I understand the importance of protecting a fighter but a professional referee must take into account the circumstances inside the ring as well as outside the ring. I would never second guess a referree who is right there listening and watching mere feet away. Especially when I was watching a 57" big screen with only the poorly chosen angles called by the director in the truck. However, when taking the totality of the situation, I wish Dean would have waited a few more seconds. While Tito's first two elbows were about as devastating as any I've seen, the third, fourth and fifth elbows were more glancing blows with Shamrock's head turned. Again only the first two were totally flush. And the fact that Shamrock sprung to his feet in protest instantaniously demonstrated clearly that he was not seriously hurt and was aware of his surroundings.
So for those like myself who felt the stoppage was premature the question then becomes, well how many more elbows would have been sufficient for a proper stoppage? I've been watching fights for four decades and it just "felt" premature. If Dean had waiting just another second or two I think everyone would have had a clear cut definitive answer as to whether Shamrock was totally helpless or could have somehow avoided further damage. I feel Ortiz would still have won decisively but the decisiveness of his victory was taken from him.
Going back to my original point about "the circumstances inside the ring as well as outside the ring" I feel Dean had to understand that this was a very important fight for both men, a defining fight, more so for the older Shamrock then the younger Ortiz. This was probably the last time Shamrock could go through that type of training camp and emerge injury free and still pretty much at the top of his game. Shamrock is a true legend and has helped pioneer the sport, he deserved every possible consideration in his last "important" fight. Simply stated, Shamrock was not give enough benefit of the doubt. For two up and comers, I would not have had a problem with this sort of stoppage, for someone of Shamrock's stature, the referee should have been aware of the nuiance of this matchup and the consequences. When two greats like Ali and Frasier were in the ring a ref like Arthur Mercante would surely have both fighters best interest as the paramount concern while simultainiously acknowledging their stature and the elevated responsibility of not short changing their respective efforts.
UFC 61's stoppage is definately an argueable point but I would just like to cast one vote for: too early.
“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”