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Old 01-16-2012, 02:46 PM
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Default UFC 142 Morning After: MMA Needs Better Rules and Better Refs

Figured that I'd put it in here since it was "inspired" by UFC 142, but it's about rules for all of MMA (from MMAFighting.com):


In the first week of the 2010 NFL season, Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson caught what appeared to be a game winning touchdown pass, only to have a referee overturn the call on an obscure, ill-defined rule about what actually constitutes a catch -- a rule that has come to be known as the Calvin Johnson rule by fans who still have a hard time understanding why Johnson's apparent catch was not a catch.

Few things bother NFL fans more than the way the NFL's complex rules -- and the referees' enforcement of those rules -- detract from an otherwise thriving sport. The same could be said for MMA, where the UFC and the state athletic commissions have worked together to codify a unified set of rules -- only to find time after time that those rules aren't as clear as they should be, and that referees don't enforce the rules uniformly.

The latest example came at UFC 142, where referee Mario Yamasaki disqualified Erick Silva for hitting Carlo Prater in the back of the head, even though no one seems to agree about whether a disqualification was the correct response, or even about what constitutes the back of the head.

UFC President Dana White wrote on Twitter immediately afterward that disqualifying Silva was a "BS call," and he was right: Silva deserved to win. The UFC needs to work with the athletic commissions to more clearly define the rules, and to recruit and train better referees to enforce those rules.

I don't know what the precise rule on strikes to the back of the head is, and neither do you, and neither does anyone. No one knows because there is no precise definition of "back of the head." Some referees use the term "mohawk," meaning the back of the head is an inch-side strip right in the middle of the back of the head, the area that would be covered by a mohawk haircut. Other referees use the term "earmuffs," meaning the back of the head is a larger area that includes everything that would be behind a pair of earmuffs.

Under the "mohawk" definition, Silva didn't hit Prater in the back of the head. Under the "earmuffs" definition, Silva did hit Prater in the back of the head.

UFC announcer Joe Rogan clearly was buying into the "mohawk" definition, and he went off on Yamasaki during an awkward post-fight interview in which Yamasaki clearly wasn't prepared to defend his decision. Yamasaki didn't inspire a lot of confidence by his inability to defend his decision, but in fairness to Yamasaki, referees aren't generally put on the spot the way Rogan put him on the spot, so it's not surprising that Yamasaki was caught off guard.

Even if you think SIlva did commit a foul by hitting Prater in the "earmuffs" area, Yamasaki didn't handle it the right way. If Silva committed an illegal strike, Yamasaki should have stepped in and taken a point away from Silva, and only stopped the fight after having the doctor check on Prater and determine whether Prater could continue. Instead, Yamasaki stepped in and waved his arms to stop the fight instantly.

A disqualification for an illegal strike should only take place if the illegal strike is what caused the fight to end. But it appeared that Silva's legal strikes -- a brutal knee to the body and several powerful hammer fists to the side of the head -- were enough to finish Prater off. Prater suggested after the fight that it was really the knee that did him in.

"I'm not a judge," Prater said afterward. "I didn't stop the fight. All I know is that he hit me and it sent a shock of pain through my body unlike anything I've ever experienced. I don't know if the shots were legal. I just know it was unlike anything I've ever felt."

It's frustrating for fans -- and could be dangerous for fighters -- to see how inconsistent referees are about enforcing the rule against hitting opponents in the back of the head. For high-profile examples of much more severe strikes to the back of the head that the referees let go, watch Vitor Belfort's victory over Rich Franklin or Shane Carwin's win over Frank Mir. In those fights, the victors landed much harder strikes to the back of the loser's head, and the referees let those strikes go. Consistency is needed in refereeing of any sport, and it's seriously lacking in MMA.
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