UFC 133 at the Wells Fargo Center on August 6, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) via UFC 133 Event Photo Gallery
Look folks, I'm well aware of the dangers involved with shots to the back of the head. Some will cite the general location of the brain stem and its vulnerability being an issue. A quick look at the Rabbit Punch article via Wikipedia says it is the cervical vertebrae and spinal chord that are at risk which can lead to spinal chord injury or even death and so it's obvious why blows to this area are banned in combat sports like Boxing and MMA. Some will write about the problems of strikes landing as a fight is being finished and criticise a fighter or referee involved and some will say - without intending to be callous - that it's a danger that can't be 100% avoided either in the heat of the moment when close to a finish or because of how fighters on the receiving end are usually constantly moving and end up putting this danger-area right in line of fire. Both lines of thinking have been published concerning recent fights between Dan Henderson vs Fedor Emelianenko and last night's Vitor Belfort vs Yoshihiro Akiyama.
What's nonsensical about any outrage over this issue is how stunningly silent everyone remains over the bigger risk to the back of the head in an MMA fight and that's when it ends with a crowd pleasing Knock-Out Slam. Shots to the back of the head in MMA invariably happen when a fight hits the ground where elbows and arm-punches are thrown and a vocal contingent gets up in arms if any of these shots appear to hit this illegal area. Knock-Outs due to spectacular slams that have elevation, acceleration, bodyweight and gravity behind them invariably occur due to the back of the head bouncing off the mat and yet doesn't draw a peep from anyone other than how aesthetically pleasing it looked. For these critics who still enjoy watching the sport, as long as the slam doesn't spike the head where impact through the cranium causes compression of the cervical vertebrae, that's all that matters because that's all there is in the current rules regarding the legality of throws and takedowns.
Do I want to see these currently legal throws and slams banned in MMA competition? No. But for anyone who is going to continue to criticise the comparatively less dangerous arm blows to the back of the head that occasionally occur, they can't remain tight lipped about the more forceful throw, slam, salto or suplay that impacts this same area and ends a fight with no questions asked or concerns raised. It's still the back of the head whether the rules say one instance is illegal and another instance is legal. You can't have it both ways.