Eleven months ago, Rousimar "Toquinho" Palhares' decision to stop fighting mid-bout cost him dearly in a knockout loss to Nate Marquardt. Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, history very nearly repeated itself.
According to the Brazilian middleweight’s trainer, however, Palhares’ actions in the first round of his UFC 134 contest with Dan Miller have been misinterpreted.
Unlike his September 2010 defeat at the hands of Marquardt -- which saw Palhares punched out after the submission specialist turned to referee Herb Dean and complained that Marquardt’s leg was slippery -- Brazilian Top Team leader Murilo Bustamante explained Sunday that Palhares’ premature celebration against Miller actually came as a result of mercy.
Saturday night at Rio’s HSBC Arena, a heavy right head kick from Palhares felled Miller with 40 seconds remaining in the opening frame. The dazed New Jersey fighter covered up as Palhares connected with half a dozen punches from above before coolly striding away, his arms raised in victory. Palhares leapt atop the Octagon fence to soak in the adoration from his hometown crowd, but there was one problem: the referee -- Dean, coincidentally -- never called a stop to the bout.
“Just to clarify what happened during Toquinho’s fight,” Bustamante wrote on his personal Twitter account, “he told me that he stopped because his opponent said 'stop, stop' when he was punching him hard. Then, he stopped [hitting] him and thought that the fight was over and went to celebrate. Who can say now that 'Toko' isn’t a fair fighter? He is just too naive, but he has a big heart.”
Despite Bustamante’s claim, Miller’s manager and trainer, Mike Constantino of AMA Fight Club, asserted Monday that his fighter never asked out of the match.
“Dan assures me he did not say a word during that exchange,” Constatino wrote in an email to Sherdog.com. “Needless to say that with the loud crowd, the language barrier, the adrenaline rush and every other factor involved -- including ‘do not stop until the ref pulls you off’ -- I do not believe that Toquinho pulled up because of Dan murmuring ‘stop, stop.’ The fact remains that Dan Miller did not say ‘stop, stop’ -- there is no need to argue the toughness and mettle of Dan Miller, however I just have to put the facts on the table after hearing this.”
While Miller did not appear to protest the “stoppage” as he stood back up and walked to his corner, Constantino said that was only because he believed the fight had actually been stopped.
“He could not see and by Toquinho’s reaction, Dan assumed Herb stopped the fight,” wrote Constantino. “Once he heard us screaming to turn around and the fight wasn’t stopped, he ran across the Octagon to continue fighting.”
Review of the fight video by Sherdog.com proved inconclusive: If Miller did verbally submit, it was drowned out on television by the roar of the Rio audience. But, as beckoned Palhares down from the cage, referee Dean’s words were loud and clear: “I did not stop the fight. You have to keep fighting.”
And keep fighting they did. In a surprising turn, moments after touching gloves and resuming action, Toquinho found himself in a bad way, knocked down by a Miller combination. The Brazilian would regain his composure to finish the round with a takedown, though, and followed up with a dominant second period and a closer, but slower, third.
On Sunday, Bustamante offered no complaints about the non-stoppage, nor the extra 10 minutes of work his charge allegedly had to put in. However, the former UFC middleweight champion did take issue with the company naming a lightweight scrap between Edson Barboza and Ross Pearson the evening’s best bout.
“I think, as [with] everyone that watched the fight, that Toko should have won 'Fight of the Night.'”