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On the shortcomings of MMA rules

Because we’re a new sport, our rules haven’t always been fleshed out as well as they could be. It doesn’t help that the people codifying these things are often from the boxing world and have no idea how MMA fouls play out in the cage. Take for example eye pokes: while it makes sense that you should get time to recover when someone sticks a finger into your socket, official rules state that after an assessment from the ref and / or doctor it’s either game on or game over. Pretty damn stupid.

Also pretty damn stupid are blows to the back of the head. We understand why this rule exists, but the way it is defined and the way it is put into practice turn them into a major source of controversy. Different referees have different opinions on what ‘back of the head’ includes and it’s a rare UFC that doesn’t end with some fans feeling their fighter ate some illegal shots to the head. In a sport like this, these strikes are going to happen. Many times, there’s no call. Sometimes there’s warnings, and on rare occassions a point deduction. Saturday night we saw a full on DQ.

It gets better, though! After watching the slo-mo replay, it became clear that Erick Silva didn’t give Carlo Prater the kind of brain bashing that’d justify such a call. A grand total of one hammerstrike hit the mohawk no-no zone, leading to an awkward conversation between Joe Rogan and referee Mario Yamasaki on how terrible the disqualification call was. Would reality be acknowledged?

“I had to decide right there and then. There’s nothing I can do.” said Yamasaki.

Another interesting MMA rule shortcoming. Even if a call that was made turns out to be immediately and obviously wrong, it still stands. Once a referee has made a decision that decision is final and unalterable. As if this isn’t bad enough, commissions often strike down the appeals because they often don’t have tools in their commissioner’s guidelines to account for and remedy referee screwups.

Fortunately for Erick, there is no commission in Brazil – the UFC takes care of that kinda stuff on their own like they do in the UK and other countries without sanctioning bodies. They’ve already paid Silva his win money and said they’re open to him filing an appeal to have the loss overturned. So the damage done in this situation isn’t all that devastating. It’s just a reminder that we’ve still got a ways to go before our rules and refereeing become consistent and sane.

  • Mixed Martial Adam

    If a ref makes a bad call in any major sport the decision is final and unalterable. This isn’t an issue specific to MMA, but any contest where a referee is given the responsibility of officiating the match. In MMA it has more of an impact as it can end the bout, but it’s still a universal problem among all organized athletic events.

    In Hockey, the players, commentators and coached can all be fined, suspended or both for even implying that a referee made an incorrect decision. With all sports an overseeing commission should be able to intervene immediately when a call is in question.

    That being said, Mario was completely wrong but it still takes some big, brass balls to make a DQ call against the home-town favourite. It just would have been nice if he had taken a stronger stand when Jose Aldo grabbed the fence during a Mendes slam attempt.

  • tpiddy

    aren’t more than one of those hitting the back of the head?? if he was warning silva, and silva kept trying (possibly unsuccessfully) to hit the back of the head, isn’t that enough for a DQ?

    i really don’t think the call was nearly as bad as everyone is making it out.

  • CAP

    ^I agree this was not as clear cut as some would like. I didn’t like Rogan dismissing it completely. This issue won’t go away with the scrambling nature of the sport it’s going to keep happening. You almost need to have a hard line that in ANY position the back of the head can be penalized. But not sure if that’s realistic.

    Another aspect of this is a bad call not only can change the outcome of a match but a career in some cases with MMA. Not here though as the UFC will still look at this like a win for Silva I’m sure.

  • UberShmact

    I’m excited to see Silva fight again, if he got paid his win bonus then it’s not really a big deal.

  • Symbul

    It’s a pretty big deal to all the bettors out there who parlayed the shit out of Erick Silva. :D

    I generally agree with the post but I think a big part of the issue is how shambolic MMA regulation is. It’s a big enough mess with all the individual state commissions in the US and the indian reservations but then you add Europe and Japan who have no connection to the stateside regulators and it’s a sizeable mess. There’s so much inertia inherent in a system like that.

  • G Funk

    1. That pic of yamasaki reminds me of


    2.! HA!

  • MadMan

    i’ve NEVER seen a fight stopped that quickly for a couple of shots
    to the back of the head…NEVERRRRRRRR.
    it’s good to hear that silva’s still gonna get his money though, and he
    should definately appeal that shit to get the loss overturned.

  • agentsmith

    I’m just curious who it’s supposed to be appealed to.  Some American athletic commission is going to rule on a fight that didn’t happen in their state?

  • Sodomize Intolerance

    If there’s one thing that we can all learn, it’s that we should NEVER call fighters on fucking up the rules. You know what, don’t even point it out.

    PROTIP: have a guy on the ropes? Calm THE FUCK down!

    What I would like to see from this, instead of the rules changing to conform to fighters wildly throwing bombs with no regard to established rules or fighter safety, is see less fighters throwing shitty wild hammerfists all over the place. It’s like once a finish is on the line we MMA fans get so thirsty for blood, we don’t give a shit about hitting the back of the head. We want a finish, we want it to be brutal, and we want blood. Only ONE of those shots was illegal. Pssh. Fuck that. No DQs!

