KJ Noons lays one on Jorge Gurgel. Photo by Esther Lin/Strikeforce

Is there any angle left to cover from this past Saturday “Strikeforce: Houston” card? Probably not, but I’ll try anyway. Simply put, K.J. Noons arguably did enough to earn himself a no-contest and Bobby Lashley is probably getting more crap than he deserves.

First we’ll start with Lashley. Unless I’m misinterpreting, it seems Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is already wondering if Lashley is still committed to MMA because he happened to lose a fight. In an interview with MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani, transcribed by fightline.com, Coker said that Lashley needs to take a hard look at whether he wants to continue with MMA.

“Bobby Lashley, I think he’s some soul searching to do and when we talk to him next week or tomorrow or Monday we’re gonna have that conversation and it’s gonna be interesting,” said Coker. “We’ll support him in whatever he wants to do.”

MMAFighting’s Ben Fowlkes took things a step further:

Lashley’s loss hurts the most not just because he was a huge favorite, but more because of the way he lost. Granted, he caught a bad break with the officiating, but he gassed out all on his own. Lashley was said to have been treated for dehydration at the hospital after the fight, but why is a guy who doesn’t have to cut weight dehydrated? Of everybody on the card, the two heavyweights who are well under the 265-pound limit should have the least trouble with that. As long as they’re being smart and doing the right things to prepare themselves, anyway.

Now everybody calm down and take a deep breath. I’m sure Strikeforce wasn’t too excited to see Lashley lose. That hurts their bottom line. And while not everyone is cut out for mixed martial arts, isn’t it a bit soon to start questioning his desire based on one performance unless he says that in his own words?

Instead of acting like Lashley got a minor taste of adversity and folded like a wimp, let’s take an objective look. Despite taking a well-timed uppercut to the face and bleeding like a stuck pig, Lashley, as expected used his wrestling to win the first round. Chad Griggs, of course, hit the nail on the head in his post-fight interview. Lashley, still relatively new to the sport, spent too much time and energy tensing up while in top position and, in doing so, probably took away the power from his punches.

Maybe Lashley will look back on the fight, learn from his mistakes, conserve his energy better, and work on maximizing the strength in his punches. Or maybe he will look back, decide he doesn’t like getting punched in the face — and that’s not an unusual reaction — and decide to pursue something else. But until we hear Lashley say that he’s thinking about whether to continue or not, we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

Near the end of the match, as tired as he was, Lashley still kept trying to dive in for the takedown. It was a feeble and desperate attempt at that point, but in my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to question a guy’s willingness to compete, even indirectly, when he leaves it all out in the cage.

Most of all, unless you consult the fighter in question, the treating physician, or another physician willing to diagnosis someone he or she hasn’t examined, you shouldn’t question how a fighter who gives it their all and comes up short ended up in the hospital. Lashley has done collegiate and professional wrestling and fought five times before under MMA rules, so I’m going to assume he’s familiar with the basics of hydration and this isn’t a case of Lashley neglecting to think about taking a sip of water.

Noons: An Unintentional Foul is Still a Foul

There is also plenty of debate over Noons’s punch just after the bell in round one and the alleged illegal knee as the referee stepped in to end the contest in round two merited a disqualification or ruling the fight a no-contest.

At this point it’s safe to assume nobody thinks Noons threw either blow intentionally. The “no knees to the head of a grounded opponent rule” isn’t always easy to administer when you have an opponent in the process of getting to their feet or shooting in for a takedown. It wasn’t the smartest idea, but it’s a fight and Noons was trying to do his job. It’s more likely that he thought Jorge Gurgel was about to get back up and decided to throw the knee than it is to think — even after looking at referee Kerry Hatley, almost begging him to mercifully stop the bout — he wanted to rub it in with an illegal maneuver.

The punch that knocked Gurgel into another dimension just after the end of round one is more of an issue. Again, with Gurgel in the middle of a flurry right as the first five minutes came to an end, Noons wasn’t trying to score a cheap shot. He was locked and loaded to throw a counter hook and didn’t have time to listen for the bell and reverse his course of action. It was an instantaneous reaction.

However, Hatley didn’t appear to handle the situation all that well. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation’s rules for combative sports state:

If a contestant is accidentally fouled, including a head butt but can continue, the referee may stop the contest, for a reasonable time, and inform the judges and the contestant’s second of the accidental injury.

The rules also list possible fouls in an MMA bout, including “Attacking after the bell has sounded.” Call me crazy, but it looked like Gurgel was fouled. If Gurgel needed more than the regularly allotted one minute between rounds, and the rules allow it, that’s what he should get.

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