Saturday night at UFC 159 was a cursed night of some terrible stoppages and some brutal injuries, most notable the broken toe that Jones suffered in his dismantling of Chael Sonnen. And as fun as it would be to imagine a world where Chael got beat for five minutes straight only to become the champion on a technicality, Saturday night that would not come to be. Instead we are left wondering what with Chael do next and the more pressing question, can we do something about those gloves.
Joe Rogan has been very vocal about how the gloves need to change; he was vocal on Saturday at UFC 159 parroting his own talking points on the matter. The issue is that if you make a change to the gloves you will take away the grappling ability and dexterity of grip in the clinch and on the ground. Instead, I think now is the time to revisit the unified rules of mixed martial arts. The rules have been in place for some time now and this morning is a great chance to take another look at them because the amount of eye pokes on Saturday was nothing short of stunning. Perhaps, if there was a point deduction, no matter the reason, it would modify the training of the fighters (I feel the same way about groin shots but that is for another PPV I would imagine).
Here is the current rule from the Association of Boxing Commissions –
4. Eye gouging of any kind;
Eye gouging by means of fingers, chin, or elbow is illegal. Legal strikes or punches that contact the fighter's eye socket are not eye gouging and shall be considered legal attacks.
It explains in clear language what is allowed and what isn’t but leaves some grey area for the word “poke” to replace “gouge.” Gouge sounds intentional where poke sounds like an accident. Although I am not sure Alan Belcher thought that felt like an accident when Michael Bisping attempted to massage is retina from the back of his eye socket at UFC 159. That is not to say that it wasn’t an accident, but it certainly ended the fight. For a fighter like Alan who came back from a near career ending eye injury it seems insulting to have a foul happen to you only to lose the fight because you cannot continue. Bisping gets a notch in the win column and not a thing happens to him, no deduction of purse, nothing off of the score card, just a victory over an opponent he beat because the rules don’t spell out that he did anything wrong.
It seems like the rules need a tweak especially in the wake of UFC 159 where, injury-wise, all hell broke loose and the tweak needs to start in the eye department as that is a much easier fix that any attempt to tinker with the gloves by either adding finger tips, or making them closed, or any other adaptation you might be able to think of. A gouge and a poke are the same thing if they end the fight and at UFC 159 we all got poked to the tune of $60 to see three injury stoppages and a title fight that nearly went to the loser of the fight. In spite of all of that I feel I need to say, thank God for Roy Nelson.