Strikes & Calls

UFC Fight Night: Pearson v Guillard
Unfortunately for the UFC’s 30th Fight Night, a potential barnburner between Melvin Guillard and Ross Pearson was cut short by an illegal knee. This wasn’t the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last.

The rule in everyone’s crosshairs relates to the kneeing of a downed opponent. The initial spirit of this rule was to serve and protect a defenseless fighter. Sadly for fans, the protective spirit of this rule has slowly been possessed by an opportunistic demon. Fighters who are forced into compromising positions can simply knuckle the mat to receive absolution from all head-related trauma. In a sport where knockouts are key, a fighter’s hard-earned advantage is being morphed into an action-less stalemate. It’s not right and it’s not fair, but it’s certainly fixable.

I never thought I’d say this, but the UFC could learn a valuable lesson from Major League Baseball. While many of Baseball’s rules live within a binary world of black and white, the sport’s most fundamental aspects reside within a realm of grays. Strikes and balls are not defined by a rigid matrix or stoic grid but rather the fluid analysis of a watchful umpire. The UFC should immediately apply such logic to any and all rules surrounding that of the “downed opponent”. Ironically enough, the UFC already provides their refs a fair amount of subjective wiggle room; just try and figure out which ground battles will be stood up or which fighters will be penalized a point for grabbing the fence.

If a fighter is curled into a defenseless ball, kneeing him in the skull is overkill, but sealing this situation in the same pod as Guillard’s “illegal” knee is a false equivalent. When Melvin started throwing his knee, Pearson was not grounded. This means Guillard’s strike was legal when thrown, but not when landed. How is a fighter in the heat of battle supposed to track his opponent’s hands, let alone account for their future locations?

The UFC is better than this, and for an organization that’s chronically ahead of the curve, this is one issue where they’re drastically behind the times. I have little doubt the UFC will prove to fans they are still capable of progressive change–I just hope it happens before another fight is tarnished by this antiquated doctrine.

Follow me on Twitter: @_TheBeardedPoet

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