One of the strangest fights that took place at UFC 286 this past weekend came way down in the middle of the prelim card. There, flyweight uber-prospect Muhammad Mokaev took on relatively-unknown Brazilian up-and-comer Jafel Filho.
Despite the fact that there was little at stake for either man beyond their win bonus, the bout both carried and created several remarkable storylines. First and foremost, Mokaev apparently entered the fight with a badly injured shoulder, having foregone surgery in favor of PT so he could compete on the card. The injury drama got kicked up a notch in the third round, when Filho latched on to a deep kneebar and cranked the submission to the point that Mokaev’s knee was badly hyper-extended. Despite the clear pain and likely tearing of tendons, Mokaev rode out the danger to fight his way to Filho’s back and slap on a face crank that forced the former Shooto champion to give in before the final bell.
But did Mokaev actually submit long before Filho? Even well before the kneebar that saw him badly hobbled as he exited the Octagon with his hand raised?
Way back in the first round, where Mokaev spent much of his time on top in Filho’s guard the two men had a strange exchange. Despite being in a fairly neutral position, there appeared to be a moment where the Dagestani-born fighter gave Filho several quick taps on the back. Fans were quick to jump on it as a possible moment of controversy.
Why is nobody talking about @muhammadmokaev tapping?!? #UFC286 pic.twitter.com/E4agEWYIqV
— Mᴀʀᴛʏs Hᴀɪʀʟɪɴᴇ (@MmaUnderdogs) March 20, 2023
At the time, even Filho didn’t seem to react as thought the fight had ended. Mokaev kept wrestling in guard and Filho kept looking for opportunities to get his hips active. The ref didn’t see it, and no appeals were made. At least, not until now.
With the benefit of hindsight, it seems Filho wants the outcome reconsidered. In a statement to MMA Fighting, the 29-year-old said he actually felt Mokaev tap on three distinct occasions throughout the bout. Once in the aforementioned video, once when defending an earlier guillotine, and once when defending the now-famous kneebar attempt.
“[Mokaev tapped] at least three times,” Filho said of his loss at UFC 286. “I felt him tapping on my back like he was hiding, with malice. There was another situation I went for the guillotine and then attacked his injured shoulder, he tapped and I loosened it up a little bit.
“I was looking at the referee the entire time. The kneebar, I felt him tapping with his foot and the referee asked him, ‘Tap?’ I loosened it, and he was able to twist his knee a little bit.”
As a result, Filho says his manager Andre Pederneiras is reviewing the tape with the potential consideration of filing an appeal to get the result overturned. Considering the UK lacks a US-style commission, however, it’s unclear where an appeal could even be filed. The UFC often brings their own version of the NSAC with them when they travel, and appealing to the promotion seems unlikely to be a path to any kind of results reversal.
For Mokaev’s part, he was quick to dismiss the controversy in an interview with Ariel Helwani on Monday.
“Listen, Ariel, if I didn’t tap to my knee, do you think I would tap to—what he said? Guillotine, right?” Mokaev laughed, when asked about the phantom tap. “Guillotine wasn’t even locked. How the hell people would actually believe I would tap to this guillotine that can’t put me to sleep?
“Basically, his foot was in my boxers, and he said ‘Sorry.’ He said ‘Sorry, sorry.’ He stopped and I said, ‘All good. All good. Let’s go.’ That’s what I said. I said, ‘Let’s go!’ C’mon Ariel, why I would tap in position? On the video, actually, there was position that there is nothing [to tap to]. He said, ‘I attacked his shoulder.’ That’s why I was ground-and-pounding with that same shoulder,” Mokaev deadpanned.
Muhammad Mokaev shoots down claims he tapped in the first round at UFC 286 #TheMMAHour
“Basically, his foot was in my boxers and he said, ‘Sorry, sorry.’ He stopped and I said, ‘All good, all good, let’s go.’ That’s what I said.”
▶️ https://t.co/JcrgzatfWO pic.twitter.com/GUF3A3wxLc
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) March 20, 2023
“It’s like, c’mon man. He wants rematch. I respect this guy, I don’t know. When I see this today, I got upset, actually, because I gave him so much respect I don’t give to anyone. I see he carry bible before the walkout and I’m like, ‘Hey, this guy’s religious. He came here, just fought for his family. I give him respect, warm welcome in UK.’ When I see he say this? It’s not nice to be honest.
“He lost. Lose like a man. Fight all the way to the top, and we’ll meet at the top. [Asking for a rematch] that way? I don’t like.”
Filho did tell MMA Fighting that he hopes to fight Mokaev again, and that a rematch “would be ideal,” once Mokaev recovers. As for the other two points where Filho claims Mokaev tapped…
“Did I tap with my foot?” Mokaev exclaimed, when hearing Filho’s statement read back to him. “Maybe the way he went—when I grab him in the choke—maybe when he was tapping, maybe he’s counting those taps.”
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