Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira may have lost to Frank Mir once again at UFC 140, but up until the final moments of the fight when Mir cranked his arm to its breaking point, Big Nog actually looked really good. He took command of the fight early on and even rocked Mir to the point where a few more punches probably would have finished him off. But instead of continuing to hammer Mir as he laid motionless on the canvas after a desperate takedown attempt, Big Nog transitioned to a guillotine which ultimately led to Mir snatching up the fight-ending kimura.

It was a critical mistake that left many wondering what a veteran fighter like Big Nog was thinking. Well, if you ask Nogueira, he only stopped because referee Herb Dean mistakenly told him to stop punching Mir in the neck.

“Last Saturday I fought and lost via submission for the first time in my career; it was a bad feeling, but it’s part of the sport. Everything that happens in a fight is quick and the fighter acts most based on his instincts and reflexes than [what’s] on his mind. I knew I made a mistake as I tried to submit [my opponent] on a fight where I could have won by KO,” Nogueira wrote. “But when Frank Mir was practically knocked out I heard the referee tell me to stop punching him at the neck and that is when I tried to choke him. Mir put himself together and must be congratulated for submitting me. I checked the videos and I wasn’t hitting him on the neck, but on Mir’s side of the head, which is allowed.”

For what it’s worth, the replay shows pretty clearly that Big Nog was not punching Mir in the neck. In hindsight, he obviously should have just ignored Dean and kept punching, but he made a split-second judgement call in the heat of battle. I’m sure it seemed like the right one at the time, but Mir was apparently still coherent enough to put some slick grappling moves on the PRIDE legend. Kudos to Mir.

Herb Dean hasn’t commented on the story yet, but he did talk to Sherdog about the stoppage. He never wanted to see his arm break, but he felt like he should let it go because of Big Nog’s ability to overcome seemingly impossible situations.

“In my mind, I was hoping that he would tap. Like, ‘Please, please make this easy for me. That looks like it’s on.’ I definitely [had a] heightened awareness at that time. I was really focused on that arm. But that’s how Antonio became who he is — he didn’t get there by giving up. That guy’s done things that everyone thought was impossible time and time again because he never gives up.”

“I stopped it because I saw the arm break. The tap came after. I don’t stop it when I believe it’s locked on or even if I believe the guy’s in jeopardy because I don’t know what that person can take. I don’t know what their limits are, but if I see an injury that is too dangerous for the fight to continue, that’s when I’m going to stop the fight. Or if I see the fighter tap.”

If only he would have kept punching…

Image via Tracy Lee for Yahoo! Sports