Opinions change fast in mixed martial arts.
As recently as last October, fans and talking heads had all but declared that nobody in the UFC's light heavyweight division was good enough to beat Lyoto Machida.
Now, Machida is on the outside looking in, and Mauricio Rua, who lost to Forrest Griffin in 2007 and didn't look good against Mark Coleman in 2009, is the champion, and talking heads such as Jordan Breen and Josh Gross seem ready to anoint him as the greatest light heavyweight of all-time.
The change in perspective is no less drastic in the case of Yves Lavigne.
Lavigne has been taking a beating over the past couple of years as a result of a couple of mistakes that he's made in the Octagon.
Yet it was only a few years ago that the perception of Lavigne was far different.
Up until March 7, 2009, if you had asked me who the two best referees in MMA were, my picks would have been Herb Dean and Lavigne.
Here's a list of the 10 best, most controversial, and worst moments in Lavigne's career as a referee.
1. Marcus Davis vs. Paul Taylor
Marcus Davis got dropped by a big high kick from Paul Taylor, yet despite getting hit by many repeated shots on the ground, Davis was able to recover and win the fight via armbar just moments later.
A lot of referees might have stopped the fight, thus preventing Davis's dramatic comeback.
2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Heath Herring 3
Much like Marcus Davis, Nogueira got caught and dropped by a head kick in the first round.
Nogueira looked nearly knocked out, and had Herring continued to pound away, he may have stopped the fight, but after landing some ground and pound, Herring elected to stand the fight back up.
Nogueira would come back to win the decision.
Nogueira probably should have been finished in the first round if Herring had continued his assault, but a lot of the credit for the comeback should go to Lavigne for showing Nogueira the respect a legend deserves by giving him every opportunity to recover.
3. Ben Rothwell vs. Gilbert Yvel
After Yvel embarrassingly swept Rothwell with a keylock from the bottom, Yvel began to lay a vicious beating down upon Rothwell. I think just about every other referee aside from Steve Mazzagatti (who seems to prefer late over early) would have stopped this fight.
Still, Lavigne saw something in what Rothwell was doing that showed him that he was in the fight.
Rothwell recovered, and the right man ended up winning this fight.
4. Thiago Tavares vs. Kurt Pelligrino
Thiago Tavares got knocked down early in this fight and took a lot of heavy punishment.
Worse, Tavares wasn't defending his face at all.
The reason Lavigne let this fight continue was because, although Tavares wasn't blocking punches, he was using his arms to try to improve his position, thus showing the referee that he was still in the fight.
This is the kind of nuanced idea of intelligent defense that some referees don't get.
Many other referees seem to think that intelligent defense only occurs when punches are actively being blocked. Lavigne understood in this instance that there are other forms of intelligent defense.
5. Jake Rosholt vs. Chris Leben
Jake Rosholt applied an arm triangle choke on Chris Leben, and before Leben could make a definitive tap, Leben was choked unconscious.
A second later, Leben started convulsing, as unconscious people sometimes do, which caused Lavigne to hesitate momentarily before officially calling the fight.
A lot of people criticized Lavigne for not stepping in sooner, but I think this criticism is mostly unwarranted.
Leben didn't definitively tap, and although watching somebody convulse may not be the most pleasant of experiences, getting choked unconscious isn't really all that dangerous.
Lavigne did his job, and if any blame should be laid, it should be laid upon Leben for not tapping early enough. Perhaps though, Lavigne was thinking of this moment during the fight between Matt Wiman and Mac Danzig.
6. Paul Daley vs. Martin Kampmann
This fight was one of the rare instances when a UFC fight has been stopped by TKO without an actual knockdown occurring.
Kampmann was getting blasted over and over again by Daley's left hooks, and Lavigne had seen enough.
Some people felt that this was an early stoppage, but I disagree.
Before the stoppage, as Kampmann was getting pummelled, Joe Rogan said, "He's out on his feet." This was my exact thought while watching the fight live as well.
While watching the slow-motion video replay, there may have been some doubt as to how hurt Kampmann really was, but given the split-decision Lavigne had to make, I think he made the right one.
7. Chris Lytle vs. Kyle Bradley
This fight ended quickly, as Lytle pounded out Bradley on the ground after knocking him down with punches.
Again, this was a situation where many felt that the stoppage was too early, but after Lavigne called a stop to the fight, Bradley showed that he was completely unaware of what was going on by attempting to pull guard on Lavigne.
8. Kyle Bradley vs. Phillipe Nover
Here's yet another case where fans say that Lavigne stopped the fight too early.
The argument against that is that Nover's arms went completely limp in the moment when Lavigne decided to step in.
Nover was back in an instant, but it was too late.
9. Matt Wiman vs. Mac Danzig
Wiman appeared to have a dangerous guillotine applied on Danzig, and he told Lavigne that he thought Danzig was unconscious.
Instead of checking for other signs, Lavigne grabbed Danzig's arm and thinking that the arm was limp, rather than compliant, Lavigne stopped the fight.
If Lavigne had even done so much as dropping Danzig's arm to check for signs of life, he would have seen that Danzig was still very much conscious.
This was a pretty big blunder.
10. Matt Brown vs. Pete Sell
Lavigne stepped in to stop the fight, but then resumed action when Pete Sell recovered.
Sell continued to take a beating over the next minute, and Brown raised his arms in frustration at having to continue the beating.
Eventually, Lavigne stopped the fight.
This was a pretty epic blunder, but I think it wouldn't have been seen such a big deal if Brown's justified frustration wasn't quite so animated and visible, or if Sell had done even a slightly better job of defending himself after the restart.
Still, it was a pretty epic mistake.
Yves Lavigne has made some mistakes, and may not be the best referee in the business (that's still Herb Dean), but he's far from the worst referee. And although he's made mistakes, he's also shown some moments of brilliance, and it's a bit extreme to say that he should be fired as a result of these few mistakes, especially when he's generally been so solid.
Perhaps the worst mistake in relatively modern UFC history was John McCarthy's restart of the fight between Matt Lindland and Murilo Bustamante after Bustamante should have earned a submission win.
And few people remember some of the horrible stoppages McCarthy made in the early days of the UFC.
That doesn't stop me from saying that McCarthy has earned his status as being one of the greatest referees in the sport.
Though Lavigne has made some pretty bad mistakes, he's certainly in good company.
Other Notable Yves Lavigne Fights
Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Serra
Georges St-Pierre vs. Jon Fitch
Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Lytle
Jason MacDonald vs. Rory Singer
Drew McFedries vs. Xavier Foupa Pokam
Lyoto Machida vs. Tito Ortiz
Here is a interview with Yves Lavigne following the fight between Kurt Pelligrino and Thiago Tavares.
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