Written by Paul Delos Santos
Dan Miragliotta did not see Mustapha Al Turk get poked in the eye by Mirko Cro Cop until the replay played on the video screens. Then again, neither did all of the fans in the Laxness Arena, including brutally honest commentator Joe Rogan, who admitted to not catching the shot to the eye.
"Everyone gets to see it after the fact becomes a perfect referee," Miragliotta said. "When it happened, I thought he got hit with a left cross. He gets a nice right hook and a few more heavy strikes after that. I thought it was a soft jab. The way he covered and reacted, it was like a hard punch. The position he turned. The way he reacted, you wouldn't have known he was poked in the eye. Unfortunately, I missed it. It happens. I didn't catch it at all."
Given how Al Turk reacted, turning his back and doubling over like he had been hit with a punch was not the standard response to a poke to the eye. Typically, a fighter when poked reacts by holding his hand over his eye and raising his hand, signaling to the referee that he has been struck. By not doing so, Miragliotta had no knowledge that Al Turk had his vision impaired, until he, the fans in attendance, and those watching on the pay per view saw it.
"Him reacting like normal would make it easier," Miragliotta said. "Usually, Joe [Rogan] tells it like how it is. He said, ‘Dan did not see it.’ It was one of the first times he has made a comment like that. I was there for that. That hasn't happen with us. Nobody saw it happen. Even I felt bad. When I’m in the ring, I look at the chest, you can see a strike to the throat, knee to the groin and I wasn't expecting it. So obviously I missed it."
Fight-ending eye pokes are rare, though there have been some high-profile ones in recent times.
Scott Smith and Robbie Lawler saw their fight end when a doctor deemed Smith unable to continue following a finger to the eye, and Anthony Johnson was poked by Kevin Burns, which Steve Mazagatti thought was another soft jab.
Miragliotta's missed call happens to fall in the same category, but said there is a challenge in catching eye pokes and calling them accordingly.
"That's the easiest foul to miss," Miragliotta said. "A call like that is something you can miss. It can happen. Once you touch the fighters, you can't tell them to start again. We made mistakes. You try to avoid making them and hope it doesn't happen."
He advocated for instant replay to be used in fights, but details on how it was used were not definite because of the different rules and regulations that come with mixed martial arts.
"It would be tough [to have instant replay in MMA]," Miragliotta said. "It's something you could look at. No fighter wants a loss. A fighter should have an option to challenge a missed call and instant replay should help with that."
It was an unfortunate event, and Miragliotta has had his fair share of criticism, almost all of it from the fans. The fans' complaints don't bother Miragliotta at all, who said he hasn't received a bad word from UFC President Dana White or UFC Director of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner.
Miragliotta wants to protect the fighters, and makes his decisions based on that, even if it is not popular among fans.
"If Dana is mad, he's not going to hold it back," he said. "We're there to stop the fight, and if a fighter is in danger and not defending themselves intelligently, you stop it. You rather have them walk out conscious instead of taking four or five extra shots. It's easier on smaller shows, because most of them aren't televised. Some stoppages could be considered an early stoppage, but it's still a knockout, and it's a concussion. You don't want a fighter to take a few extra shots to make it worse."