UFC

Rosi Sexton’s gender beatdown

Jessica Andrade punches Rosi Sexton
Was Rosi Sexton's one-sided loss a matter of gender inequality in MMA?
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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Fighters are tough.

That's not a statement of opinion, it's a statement of fact. Anybody — male or female — willing to put their body on the line and step inside the cage and battle another person has filled the toughness quotient on any application. Fighters are inherently tough and never want out of a fight unless they are either knocked out or submitted when they voluntary give up or go to sleep.

Sometimes it's the job of the referee or the fighter's corners to take the responsibility from the competitor when a situation gets out of hand, and they can no longer defend themselves. The job starts with the referee who is there for the safety of the fighters, and then it falls to the corner, who are there to watch over a competitor from the opening bell to the final horn to make sure they will live to fight another day.

At UFC 166, Junior Dos Santos was battered, bloodied and bruised in his fight with Cain Velasquez to the point where referee Herb Dean nearly stepped in and stopped the massacre. Ultimately he opted not to stop the fight, and Dos Santos survived until the fifth and final round when the carnage was finally over when Velasquez finished with a TKO. After the bout was over, UFC president Dana White said numerous times that he believes the fight should have been stopped in the third round or the corner should have thrown in the towel for the safety and protection of their fighter.

The point was driven home even further when it was revealed that Dos Santos had memory lapses from the third round on, not even remembering what happened at certain points in the fight.

A week later at the UFC Fight Night card in Manchester, England Jessica Andrade battled Rosi Sexton in what ended up being a very one-sided fight. Andrade pummeled Sexton with punches throughout the three round affair, opening up several combinations while pinning her opponent against the cage for a barrage of strikes. Several times during the bout, color commentator Joe Rogan stated emphatically that the fight should be stopped or the corner should throw in the towel.

Both during and after the event there was a general outcry from the public who agreed with Rogan that the referee should have stopped the fight, especially after the second round when Andrade out landed Sexton 91 to 24 in significant strikes. One has to wonder, however, if this argument is being made out of a reactionary response to what we all just witnessed a week earlier with the Velasquez vs. Dos Santos fight?

In UFC history there have only been a handful of cases where the corner of a fighter has thrown in the towel. One of the most notable occasions was at UFC 94 when BJ Penn suffered an exhausting beat down courtesy of Georges St-Pierre and after the fourth round his corner signaled the referee and the doctor to say they were calling a stop to the fight. Now only a week after the UFC president was calling for corners to be more responsible for the safety of their athletes do we see a one-sided fight with cries of 'throw in the towel!'.

Following the conclusion of the bout, Sexton took to Twitter and Facebook to explain her side of the situation. She claims she was never out on her feet or hurt to the point of not being able to defend herself and outside of a couple of black eyes, she's perfectly healthy as well. Sexton even took a swipe at Rogan, who was the one making the suggestion over and over again during the fight that it should have been stopped.

"48 hours post fight — I have two black eyes, otherwise I'm 100-percent fine. You could have given me an IQ test as I stepped out of the cage, and I'd still have scored higher than Joe Rogan," Sexton wrote.

"Once more for the record," Sexton continued on Twitter. "In my opinion Neil Hall (the referee) and the doctor who saw me at the end of the 2nd were totally correct not to stop that fight."

Now as we've already established in the very beginning of this discussion, fighters are tough and sometimes too tough for their own good, but if we start picking apart every bout where one fighter is being dominated or out struck by wide margins then the entire sport of mixed martial arts is about to change.

For instance, heavyweight Roy Nelson is routinely praised for his concrete chin and ability to absorb punishment. In his fight against Stipe Miocic at UFC 161, Nelson landed a grand total of 23 significant strikes over the course of 15 minutes while being bludgeoned by his opponent 106 times. Miocic unloaded on Nelson at will, especially in the early going when much like Andrade vs. Sexton, he had his opponent pinned against the cage unloading like a machine gun to a fighter who just refused to go down.

As a matter of fact in Nelson's career with the UFC, he's absorbed 511 significant strikes — a record breaking number in the promotion — and he's never been knocked out. Nelson's chin and willingness to take punishment for the chance to uncork one of his famous right hands is celebrated despite the fact that in all five of his UFC losses, Nelson has been defeated by unanimous decision each time and never had a late round comeback despite his rock hard chin and sponge like ability to absorb punishment.

What about the lightweight battle between Nate Diaz and Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone at UFC 141? Diaz landed 238 significant strikes to Cerrone, who countered with 96 of his own. Andrade hit 208 strikes to Sexton, who came back with 88 of her own. Percentage wise, Diaz battered Cerrone worse than Andrade did Sexton, but there were no outcries that the fight went on too long or the corner should have thrown in the towel.

So then the question becomes is this one of those uncomfortable times where the women's fighters are being judged differently than the men? If you change Rosi Sexton's name to Roy Nelson is she then being applauded as a tough-as-nails fighter who just refuses to go down?

The fact is Sexton came out on the losing end of the fight, and the judges' scores reflected that with the final tallies being 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27. But to Sexton's credit after a terrible beating sustained in the second round, she actually had her best effort in the fight. She scored 42 significant strikes in the final round, which was her highest output for the entire night and Sexton ended the fight on her feet still battling back, stepping forward and winging punches with Andrade.

If the conversation is about when a fighter is being too tough for their own good or when to account for too much punishment in a fight, then that's a subject worth putting under the microscope but it has to go there without an ounce of gender bias. Referees and corners need to undergo training and watch fight footage and have to understand when enough is enough and be willing to make those calls regardless of the public backlash that may occur because a fight was deemed as stopped too early. The same goes for corners who are there on behalf of the fighters, and they need to be willing to stop the action and deal with the fallout from fellow coaches and the fighter for making a judgment call.

If that's not the case then the other truth in this entire ordeal must be held infallible from Joe Rogan to fans to journalists and critics alike — what goes for Rosi Sexton also goes for Roy Nelson, Donald Cerrone and every other UFC fighter on the roster — if it's too much for one of them, it's too much for all of them.

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