There was nothing ambiguous about referee Dan Miragliotta's booming instruction to Gegard Mousasi and Chris Weidman with 1:47 remaining in the second round of their middleweight co-main event at UFC 210.
It was the last truly coherent moment of the fight.
Miragliotta believed he had seen an illegal knee from Mousasi and stopped the fight accordingly. The New Yorker looked to be in no condition to continue what had, to that point, been a compelling matchup between two of the top fighters in the division.
Miragliotta brought the ringside doctor in to check on Weidman and started the clock counting down the five minutes the injured fighter had to recover.
And then chaos ensued.
Miragliotta, in violation of New York State Athletic Commission rules that do not allow for use of instant replay, can clearly be heard asking ringside official "Big" John McCarthy to "look at the replay for me." Apparently unaware of the rules in New York, McCarthy informed Miragliotta that the knees, initially thought to be illegal, were completely proper when viewed in super-slow motion.
"I thought I was going to win because of the illegal knee," Weidman said at the post-fight press conference. "Then they looked at a replay...and see the legal knee, but in the state of New York, you’re not allowed to look, there's no replays. It's a crappy situation."
After what felt like an endless delay, with UFC announcers and vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner offering conflicting interpretations of the rules and arguing about what should happen next, Miragliotta talked with an unidentified female official outside the cage and came back in to wave the fight off.
Mousasi, originally thought to be the perpetrator, was given the win. Weidman, who may have exaggerated his injuries in the immediate aftermath thinking he was on his way to a disqualification win, suddenly found himself on a three-fight losing streak.
"When you make a decision, you can't go back and change it," an exasperated UFC on Fox analyst Kenny Florian said after the fight on Fox Sports 1. "The ref said it was an illegal knee, then someone told the ref that it was legal and Weidman can't continue. You can't make a decision in the Octagon and then change it. Both these guys lose. It was very confusing."
So what do you do then? Weidman could have continued after all the time it took to figure it out, but it was a legal knee so it should have never been stopped in the first place. Mousasi got the win, which you could argue he probably would have got anyway because the knee destroyed Weidman. But that was so weird. The New York commission is concerned with fighter safety, and that’s fine, but them and Miragliotta made a mockery of a fight that Weidman was clearly winning up until then.
The rule in question, liberalizing the use of knees to the head in certain circumstances, is a new addition to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts for 2017 and hasn't yet been approved in all jurisdictions. Perhaps because Miragliotta and McCarthy spend their lives traveling from state to state and officiating bouts under a number of different rulesets, they were unclear on how to proceed.
One thing is clear in practice—it's a rule that is nearly impossible to enforce during the tumult of a typical MMA bout. Even with the benefit of replay, UFC color commentators Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz had to see the sequence four times before they could agree it was legal.
"It's certainly a lot to ask of the referee," play-play announcer Jon Anik said, "to make that fine distinction in real time."
The controversial finish was just one of many issues New York faced in what must have been a long week for regulators, who did not respond to interview requests.
What happens next is anyone's guess. Weidman indicated he was considering an appeal of the commission's rulin,g and there was much discussion of an immediate rematch. But, after the fight, UFC President Dana White confirmed that it was Mousasi's last bout under contract with the promotion.
Mousasi, in a scathing pre-fight interview, told Fox Sports' Damon Martin that he was unhappy with his current compensation.
"I just see that Vitor Belfort is making tons more money than me," Mousasi said. "I defeated Dan Henderson, he's making tons more money than me. I defeated Mark Hunt. He's making $800,000 a fight. I can beat Michael Bisping and even before he was champion he was making a lot more than me. Why don't I deserve to make some money?"
With the victory, Mousasi becomes the first free agent of the Scott Coker era at Bellator who you could reasonably make a case for the being the best fighter in his division. He has a history with UFC's thriving rival from his days in Strikeforce and will likely court a big offer from a promotion in desperate need of marquee talent.
A man of few words and even fewer facial expressions, Mousasi had little to say after the bout.
"He can have the rematch, no problem," the Dutch fighter said in the cage. "I was ready to continue the fight."
While his speech did little to excite, the fight ended with a bloodied Weidman looking dazed and confused on the mat. That was a strong enough statement for Mousasi as he immediately becomes the most intriguing fighter on the market.
Jonathan Snowden is a Senior Writer who covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.