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Yep, eyepoke rules STILL suck

One of the oh so awesome things about boxing commissions handling MMA is that any rule not rooted in boxing is generally poorly written and poorly understood, not just by the fans but by the referees and commission heads themselves. How many times have we seen referees try to push dazed fighters for a yes / no on continuing a fight after they’ve been finger fucked in the eye? That all comes from one interpretation of the rules where only groin shots result in a fighter getting time to recover. That was the understanding Mauro Ranallo channeled on Friday when the Zaromskis / Spiritwolf fight ended on a poke, and it’s along the lines of what commission rep Nick Lembo told MMA Junkie last year:

“There shouldn’t be a need for a time (allowance),” Lembo said. “If there’s an accidental eye-poke, OK, stop, call the foul. The foul has to be called whether it’s accidental or intentional at that point. The foul needs to be called by the referee and given to the scorekeeper in case something follows up for results from that point on. It has to be stopped and assessed, or it should be. The foul should be picked up.
“But then at that point, by the time you assess the foul and call it, then you can go back to the fighter and the fighter can say, ‘I’m fine.’ And the referee can say, ‘His eye looks fine, he says he fine.’ It’s kind of the referee’s discretion at that point.
“You have a different situation — which has occurred before — where the fighter is still blinking or he’s closing his eye or it looks like he’s having trouble focusing or there is blood in the eye. Then you call in the doctor and make an assessment. But if a fighter at that point, or at any point in the process says, ‘I can’t see,’ then the fight should be stopped.”
And since Franklin insisted he was able to continue, Miragliotta made the right call in pressing him back into action.
“You can’t say, ‘Yeah, I’m good. Just give me a minute,'” Lembo said. “You can’t do that. The foul has been assessed. We’re either going on with the fight, or we have to stop the fight and then deal with it under the accidental foul stoppage scoring or no-contest scenarios.”

It’s also what the Unified Rules say:

If a fighter is fouled by blow that the referee deems illegal, the referee should stop the action and call for time. The referee may take the injured fighter to the ringside doctor and have the ringside doctor examine the fighter as to their ability to continue on in the contest. The ringside doctor has up to 5 minutes to make their determination. If the ringside doctor determines that the fighter can continue in the contest, the referee shall as soon as practical restart the fight. However, unlike the low blow foul rule, the fighter does not have up to 5 minutes of time to use at their discretion.
For a foul other than a low blow, the fouled fighter is not guaranteed 5 minutes of recovery time. If deemed not fit to continue by the referee or ringside physician, the referee must immediately call a halt to the bout. If the fighter is deemed not fit to continue by the referee or ringside physician but some of the five minute foul time is still remaining, the fighter cannot avail himself of the remaining time.
If the referee stops the contest and employs the use of the ringside doctor, the ringside physician’s examinations shall not exceed five minutes. If five minutes is exceeded, the fight cannot be re-started and the contest must end.

Meanwhile, here’s what Strikeforce ‘rules director’ Cory Schafer told everyone in the cage after the Zaromskis / Spiritwolf fight was stopped: 

“In the case of an accidental foul the referee has the discretion to give the fighter up to 5 minutes under any kind of accidental foul. Absolutely it is [in the rulebook] under the Unified Rules.”

So tell me exactly where does the Unified Rules say that the referee has the discretion to do anything other than call in a doctor or start the fight back up after the foul has been recorded? You can’t because it’s not in there. Is it between the lines or some shit? The doctor might have the ability to grant a fighter time, although that depends if recovery time is allowed under the ‘examining the fighter’ language.

It’s pretty clear where the rules are fucked up: they don’t take into account the fact that an eye poke kinda sorta takes time to recover from. A guy who is blind in one eye seconds after an eye poke is often fine after a minute or four to deal with it. But in the bizarro world constructed by the unified rules, a ref has to assess the situation and decide to either send the fighter back in or have the doctor take a look. The entire time, Unified rules say if a fighter admits he can’t see at any time during this process, the fight should be stopped.
Obviously, this is all very dumb. You get more time to recover from a shot to an area protected by a hard plastic shell than your soft, juicy iris / cornea / retina because basically groin shots happen in boxing but eye pokes don’t, so we still have some very stupid and dangerous procedures in the rules that haven’t been properly ironed out yet.

  • agentsmith

    What if you get a finger poke in the groin?

  • Symbul

    I agree it’s a bad rule. It’s doubly compounded by how punches to the eye are okay. I’m not saying they should be a foul, but there’s no practical way for a fighter eye-gouged thusly to make that distinction so you inevitably end up with guys calling timeouts that the ref, by the rules, can only rule as a TKO if he doesn’t start back immediately.

    Also it’s extremely hard and often literally impossible for the ref to spot eye pokes, legit or not and the ref by the rules can’t use video footage on the fly.

    Strikeforce’s interpretation is kind of a spin on the doctor having five minutes to assess the damage. Obviously a doctor can’t do anything to assess the damage from a groin shot so that’s up to the fighter. But for eye pokes a game judge could check on the fighter and if there’s no damage that calls for an immediate halt to the contest visible, give him time to nurse it and see if he’s okay to continue. Obviously that flirts with the pitfalls of fighters often keeping in the bout to their own detriment and assuming the doctor knows the wording of the rules (which I doubt is often the case) but that would be within the doctor’s rights.

  • frickshun

    Ryan…..I don’t know if ur atypically lucid on this issue OR I’M DRUNK. Maybe both?

  • Jim

    I agree the rule should be revisited, however I think the fuck-up is less on the guy writing the rule 10 years ago & more on the handful of idiot refs/doctors. They are given legroom because they are suppose to be neutral & professional.

    The rules give the doctor/ref 5 minutes to ascertain if the fighter is fit to continue. That works fine if you can rely on a doctor/ref having some fucking sense.

    In the case of an eyepoke, were the fighter looks like he’s having problems seeing or his eye looks like it may be damaged; the ref should use the doctor at his disposal (no-brainier).
    If a doctor going to make a decision to end a fight on an eye-poke, is it too much to ask he takes his 5 minutes to ascertain the damage?

    Unfortunately you get a an idiot ref(Miragliotta), who decides in the event of an eyepoke, the only think he’s going to do is ask a fighter if they can see or not.

  • P W

    Dealing with eye poking will be difficult, but is there really nothing they can do about the constant cock kicking? It’s ridiculous with a fucking dozen low blows in one evening. It looks more like Ultimate Scrotum Fighting Championship out there.

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