For any MMA fans who watched movies in the 80's, Jean Claude Van Damme's 1988 movie "Bloodsport" holds a special place in their hearts. Back then, a no holds barred tournament featuring fighters from a variety of martial arts was only something you could dream about as mainstream MMA did not exist back then. UFC 1 would come years later in 1993. Bloodsport brought that dream to reality on the big screen.
For anyone who has seen the movie, the Monkey fighter should ring bells immediately. For those who have not seen the movie, here's a sample of this simian technique in action.
Of course Bloodsport is just a movie, you can't actually use the Monkey style in a real fight right? You'd just get kicked in the head. But there is the rub, MMA is not a real fight, there are rules and regulations governing the sport. In particular, kicking the head of a grounded opponent is not allowed. Monkey style just found its niche.
The seeds of Jon Jones using this technique started in his early days as a young, up and coming fighter who looked up to a veteran in his camp, Rashad Evans. Evans started his fights out in a crouched down stance before the bell but he immediately got up once the fight started. Jones took that and ran with it.
While he previously only started out in that position like Evans, Jones officially brought Monkey style to the UFC during his fight with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 135. Facing a fighter whose only threat was his punching power, Jones stayed low after the opening bell and moved toward Rampage as Jones kept one hand on the ground, this caused Rampage to have to lower himself to punch Jones thus taking much of his punching power away. The disadvantage of being in that position for Jones is he can't strike effectively, however he can go for takedowns from that position. Jones did exactly that as he shot for the takedown from this crouched position. Watch the sequence here: http://youtu.be/KYUuHUmDy-E?t=13m45s
At UFC 140, faced against the unorthodox striking of Lyoto Machida, Jones again began the fight using the Monkey style but unlike the Rampage fight, he was quick to get up after engaging Machida as Machida kept the distance and did not expose himself to the takedown as Jackson did. Skip to 3:15 to see the start of that fight: http://www.ufc.com/media/ufc-140-jones-machida
Jones is effectively playing a game of Chicken with his opponent in this situation, he's counting on the opponent not kicking his head. If an opponent kicks at his head while he's crouched down with a hand on the ground, Jones has to do one of the following:
A. Absorb the blow and let the opponent get warned, penalized, or possibly disqualified if Jones cannot continue.
B. Lift his hands up to move away and protect himself from the kick.
Of course the key with choosing option B is by taking your hand off the ground, the striker will not be in violation of the kicking a grounded opponent rule since Jones does not have a hand on the ground anymore.
Gif courtesy of Cagepotato.com
Jones chose to get up rather than get hit. Befort may have lost the fight, but he won that game of chicken. Jones looked towards the ref for help believing Belfort broke the rules, however John McCarthy correctly interpreted the situation and the rules. He also recognized the game Jones was playing as he shrugged him off by saying "you wanna play the game."
The rule forbidding kicking the head of a grounded opponent was intended to protect fighters in a vulnerable position on the ground, it was not intended to be used as a loophole for fighters seeking to avoid standing up and striking with an opponent. Leave it to a Greg Jackson fighter to exploit the rulebook to the fullest in order to gain the advantage.
So far, Jon Jones has been content only to use this technique at the start of fights. But it's only a matter of time before he and other fighters catch on and realize the Monkey style is a smart technique they can use full time to neutralize a dangerous stand up striker.
Should the UFC lobby to amend this rule to prevent those seeking to exploit it like Jon Jones is doing? Or should the UFC continue to allow this Monkey technique so it can be used as a method to avoid standing up and striking?