Rousimar Palhares, once again, faced disciplinary action on Thursday for having held a submission well beyond the point that is considered sportsmanlike in mixed martial arts.
Palhares being called before the Nevada Athletic Commission on Thursday stemmed from an incident at WSOF 22 on Aug. 1, where Palhares held a shoulder-lock submission (Kimura) on opponent Jake Shields well beyond Shields’ taps and the taps of referee Steve Mazzagatti, who had to forcibly pull Palhares off of Shields.
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“I’m sure I got in at least four to five taps myself. That would have been at least seven taps (including Shields’ taps),” Mazzagatti testified at Thursday’s disciplinary hearing. “Absolutely it was unsportsmanlike conduct.”
That was a theme that was nearly unanimous among those providing testimony and/or expert opinion at the hearing. Aside from Mazzagatti, WSOF president Ray Sefo and pioneering referee John McCarthy concurred that Palhares’ action was unjustified and unsportsmanlike.
In fact, the World Series of Fighting felt Palhares was wrong from the night of the fight, taking swift action against their then-champion by stripping him of his welterweight title and indefinitely suspending him, pending the NAC’s decision.
Palhares and his manager, Alex Davis, tried to explain that Mazzagatti was out of position to stop the fight and that he thought it was Shields kneeing him in the back, not Mazzagatti tapping him to stop, when he continued to maintain the hold. But nobody was buying the defense, especially not the Nevada commissioners.
It’s not surprising that his defense was a hard sell, as Palhares has a history of holding submissions well beyond his opponent’s tap and beyond a referee trying to stop the fight. He was suspended for doing so in his fight with Tomas Drwal in the UFC, and was eventually released by that promotion after doing the same in his victory over Mike Pierce. He wasn’t sanctioned, but was reprimanded by California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster for holding a submission too long in a previous WSOF fight with Jon Fitch.
Taking the fight with Shields and his past discretions into account, the Nevada Commission unanimously sentenced Palhares to a two-year suspension and a $40,000 fine, plus reimbursement for expenses incurred by the Attorney General’s office.
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Perhaps the most surprising takeaway from the proceeding was that Palhares was only suspended for two years, despite multiple infractions, when Nick Diaz, who has been all over the headlines recently, was suspended for five years for testing positive on multiple occasions for marijuana, a recreational drug. That is sure to raise the ire of many in the mixed martial arts and legal worlds.