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Refereed by Mario Yamasaki
Professional mixed martial arts referee Mario Yamasaki is easily one of the most experienced refs working in top-flight MMA today. His resume stretches all the way back to UFC 20, broadcast from Birmingham, Alabama in May of 1999, where Yamasaki presided over Brazilian youngster Wanderlei Silva's first win in the Octagon. Since that time, Yamasaki has refereed close to 200 matches in major MMA promotions. While the vast majority have come under the Ultimate Fighting Championship banner, Yamasaki also boasts experience reffing in Strikeforce and EliteXC. And when Pride Fighting Championships held one of its final events, Pride 33, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Yamasaki became one of only two men alongside Steve Mazzagatti to ever ref fights in both Pride FC and the UFC. Yamasaki officiated two bouts that night in February 2007: James Lee vs. Travis Wiuff, and Sergei Kharitonov vs. Mike Russow.
Yamasaki was born on December 14, 1963 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He has spent his entire life deeply involved in the martial arts, beginning from a Judo background passed down to him from his father, an 8th dan red-and-white belt. From the age of 22 Yamasaki has also studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Yamasaki continues to practice both arts, and is currently a 4th dan black belt in Judo and a 4th degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He also owns and maintains a system of BJJ academies based near his family's home in Pennsylvania.
Yamasaki's ring decisions have generally been met with approval, though like any ref in the business long enough, some calls have been criticized. One missed call by Yamasaki in particular led, paradoxically, to one of the greatest moments in MMA history, after he failed to witness Frank Trigg knee Matt Hughes to the groin at UFC 52 in April 2005. Yamasaki let the fight continue as Hughes crumpled to the canvas, but Hughes battled back valiantly to finish Trigg by RNC. Had Yamasaki caught the foul, one of the greatest comeback wins in UFC history might never have occurred.
Yamasaki has officiated some of the most legendary fights in MMA history, including Brock Lesnar's championship win over Randy Couture at UFC 91, BJ Penn's knockout of Sean Sherk at UFC 84, and Chuck Liddell's second TKO victory over Tito Ortiz in the Main Event at UFC 66, the first MMA pay-per-view to ever top 1,000,000 buys. Portions of this article draw on information from Mario Yamasaki's page on Wikipedia, available at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/mario_yamasaki.