In my UFC 157 results and post-fight analysis article last night I brought up my support of the standing eight count's implementation in MMA. While discussing Dennis Bermudez's win over Matt Grice I said " If MMA had a standing eight count (it should), I don't know that Grice would have made it to the final bell."
Given some of the response to that line I wanted to expand on how I see it working, why I think it should be implemented and the misconception that it is "more dangerous" for fighters.
First, it should be noted that the idea is not that every stoppage or every knockdown or every time a fighter is hurt the ref should stop the action and check the fighter rather than stop the fight. Something like Robbie Lawler's stoppage of Josh Koscheck last night should be stopped exactly as it was, it seemed he was out and not able to defend himself, the ref stopped the bout. 95% of bouts would go down exactly the same way as they do now.
The "eight count" part of this also shouldn't be taken literally. I am only talking about a very brief pause in the action for the ref to check a fighter.
Before I continue, jump to about 4:35 of this video of Andre Ward's stoppage win over Chad Dawson:
Dawson was knocked down there, obviously, but what Smoger did was closely check the movement, responsiveness and eyes of Chad to gauge if it was safe for him to continue fighting. He decided no and stopped the fight.
The case study from last night is Bermudez vs. Grice.
In round three, Bermudez was hitting Grice with some very heavy shots, Grice was slumping back against the cage, legs gone, eyes rolling and would have dropped to the ground had there not been a cage to hold him up. That happened multiple times during the round.
Had the referee been able to step in quickly on...let's say the second time it happened and ask Grice a quick question, tell him to take two steps forward and check his eyes. The idea that it is somehow more dangerous and leads to more brain damage to make sure that a fighter is appropriately responsive to continue fighting is outlandish. The point of the standing eight in boxing is not supposed to be about allowing a fighter to recover from a barrage and continue fighting, it is to allow the referee to make a determination on if a fighter should still be fighting.
I suppose I just can't understand the thinking that somehow this rule would result in someone like Grice taking "more brain damage" in that position than if the fight continues well after he has already taken a barrage that could have stopped the fight without the ref being able to check on him. As the rules stand right now he was allowed to continue through the barrages, allowed to be held up by the cage, allowed to take more punches after likely suffering a concussion early in the round. A brief safety check doesn't somehow spike the chances that he gets seriously hurt, it dramatically reduces them.
Again, this would need to be a rule that is applied lightly, and only in cases where a referee is completely uncertain and wants to check a fighter who is in a very specific set of circumstances. No one is advocating a count every time a fighter is knocked down or a count instead of a stoppage in the vast majority of cases.
Simply an extra tool in the bag of MMA judges that could increase the safety of the sport.