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.