After the commotion settles down about Georges St. Pierre being boring in his win over Dan Hardy and Shane Carwin putting an end to all the questions about his abilities, we need to take a serious look at fighter safety, the unified rules, and the referees put in charge of enforcing those rules. Three fights at UFC 111 have raised concern and garnered attention throughout the MMA community today.
"Dan Miragliotta is going to get someone killed" - Brent Brookhouse
This stoppage is completely inexcusable. Miragliotta steps in, crouches down to watch the action, and watches as Mir is flattened out and taking unnecessary punches to the head. Mir was not moving and clearly did not have his hands in place to prevent or block any punches from Carwin. For all the flack that Steve Mazzagatti gets (mostly because Dana calls him out so often), Dan Miragliotta is legitimately a real danger as the third man in the ring or cage. This stoppage isn't even a question of giving a fighter the benefit of the doubt and a chance to recover. Mir was clearly done and not moving.
Miragliotta is responsible for as many controversial stoppages - either too fast or far too slow - as Cecil Peoples is for absurd decisions.
After the jump, I take a look at the fight that resulted in a fighter being suspended and the DQ that should have happened but didn't.
Rousimar Palhares suspended for 90 days
I'll borrow the description from the earlier entry here on Bloody Elbow:
Middleweight Rousimar Palhares, who defeated Tomasz Drwal via heel-hook, was suspended 90 days for failing to release the hold. The dangerous lock, which can quickly cause serious damage to the knee of a competitor, is often banned in lower-level competitions. Palhares latched on to Drwal and cranked hard even as the Polish slugger tapped repeatedly. Palhares had to be pried off of his foe by referee Kevin Mulhall before finally releasing the hold.
Five Ounces of Pain makes clear that the suspension is from the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. This point is worth noting because many comments online make it sound like the UFC decided the punishment and that it should have been harsher. I'm not a contract lawyer and, even if I was, I have no idea what clauses are in Palhares' contract with the UFC. However, my guess is that the only clear option for the UFC would be to cut Palhares, as they did with Renato "Babalu" Sobral following his extended choke of David Heath. Here's the gif (which should be in real time, unlike the slow motion gifs that are also floating around the internet):
Joe Rogan was making a big deal out of how long Palhares held the heel hook after Drwal tapped. Unfortunately, the fighter is supposed to keep going - even after a tap - until the referee stops the fight. In looking over the fight video again, it looks to me that Palhares released pressure as soon as the referee grabbed him to stop the fight, but it took another second before he could get his arms up in air; however, the hold was done as soon as the pressure was released. If you check back on the video, look at how Palhares' biceps are flexed when he has the heel hook in, and you can see when he releases.
Whether Palhares torqued harder than he should have is a open for debate, but I don't see any evidence of him intentionally holding onto a submission after the referee stopped the fight. Which brings up the more important point...
Where was the referee, and why did it take him so long to stop the fight? I realize we're talking about mere seconds here, but it's an important issue. MMA referees should be aware of what is likely to happen in a fight so that they are able to make the quick judgment calls required by the job. Palhares is well known for his submissions, including his heel hooks. The reality is that Palhares fought according to the rules, and he had a submission in too long because the referee did not stop the fight soon enough after Drwal tapped repeatedly.
Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his or her head or neck.
The Pellegrino-Camoes fight brought us perhaps the scariest moment of the night.
There's an interesting thread over on the Underground about this move (and where I stole the gif from). The issue focuses on what the unified rules - in effect in New Jersey - say about spiking. Well, here it is:
(a) The following are fouls and will result in penalties if committed:
25. Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his or her head or neck.
(b) Disqualification occurs after any combination of three or the fouls listed in (a) above or after a referee determines that a foul was intentional and flagrant.
Emphasis added by me. Not only was the move incredibly dangerous, but it was also illegal and intentional, which means it should have resulted in a disqualification. There is an important issue brought up by Kirik Jenness which deserves wider attention, especially since Kirik has contributed a great deal to MMA over the years (sorry, but I don't know how to post the framed version that usually ends up on Bloody Elbow, but this is from the first page of the thread):
Getting spiked is indeed dangerous. Camoes was momentarily out from it. The central element in the rule, and I apologize for my inability to communicate this, is one of responsibility for your own safety. If you control your position, and someone spikes you, if you choose to not release the arm bar, choke, etc, then the reposnsibility for what happens lies on you.
There's also a discussion about spiking being illegal from an offensive position but not a defensive position. However, the rule, as written, does not make this distinction. A spike is simply illegal. This is not like the issue about strikes to the "back of the head" where there is room to interpret what constitutes the "back of the head" (eg. the famed, and largely unsettled, mohawk versus earphone debate). Camoes was clearly spiked, and it appears to me from the video that Pellegrino had every intention of spiking Camoes' head to the canvas.
As much as I love MMA and hate unnecessary rules and early stoppages, these fights highlight several important issues of fighter safety. Additionally, they highlight the need for better referees, since they are ultimately the ones in charge of fighter safety when it matters most. Referees need to know the rules and know what to expect from the fighters in the ring or cage, so that they are prepared to step in immediately when it's needed.
Oh, and one of those fun debates that comes up on occasion about how long a fighter has to recover from a foul... in NJ, it's five minutes:
(e) A fouled fighter has up to five minutes to recuperate.
There are no special times or lack thereof based on the particular foul.