Roundtable: What's up with Corner Stoppages in MMA?

Martin McNeil for SBNation

Cornermen are there at a fight to give technical advice, help the fighters in between rounds and to protect them from unnecessary damage. And we don't see that last one happen all that often in MMA. What's going on and should we be seeing more corner stoppages in MMA?

Mookie Alexander: The Kyle Kingsbury vs. Jimi Manuwa fight was ridiculous. That fight should not have gone another round. Same with Jared Hamman vs. Michael Kuiper. There's another handful of fights I'm thinking of that should've been stopped by the corner. Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck is one of them.

Basically, it's the responsibility of MMA corners to stop hoping for a miracle finish for the long-term benefit of protecting their fighter from potentially serious damage. And we don't see that happen all that often.

Should we be seeing more corner stoppages at the request of the cornermen themselves and not the fighter?

KJ Gould: It seems there's a fine line between giving your man a fighting chance and letting him take unnecessary damage - and it can be at times particularly difficult to walk that line.

Had Kingsbury's corner looked at his eye between the first and second round and decided to call it then, we don't know how Kingsbury might have reacted. Would he have got into an argument with his corner and fired them, or quit the team? Would he have understood the cornermen had his best interest at heart by throwing in the towel?

Maybe if more UFC fighters got better 'show' money, it'd be easier for the corners to make these decisions.

Ben Thapa: When I was at a combat sports medicine conference in New Jersey, one of the things the doctors all agreed on is that the fighters will often look for a way out that doesn't involve them publicly giving up. The doctors are told "No, I can't see," during eye poke examinations and then the fighter "freaks out" during the doctor stoppage. The doctors then silently take all the heat for the fight stoppage and the fighter gets to maintain his or her dignity.

If there was a silent buzzer or something of the kind with the doctor on the other end of the line, I bet corners would stop the fights way more than they already do. This way the blame gets funneled to the doctor and the fans who get ticked off about this stuff can go on their oblivious way, not realizing that these are real human beings taking way too much real damage out of stubborn pride to be healthy.

Fraser Coffeen: I don't disagree with you, KJ, but as a fighter, you have to be working with a corner that you trust 100%. If your team is the right team for you, they know when you are done, and you should let them have their say. If you don't have the faith that they are doing the right thing, then you shouldn't be with that team.

That said, I do think for whatever reason, corners in MMA are very hesitant to stop fights. Partly it's a mentality that is somewhat built into MMA (the same basic mentality that leads to injuries in training IMO). But it's also partly an issue with the rules regarding corner stoppages. I've heard referees telling corners they can't throw in towels; I've heard referees telling corners that if they stand up during the fight when their man is getting hurt, the refs will think
they want the fight stopped and will wave it off.

I think that shows that, again, MMA just doesn't view corner stoppages as a part of the game. Perhaps if the rules governing them become more consistent, they'll become more accepted. But it will be a long road.

Mookie: When Buddy McGirt stopped the Floyd Mayweather vs. Arturo Gatti mauling, a completely puffed-up and battered Gatti wanted "one more round". Fighters are always going to object to corner stoppages because it's pretty much a fighter's mentality.

The Kingsbury vs. Manuwa fight should've absolutely been stopped to prevent further harm to whatever is left of Kyle's left eye. Kingsbury getting a few takedowns in the 2nd round does not make the corner's decision to let him fight correct. Brent Brookhouse said it on Twitter earlier (Tweet #1, Tweet #2), if an NFL QB sustained a concussion and threw a touchdown a few plays later, that doesn't mean he shouldn't have been out of the game.

The "fighter's heart and chin" cliche is something the UFC should not be pushing so hard. Josh Koscheck should not have gone the distance with GSP. If you notice, his eye has swollen in all of his post-GSP fights on top of him being out eight months. Is it worth protecting your fighter in the short-term to ensure good long-term health? I think so.

Fraser Coffeen: Devil's advocate though on Koscheck - that was probably his last shot at the title, so isn't that the time to sacrifice it all in there and screw the consequences?

Mookie Alexander: True, but when you can't see then you can't fight properly. Of course if GSP were more aggressive, that could've been stopped anyway. But there does come a time when a cornerman should realize your fighter is taking too much of a beating with zero retaliation.

I mentioned the Hamman vs. Kuiper fight earlier. The corner of Hamman should have stopped it as soon as they figured out his knee was jacked. He was eating hard punches from a good striker and was on one leg for the whole of the 2nd round. That's dangerous, dangerous strategy in the name of "anything can happen". It's one of the major drawbacks of a three round fight because you always believe your guy has a chance even when he's not functioning at 100%.

Brent Brookhouse: I don't like thinking like a "mommy fan" who cries about the future of these guys. I mean, it's just a fact that guys in this line of work and boxing and football..etc. are going to be at significant risk down the road. But I love those sports, so you accept that and move on.

But I do think it's a very big problem in MMA that we NEVER see corners tell their fighters "I'm going to stop it if you keep getting hit" or stopping a fight and saying "That's enough." You shouldn't ask the fighter, you should tell the fighter. And if a fighter leaves a camp and trainer over something like that, then he needs to be called out by the media and fans.

That Kingsbury fight would have been stopped in boxing at two different points in the first round. But the fact that you can clinch and work takedowns ends up having guys given extra chances to keep going. Yeah, he could have did what he did in Round 2 and gotten a couple takedowns, but he was also doing so after clearly having suffered significant trauma in Round 1. Every blow he took after that round was going to have more of an effect on him.

His corner could have easily said "that's enough" after round 1 and no one would have blamed them outside of the lowest end of the fanbase. Hell, there were still people saying he "deserved" the chance to fight in the third round after all that trauma and having one eye completely shut. So yeah, some people will always complain.

But there's clearly an issue here where, for some reason, we just don't see corners look out for their fighters.

What's your take, BE readers?

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