benoit Saint-Denis. Pictures: UFC/ESPN
UFC referee Vyacheslav Kiselev has been fiercly criticised in the MMA world for his conduct during Elizeu Dos Santos' victory over Benoit Saint-Denis. Pictures: UFC/ESPN

Commentators watched on in horror at UFC 267 as the referee of the bout between Elizeu dos Santos and Benoit Saint-Denis allowed it to go on despite the clear need for a stoppage.

Dos Santos executed a brilliant but absolutely brutal fight in which the 34-year-old Brazilian simply pummelled his opponent.

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A fine UFC victory it would be on any other day - but as Saint-Denis soon found out thanks to referee Vyacheslav Kiselev.

Despite it being abundantly clear that dos Santos had outclassed Saint-Denis as early as mid-way through the second round, Kiselev was completely uninterested in stopping the fight.

Somehow, a bloodied Saint-Denis emerged for the third round despite increasingly concerned calls from commentators and even sections of the crowd for the fight to be stopped.

At one point, Dos Santos appeared to pull back slightly and gesture towards the referee - as if to question why the fight hadn't been ended.

Statistically, Dos Santos had landed more than twice as many significant strikes on Satin-Denis was able to - and despite his opponent seemingly out on his feet, Kiselev refused to call the fight off.

Former UFC champion Daniel Cormier and co-commentator Paul Felder could be heard on the UFC broadcast, calling for the fight to be ended with increasing desperation.

After the third round Dos Santos had won comfortably on points, but the substantially bigger story was Kiselev's judgement.

Following the fight, it was soon confirmed the Russian referee had been removed from judging any of the following fights on the UFC 267 card.

Many fans took to social media with their criticism.

Cormier, along with much of the UFC world, was unequivocal in his criticism of Kiselev.

“Honestly the worst performance I have seen from a referee in my life," Cormier wrote on Twitter after the event. 

"Honestly a hard job but man unreal. Makes you respect the good ones like =Jason Herzog, John McCarthy, Herb Dean and many more. 

"I hated watching that I hope Benoit is heading to hospital right now!”

UFC referee criticised over 'horrible' officiating

Kiselev's blushes weren't spared by UFC boss Dana White.

He described the failure to stop the fight as 'pretty bad' and 'horrible', while Dos Santos himself admitted to feeling sorry for his opponent.

Dos Santos said no fighter wanted to be in a position where they were inflicting unnecessary damage on an opponent, and also risk hurting themselves in the process.

Elizeu Dos Santos beckons the referee to stop his fight against Benoit Saint-Denis at UFC 267.
UFC fighter Elizeu Dos Santos gestures towards the referee to stop the fight during his bout against Benoit Saint-Denis at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi. Picture: UFC/ESPN

“It was pretty clear that the referee should have stopped it,” he said. 

“He ended up making the fight a lot tougher than it should have been.

“I feel sorry for the guy because he ended up getting injured way more than he should have – and for myself as well, because when you’re beating someone up, you’re getting hurt yourself as well.

“We didn’t know that he had been removed but we did talk about it with the doctors and medical staff – that he didn’t do his job, he was putting people in danger.”

Of the 149 significant strikes Dos Santos was judged to have landed, 96 of them landed on Saint-Denis' head.

The Frenchman called for the referee at one stage to complain about an inadvertent eye-poke, which should have been an opportunity for Saint-Denis to be checked by a ringside doctor.

Instead, after a brief examination from the referee, Saint-Denis was again sent out to face the rampaging Brazilian, who appeared more and more unsure as the fight dragged on.

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