  • Jarman

    Hopefully this’ll result in more fighters picking their shots and not spazzing the fuck out when they might be close to a finish. buuuuuut it probably won’t. young dudes will hammer fist like it’s their first night home from bible camp….and worse, i fear that turtling the fuck up and only exposing the back of the head (prater may not have meant to, but others seem to be purposeful in this turlting) may now seem to be an even more attractive way to deal with being punched. It might not be conscious, but between both fighters involved being aware of dq’s like this, it might just kinda happen… in pride, with knees to the head allowed, when a shot didn’t work, there was no grasping after the legs… was an immediate guard pull/getyourheadthefuckouttathere.

  • OlyReigns

    Like I said before, the one shot he landed to the back of the head was not the shot that ended the fight. It was initial knee. If Yamaski felt that he had warned Silva and Silva continued anyway then he should have broke the action and taken a point away. Not ended the fight. I agree with Mixed Martial Adam in that i thought there was a bigger problem in there being no repercussion for Aldo hanging on to the fence when Mendes was clearly gonna get a take down. Thats not to say the outcome would have been different and Aldo seemed to have no problem standing back up on his own. But that is a major loss of position and could very well be a deciding factor in a fight.

    While we are on the issue of rules I have always wondered about another weird occurrence. The 12 to 6 elbows that got Jones DQed from his fight. I have never understood how those are allowed when you are on the bottom. I mean i can see how you wouldn’t be able to get as much force into them but it is in essence the same move. can anyone answer that for me?

    I really don’t understand why more fighters are not using knees to the body when a fighter starts turtling up. A couple of those end the fight real fast.

  • Reverend Clint

    Mario looks like he just came off a bender

  • DJ ThunderElbows

    I mean i can see how you wouldn’t be able to get as much force into them but it is in essence the same move.

    Gravity is a big deal.  You can incorporate more of your body weight into the strike to inflict far more damage.  Same as the difference between GnP from top versus the bottom in the commission’s eyes.  Rogan also said that they were scared of hacking downward strikes due to ice/brick/board breaking footage they saw.

    Clint: he is soooooo twisted in that photo.

  • OlyReigns

    But by those reasoning’s you should be allowed to kick a person in the head when they are on top. I mean hey I think they both should be legal.

    One other thing that I am hating about the rules is seeing guys put a hand on the ground to not get kneed. I think a downed opponent should have to have a knee or shoulder on the ground.

  • Jarman

    knee or shoulder = much better. there’d be none of that rule utilizing bullshit.

    I’m pretty sure solidly defined 12-6 elbows from bottom are still illegal. I’ve heard several different refs cautioning fights when they use them from bottom, resulting in the fighter slightly changing the trajectory. 1230-630, or 1130-530. I’m guessing the refs let them slide because functionally, once the trajectory is changed just a bit, it’s hard to hit direct with the point of the elbow in a direct line with the direction of force.

    I grew up the child of two Goj-Ryu black belts, so breaking shit (or trying and failing, as was more likely) with hands heels and foreheads was my equivalent to ‘feinting’. whenever i failed to bust something, the fallback was the point down elbow, all the body weight, hardest pt on the body. it was shocking how much more effective than hands it was. hurt less too. Thing is, from bottom, the only place you’ll be hitting is the front top of the skull, hard as fuck and rounded, so only cuts will result, or that little flat spot on the top back of the skull….which is an illegal blow, and one of the weaker sections of the skull due to the suture that joins the skull plates there. with a good elbow, I’m pretty sure a skull cold be cracked, but the same goes for a solid punch on that spot, so the 12-6 rule is kinda unnecessary.

    My best guess is most refs think it’s a bullshit rule too, and if given the wiggle room, will ignore the infraction. Jones’ were from on top, and appeared to end the fight, almost locking the ref in to making the call he did. any idea who was reffing that one? herb maybe? yamasaki kinda jumped overboard with both feet. shoulda deducted a point….prater looked to be unable to continue due to that knee….fucked up his neck or shoulder.

  • GameCritics

    I don’t get why the call was so “controversial.” Yamasaki doesn’t have slow-mo eyes. It looks like one or two of those shots did land on the back of the head. The bottomline is that Prater couldn’t continue and Yamasaki had to rule it a DQ. This is a rare situation that happened and we just need to accept that and move on rather than trying to blame someone.

  • P W

    GameCritics: “I don’t get why the call was so “controversial.””

    Because guys get away with what Silva did ALL THE TIME. It would be like the ref disqualifying someone for holding on to the cage, and saying: “I told him to stop once, but then he did it again so I disqualified him.” Yeah, I get it, and it probably makes sence, but that’s not how we do things around here!

    Those punches looked nice and legal to me by the way.