MMA is a proper sport, with a well defined and time tested set of rules. These rules are not malleable for certain situations or personal fan or promoter preference. To suggest otherwise is akin to literally moving the goalposts in a soccer game or allowing mulligans in professional golf.
However, a great many fans, promoters and journalists continue to display a casual ignorance or selective blindness towards these rules when it suits them, and few things
Two good examples popped up on yesterday’s UFC Manchester card.
Definition of a Grounded Opponent
The Ross Pearson vs. Melvin Guillard fight was curtailed early when Guillard knee’d Pearson in the head while he was getting up from a downed position. Referee Marc Goddard decided that at least one of the knees was an unintentional foul due to Pearson being downed and as the doctor advised that the fight be stopped due to Pearson being severely cut (32 stitches!) the bout was ruled a no contest,
This produced a backlash of a great many media sources and authorities declaring that the knees were legal as Pearson either put a hand down after the strike was thrown (the second, cut causing knee) and/or was on ‘two points of contact’ with the mat (the first knee.)
The definition of a grounded opponent is that they have any part of their body aside from the SOLES of their feet in contact with the canvas. Now, this can entail a ‘third point of contact’ if they place a hand or finger on the mat, or it can include a knee down while one foot is placed properly.
As Guillard initiated the knees, Pearson’s right leg was front down on the canvas, and even as he lifted his knee, the front of his right foot was still on the mat. This means he was a grounded opponent for the duration of the exchange, as the front of the foot is not the sole of the foot.
Some might think that’s a fine hair to split, but have you ever tried controlling your posture, balance or motion from such a position? The first thing you need to do is put your second foot down properly.
These rules are about fighter safety and fairness and that takes precedence over the desire for a finish, a highlight reel moment, partisan concerns or the sight of blood.
If you are a fan of MMA, you’ll understand that. If you don’t, you’re in the category of the ‘just bleed’ fans we could do well without. What’s worse is if you’re willing to overlook rules and fighter safety because it means your preferred fighter gets the win.
That’s not sport.
Throwing In The Towel
On Saturday, we weren’t alone in kinda wishing the Rosi Sexton vs. Jessica Andrade fight would be stopped at any point from the middle of the second round (similar to the Velasquez-dos Santos fight the week before) as Rosi was taking a horrid beating and we didn’t see how that was going to change any time soon.
Much has been said about doctors stopping the fight or corners throwing in the towel regarding both of these fights. That’s all rubbish.
ONLY the referee can stop the fight.
If a corner throws in the towel, the referee is within his rights to throw it back at them, indeed up until 2009 the act of throwing a towel (or any other foreign object) into the combat area should have been unisex by a point deduction.
A doctor can be screaming on the outside of the cage ‘STOP THE FIGHT’ and his opinion carries no more weight than the fan two rows behind screaming obscenities.
A doctor’s opinion only carries weight once invited into the cage by the referee to asses an injury, and even then it is the referee’s call whether to take that advise.
Most referees (I won’t be catty and list the ones who clearly don’t) have a wealth of fighting or at least officiating experience themselves and can tell the difference between rocked by still in the game and out on your feet.
Last night, Rosi was getting lit up by her younger, faster, bigger opponent but continued to defend and attack intelligently. If she’d just turtles up or sank to her knees, then a TKO would have been the right call but she didn’t, and continued to attempt to land and evade till the very end. Such heart and chin deserves better than a sympathy stoppage.
MMA is a sport which dances a fine line between concern for a fighter’s safety and respect for their skills and heart. The rules as they stand exist to maintain that balance and they are not negotiable.
That is the fairness that makes MMA a real sport and not just an excuse for brutality, but still an edgy, emotive sport and not a neutered, banal procession.