By Zach Arnold | April 8, 2017
Anyone expecting Miragliotta to be able to tell whether those knees were legal or not in the moment are crazy.
— Mike Fagan (@ItsMikeFagan) April 9, 2017
There was a perfect storm of events heading into UFC 210 to create chaos in the Gegard Mousasi vs. Chris Weidman fight.
First, it’s Chris Weidman. There’s always something dramatic happening with him in or out of the cage. He came into the fight on a losing streak and was fighting for his career on home turf.
Second, Chris Weidman’s home turf is New York. The New York State Athletic Commission is still trying to learn the MMA industry. Plus, they’re one of the worst if not worst state athletic commissions in America for regulating combat sports. Which means there is even more pressure on UFC itself as an organization to try to figure out how to run the regulatory show with a bunch of incompetent, green regulators. See: Daniel Cormier weigh-in and Pearl Gonzalez breast implants.
Third, the California State Athletic Commission and their friends at the Association of Boxing Commissions pushed through new regulations to modify the Unified Rules of MMA. It’s created confusion. It’s created a split in the United States with several states not adopting the proposed ABC changes. This includes states such as New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, Virginia, Maryland and South Dakota.
This means that MMA referees who work shows in multiple states have to remember both the old Unified rules and the new Unified rules. Rather than build a full political consensus on having all states slowly modify the Unified rules, you have legalized anarchy that’s bound to create confusion even amongst the most experienced MMA referees in the business.
The biggest source of confusion between the old and new Unified rules deals with the definition of a grounded fighter. The old rules allowed fighters to protect themselves with a single finger on the ground. The new rules:
…now a fighter must have both hands down — palms or fists — or a knee or another part of the body besides the soles of his or her feet on the mat to be grounded.
Which leads us to the finishing sequence at UFC 210 for the Mousasi/Weidman fight. From MMA Junkie’s PBP of the event:
n the middle, Mousasi gets hold of Weidman and drills him with two knees while his hand is on the canvas – or so it seems. Miragliotta stops the fight and sends Mousasi to a neutral corner. Weidman will get looked at by the doctor. He gets five minutes. It looks like they may want to stop the fight. The replays show that the knees may have been legal. Now they’re consulting with the commission – and the fight is over. The place goes absolutely crazy with boos. It’s Weidman’s home state, he’s saying he can continue and wants to continue – and they’re shutting it down. It’s a TKO win for Mousasi – and the crowd is absolutely livid. Miragliotta made a mistake stopping the fight because the knees actually were legal. So when Miragliotta gave him time to recover, that was a problem. Weidman is pacing the cage during Mousasi’s interview, and he’s completely drowned out by the boos.
I am surprised that it took this long to see the fruits of confusion sewn over the definition of a grounded fighter.
If the knees were viewed to be illegal, Miragliotta should have taken point a point away from Mousasi while giving Weidman time to recover and return to action. Instead, there was a stoppage… and then the fight got stopped without Weidman having a chance to fight. Weidman is automatically appealing the decision and wants a rematch.
The problem is the rule. Why is a fighter in more danger if his hands are on the mat than he is if they are one inch off the mat? #ufc210
— Jonathan Snowden (@JESnowden) April 9, 2017
There are three points of future debate here for public consumption:
- The risk/reward debate between opening up more opportunities to hit an opponent to increase finishes for fighters while increasing risk for concussive injury
- Rules battles between states over old vs. new Unified MMA rules, making it even more of a challenge for MMA officials to properly do their job and not screw up split-second pressure calls
- “The human element” vs. using video technology to get calls right
I don’t foresee any helpful changes coming any time soon to erase doubts or confusion.