UFC: Is Nick Diaz Right About the State of Modern MMA?

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Even dead, Pride casts a shadow. 

Ever since the rivalry between Pride and the UFC, people have questioned which organization had better rules—rules that produced a more exciting and more realistic contest.

Outspoken welterweight Nick Diaz did an (in)famous interview with Ariel Helwani in which he gave his take on the issue and pulled no punches. To him, Pride indisputably had better rules while the UFC's rules were conducive only towards "running away" from the fight and lay and pray.

Despite the fact that Pride has been dead for years, its memory and influence still linger across Internet forums and message boards where the Pride vs. UFC war is still being fought. 

The issue of the rule debate was also inflamed in light of UFC 143, where some (including Bleacher Report's own Jonathan Snowden) accused Carlos Condit of running away from Nick Diaz but still winning. 

This has made Diaz even more of a poster boy for rule changes in the UFC. 

Is there truth to their words?

Some. 

Some of what they say is nothing but pathetic nostalgia for a long-dead organization that is never coming back.

But some of what they say is in fact true; there are problems with the UFC, and implementing some rules from Pride could help. 

The fact of the matter is that the majority of MMA fans are "casual" fans who don't necessarily appreciate the intricacies of the sport. They'd rather see a brawl like Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar I than a technical-masterpiece performance like Condit's victory over Diaz or any of Jon Fitch's victories. 

Even some "hardcore" fans don't appreciate the tactics that the UFC's rules allegedly promote. 

The general argument is that the rules and judging criteria endorse wrestlers to take a fighter down, keep top position and hold the opponent there without doing anything.

They also say that the judging over-emphasizes takedowns rather than submission attempts (see: Demetrious Johnson vs. Miguel Torres).

The solution that they propose is the implementation of the Pride rules, namely yellow cards, kicks/knees to the head of a grounded opponent, the removal of elbows on the ground and different judging criteria (judging the entire fight rather than individual rounds).

The yellow card is perhaps the most plausible solution. It is basically a penalty for stalling that a referee can give to a fighter which ultimately ends in a purse deduction. Fighters can take hits in a lot of places, but not in their wallet.

Yellow cards would make sure that fights were faster-paced and that stalling or "lay and pray" was kept in check. 

The removal of elbows on the ground would theoretically also deter "lay and pray" since wrestlers wouldn't be able to smother fighters and prevent the fight from being stood up by landing elbows. 

However, the removal of any technique severely waters down the purity of the sport. How can it be the "sport of fighting" if basic, effective techniques like elbows on the ground aren't allowed?

For the same reason, knees/kicks/stomps to the head of a grounded opponent need to be added to the UFC's rules. 

It would give strikers an edge and would make wrestlers think twice about going in for a takedown. Also, more fights would be finished because there would be dozens more opportunities to land a (legal) fight-ending blow.

However, this solution (knees/kicks to the head of a grounded opponent) is the least feasible. 

MMA is still not well understood by most of American society, the events on FOX notwithstanding. The UFC needs to try and remove the "bloodsport" stigma, and people getting their heads stomped on won't help matters. 

Concerning judging criteria, any change won't help if the judges are still clueless about MMA. The only way to fix that is for people who trained in/grew up watching MMA to eventually become judges. Once that happens, we'll see less poor decisions.

Ultimately, the rules in the UFC aren't as bad as Diaz and people on the Internet make them out to be (people on the Internet exaggerating? Imagine that) but they can definitely be improved. 

Unfortunately, things aren't that simple.

While Pride could basically do what it wanted because of the lack of athletic commissions, any major change to the UFC's rules would have to be cleared by the various athletic commissions. Overhauling the unified rules of MMA would be a task that wouldn't be worth it for the UFC; They're the only game in town, and they know it.

 

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