(Something about landing a knee to the body of a downed opponent only whets Kongo’s appetite for some shots to the head. Photo courtesy of UFC.com)
When it comes to highlighting some of MMA’s officiating gray areas, last night’s Cheick Kongo-Paul Buentello bout at ‘UFC Live’ was a fight that very nearly had it all. From minor infractions like grabbing the fence or hitting the back of the head, to big ones like illegal knees and impromptu injury timeouts, it was a showcase of things that need to change – or at least be clarified – in the MMA rulebook. Let’s take it one issue at a time, shall we?
(If you’d like to follow along and don’t have this bad boy DVR’d, you might try looking here.)
Round 1, 3:37: Buentello gets a little help from the fence
Yeah, it’s minor, but it’s illegal. In attempting to get up from a takedown, Buentello grips the fence and pulls himself up. This earns him a verbal warning from referee Herb Dean, but it serves its purpose. He’s off his butt and en route to standing up. Just goes to show you that sometimes a fence grab will cost you a point, and other times it just gets you admonished by the ref. Same with grabbing the shorts, which also happens several times throughout this fight.
Round 1, 1:48: Buentello has a finger problem
Now this, this isn’t minor at all. Buentello stops a takedown attempt from Kongo and fires off a right uppercut in response. Then he immediately stops fighting and starts fussing with his pinky finger, prompting Dean to give the universal timeout signal. Since he’s stopping the fight due to an injury suffered during the course of normal, legal fighting, it should be over right there. You don’t get to call time just because you hurt yourself. Ask anyone who’s lost a fight because their trick shoulder popped out. You get hurt and stop fighting, prompting the referee to intervene on your behalf, and the fight’s over. That’s the rule, and it needs to be enforced across the board, or else altered.
Round 2, 4:13: Kongo struggles to understand where the back of the head is
After one of many takedowns, Kongo unleashes a series of blows against a turtled up Buentello. Not surprisingly, several find their way to the back of Buentello’s head. So Dean tells him to cut it out, only to have Kongo do it again pretty much immediately. He gets two warnings. How many before there’s some punitive action taken against him for the foul? We don’t know. It varies according to the fight, the situation, and the ref. This seems like a bit of a problem.
Round 2, 3:40: Kongo gets warned for downward elbow strikes to the ass
Want to piss Joe Rogan right off? Then get him going on the 12-to-6 elbow strike rule. Look, it’s stupid, it’s useless, and it does nothing to protect anybody. As we saw in the Jon Jones-Matt Hamill fight, it’s a nuisance. This time Kongo gets off with a warning and a pause in the action. One wonders what would have happened if Buentello had been unable to continue due to ass trauma.
Round 2, 3:23: Kongo feeds a downed Buentello a hard knee to the grill
This is the only foul in the fight that actually results in a punishment. Kongo goes from kneeing Buentello in the body, to kneeing his head while his knee and hand are down, resulting in a point deduction.
But here’s the thing, Buentello has been fouled by an illegal blow to the head, but he doesn’t get five minutes to recover, like he would if he’d been jacked in the testicles. It’s a foul, but he’s basically goaded into continuing right away, or else opting to take a win via DQ and earn himself a boo parade from the fans, not to mention the ire of the UFC brass. Those are rough options for the guy who was the victim of someone else’s decision to cheat.
Round 2, 1:43: Buentello gets accused of “playing the game”
For the second time in one round, Buentello is hit by what are, technically speaking, illegal knees to the head. While in a front headlock, he puts one hand down on the mat, making him a downed opponent as far as the rulebook is concerned. He then eats at least three knees to the head. That’s when Dean stops the fight, but not to punish Kongo. Instead he tells Buentello that it’s his fault for “playing the game.”
By this he presumably means using the rules to his advantage. Granted, putting a couple fingers on the mat in no way makes knees to the head more dangerous and that rule should probably be abolished, but at the moment it’s still on the books. Dean has decided to ignore the rules in this case, opting instead to restart the fight after telling Buentello that he deserved it.
Round 2, 0:58: Rogan says Buentello is getting “molested”
Okay, not a rules violation, but it just makes me feel, I don’t know, uncomfortable.
So what have we learned today? That some rules are flexible, some are nonsensical, and as long as you have faith that your opponent is too afraid of getting booed/fired, it often pays to be a cheater. It might be time to clarify rules and the consequences of breaking them, as well do away with some we don’t need.