I've been thinking this for awhile when it comes to MMA fouls, recovery, and safety: the subjective reffing in enforcing rules against fouls has the potential to completely change a fight. A zero tolerance policy could work wonders on the following most-common types of fouls.
1. Fence grabbing - Everybody hates this cheap tactic, because it's commonly used to either avoid a takedown or keep a clinch that would otherwise have separated, and is thus is a form of stalling. This happens so often in fights I don't even need to give examples. This is a perfect foul for zero tolerance: you grab the fence, you lose a point.
Now you might say, Galathrax, it's only human and everybody makes mistakes. That may be true, but we're talking about a potentially fight-changing foul here. It may be pretty human to stomp on guys heads when it's right there in front of your foot (especially if you're Shogun or Wand) but you can train to avoid committing acts that are fouls. Same thing applies for fence grabbing. I have no doubt that if a zero tolerance policy were initiated, fighters would understand that fence grabbing = point deduction, and would modify their training appropriately.
2. Eye poking -This one may be a little more difficult, but when you consider that the purpose of the MMA rules is to avoid injury even at the expense of a less exciting fight, it becomes clear that fighters should have to modify training to avoid eye pokes. How can a fighter train to avoid eye pokes? It's simple: never have an open hand near your opponents face. I can't think of a single eyepoke that occurred during a grappling exchange, which is perhaps odd. But again, if the purpose of "NAC 467.7962 Acts constituting fouls" is to protect fighters, the rules should be enforced strictly. This one is especially crazy considering the seriousness of the foul: Burns/Anthony Johnson and now Bisping/Belcher were horrific, and potentially career ending. Obviously accidents from a closed fist/glove can happen (Belfort/Couture 2) but that's unavoidable. An open hand during striking exchanges? Completely modifiable through training.
3. Groin shots -This is less clear cut, because the in-step kick so often lands where it shouldn't just due to the frenetic positioning in a fight. However, knees to the groin are less forgiving: if you are clinched or throwing a knee at standing, you should have the wherewithal to avoid the groin. Maybe give a one shot warning, with the second resulting in a point deduction. The fighter who is throwing the shots should modify their attack to avoid the groin after the first warning and not continue to throw. Now, you may have fighters who overemphasive a light strike or fake it (Hughes/GSP II comes to mind on the 2nd strike), but that's what instant replay is for. Fighters who game the system (Koscheck) should be penalized as well.
4. Back of the head shots -This is a no-brainer. Don't throw a shot unless you're sure where it's going to land. With Gonzaga's recent fight, Brown's first elbow may have been legal, but the subsequent blows are questionable at best. I've read others say that the rule doesn't apply if the intended target moves so as to put the back of the head as the target. I don't see why that makes sense: if the objective is fighter safety, again, shouldn't we put the onus on the fighter throwing the strike? I think it's very rare (I've never seen it) where a fighter is throwing a strike nowhere in the vicinity of the back of the head but it nevertheless lands on the back of the head. These "accidental" back of the head shots are almost always incredibly close to the foul area to begin with. Belfort's strikes to the spinal column are always ridiculous to watch. Which also reminds me: how about a standardized definition of "back of the head"?
5. More exotic fouls: spiking opponents, spitting, attacking after the bell, etc. - There are easy to enforce, because they're never accidental. A lot of the fouls could use further clarification as well: what is "spiking"? A lot of the NSAC rules are undefined. (What is a "verbal tap out"? Does Chael screaming like a girl count?) That needs to be fixed.
The ref should also be given the benefit of modern science: television replay when determining whether a foul occurred.
Should the athletic commission start a zero tolerance policy for fouls?