Hawaii denies Juliana Velasquez’s Bellator 278 appeal of Carmouche TKO

As of now, Juliana Velasquez still has a loss to Liz Carmouche on her record.

The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has denied a written appeal by Velasquez and her attorney to overturn the result of her Bellator 278 loss vs. Carmouche to a “no contest.”

A defending champion as she entered the April 22 bout at Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, Velasquez lost via TKO stoppage due to ground-and-pound by Liz Carmouche. The timing of referee Mike Beltran’s stoppage was highly debated by fans and media alike and immediately protested by Velasquez herself.

In the wake of the event, Velasquez called for a rematch while Carmouche indicated she thought the stoppage was justified, thus no interest in a rematch. Bellator president Scott Coker said it was not his call whether or not the stoppage was good or not, but added he wouldn’t mind an immediate rematch.

The protest continued in the weeks that followed, as Velasquez’s lawyer submitted an official appeal to Hawaii’s sanctioning body. However, on June 21, a regulatory spokesperson responded to the request and said the result will remain intact. MMA Fighting was first to report.

The decision took into consideration Velasquez’s lawyer’s letter, a letter from former referee and current Bellator commentator “Big” John McCarthy, and the overseeing referee Beltran, according to documents acquired by MMA Junkie.

“Referees are an important line of defense against injury; thus, based on Mr. Beltran’s experience and training it is my opinion that his decision to err on the side of caution was appropriate to protect the fighter, Ms. Velasquez, from imminent danger,” spokesperson Catherine P. Awakuni Colon wrote.

Velasquez’s stance

Velasquez’s attorney Nathan Gable had protested Velasquez’s stoppage as being premature and at a time in which his client was not hurt nor struggling to defend herself.

“Velasquez was actively moving to improve her position, with her hips raised in an effort to create space,” Gable wrote in an official appeal. “Beltran immediately calls for a knockout stoppage of the Bout. Beltran stopped the Bout prior to offering Velasquez an opportunity to further improve her position. Beltran stopped the Bout prior to any significant strike or damage to Velasquez.”

‘Big’ John weighs in

In addition to an appeal from Gable, Velasquez and company also included a three-page letter from McCarthy, who was publicly critical of the stoppage on his “Weighing In” podcast. In his letter, McCarthy went into detail from his perspective as an experienced official where he thinks Beltran’s actions deviated from a proper stoppage.

“Mike Beltran did what he thought at the time was the right thing in stopping the fight when he believed he saw Juliana hit by an elbow that caused her to lose consciousness, thereby putting her into a position where she was unable to intelligently defend herself,” McCarthy wrote. “Unfortunately for Mike, Juliana, the fans in the arena and the audience viewing the contest at home on Showtime Sports. Mike was wrong in his determination that Juliana went unconscious and that she was unable to ‘intelligently’ attempt to defend herself.”

McCarthy continued, “One of the elements a referee must train themselves to do at times is look at the ‘Macro’ instead of the ‘Micro’. What this means is as a situation intensifies and the pressure to make an accurate judgement rises, the referee looks to additional sources of information. As the possibility of stopping the contest comes closer to reality we must take the time to not only focus on the things that we are looking at such as the eyes of the fighter who is in trouble, but let go of the Micro such as their eyes and capture a view of the Macro, which will show us their entire body such as their leg and hip position in these critical moments.

“This momentary change of our point of view will many times verify our determinations or in certain instances will actually dispel our beliefs and show us the truth as to the capabilities of a fighter to continue on in critical situations or moments.”

Mike Beltran’s explanation

In a written letter of his own, Beltran defended himself for the split-second decision and said he erred on the side of caution. However, he admitted he could have let Velasquez take a few more punches and the stoppage would’ve still registered as fair. Beltran added he learned a lot from the experience.

“I was looking closely at the situation unfold and observed what appeared to me Juliana Velasquez’s eyes roll back momentarily,” Beltran wrote. “I made a split-second decision based on the information provided to me and due to my background, training and experience as a referee, I erred on the side of caution and stopped the fight. Believing she was possibly unconscious and trying to prevent further damage, I intervened. At no time during the contest was I focused on the clock nor did the 10-second warning go off letting me know the round was coming to an end. My duty was to protect a fighter who I believed to be in danger.”

“After stopping the contest, Juliana Velasquez popped up and protested my decision. I have reviewed these sequence-ending blows that prompted me to make this decision. I have learned a lot from this experience. I believe I could have let a defenseless Juliana Velasquez that was caught in a crucifix receive more elbows than I did. Some of the elbows were not that impactful, however they were constant and progressively landing harder. I made a decision that quite possibly could have been a little premature, however we’ll never know what the outcome nor how much more damage Juliana Velasquez could have taken with approximately 13 seconds left on the clock. I take full responsibility and accountability for my actions. I believe I acted with good intentions, however will learn from this experience.”

Now what?

Since the letter of denial states Hawaii will not accept a second appeal unless new information or reasoning can be presented, Velasquez’s manager Matheus Aquino, of Tough Media Corp, told MMA Junkie the team has not determined whether or not they will attempt a follow-up challenge. They will have until Aug. 20 to re-appeal, should they choose.

Neither fighter is booked for their next bout.

Click the hyperlinks below to read the official documents in full.