Stool Gate: 'Old Dirty Trick' Saves Yoel Romero from Tim Kennedy at UFC 178

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterSeptember 28, 2014

Yoel Romero celebrates after defeating Tim Kennedy in their middleweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 178 on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

When there's 10 seconds left between rounds, it's the referee's job to let the fighters' corners know and to start the athletes on the path back into the cage. But with 10 seconds left between the second and third rounds of his fight with Tim Kennedy, Yoel Romero was sitting on a stool.

And on the stool he sat, for approximately 30 extra seconds as chaos reigned. While Vaseline was applied and removed at the referee John McCarthy's request. While athletic commission officials screamed at his cornermen. While Kennedy, who had hurt Romero badly at the end of the second round stalked the cage and stewed. 

Bloody Elbow's Brent Brookhouse didn't consider the delay coincidental:

They were stalling and trying to give their badly rocked fighter a bit of extra recovery time. But, the referee also had told the corner to wipe Romero off. He should have made it happen more quickly and should not have allowed Romero to remain seated. But he did. Ultimately, it was Big John McCarthy who failed in his job here. And, depending on how much you think it changed the fight, it's McCarthy who may have caused Tim Kennedy to get knocked out minutes later.

UFC President Dana White agreed, but told the media after the fight that he couldn't blame Romero's corner completely for the debacle.

"That's an old dirty trick," White said. "The thing that throws a kink in the thing is that it was our guy that put the Vaseline on. So there was nobody trying to take advantage. They called his guy in to wipe the Vaseline off. He didn't understand what they were saying. It's very unfortunate."

When action finally resumed, a refreshed Romero turned the tables on Kennedy, knocking him down with a fast right hand and finishing him off with ground-and-pound. The crowd turned on the Cuban wrestler, a former Olympic silver medalist, even as he praised the fans and America in delightful broken English. 

Tim Kennedy @TimKennedyMMA

NAC 467.728 If a combatant fails or refuses to resume competing when the bell sounds...the referee shall award a decision of TKO

Did the delay help Romero? Kennedy certainly seemed to think so, angrily confronting his opponent backstage after the bout to plead his case. The former soldier tweeted a reference to the official Nevada Athletic Commission rules, stating:

An unarmed combatant shall not leave the ring or, if the contest or exhibition is being held in a fenced area, the fenced area, during any period of rest that follows a period of unarmed combat. If an unarmed combatant fails or refuses to resume competing when the bell sounds signaling the commencement of the next round, the referee shall award a decision of technical knockout to his or her opponent as of the round which has last been finished, unless the circumstances indicate to the referee the need for investigation or punitive action, in which event the referee shall not give a decision and shall recommend that the purse or purses of either or both unarmed combatants be withheld.

But, while things certainly didn't go as planned, Nevada Athletic Commission Chairman Francisco Aguilar doesn't believe there are grounds for an appeal.

"It was a bunch of things all happening at once," Aguilar told Bleacher Report. "Our inspector had to get the grease off his face. Our inspector who was supposed to get the stool out didn't get it out in time."

The win moves Romero's MMA record to 9-1. He's won all five of his fights inside the UFC Octagon and is on the short track to a shot at Chris Weidman's middleweight championship.

Jonathan Snowden is Bleacher Report's Lead Combat Sports Reporter. Jeremy Botter contributed to this report.