Why Border-Line Early Stoppages Are Better for the Sport Than Late Stoppages

T.P. GrantAnalyst IFebruary 23, 2009

UFC 95 has opened a debate on the 'Intelligent Defense' rule in MMA, that a fight can be stopped when a fighter is so hurt or dazed he is unable to intelligently defend himself. The term is board and vague and it is up to the ref to make the call.

During the UFC 95 when Josh Koscheck was KOed by Paulo Thiago, it was debatable if Kos was going to be able to recover from the uppercut cross combo in time to defend himself from the flurry of blows that never arrived thanks to the ref.

While it is true that Thiago really was taking his time to pounce on Kos and as irritating it is that is that the fights get stopped in an iffy moment, it is nothing compared to the backlash that the UFC will suffer if something like the Kos vs Lytle fight happens on cable.

A total blood bath on cable would have a huge fall out in the media, on PPV, Zuffa has control of the images that come out, but on cable anyone can get the images out there. The events are not aired live on Spike for the same reason.

Also the figher's health is the primary concern, putting safety first in MMA makes good sense. Part of what makes the sport go that while hyper-violent, serious injures are rare and there have been no deaths in a high-profile pro match.

Better to stop fights slightly early than risk wheeling Kos out on a stretcher, because the odds Kos was going to recover in time were minuscule. And the blows he would have taken could have done real damage to him.

I compare it to a fight in the UFC, the combatants names I cannot recall, a fighter was put in a very tight arm bar, no way he was getting out, but he never tapped. The ref stopped the fight and the fighter complained he never tapped. The refs response was clearly heard by the ring mike, 'Shut up, I just saved your career.'

Now the natural response is, "But Griffin v Bonnar I was live on Spike and was a total blood bath." As it is correct, the Bonnar/Griffin fight did get bloody but that was before the UFC really entered the mainstream, and both fighters were on their feet when the cut happened.

Like it or not the American public is more tolerant of 'boxing-like' action but its when the fights go to the ground that you get comments like 'human cock fighting.'

Now the UFC is on Spike regularly, ESPN covers results, there is a huge Internet following and more cities are opening their gates to MMA.

You can put whatever you want on PPV and people won't say anything but you put Kos vs Lytle on cable, were Lytle suffered not one, not two but three major cuts, laid on his back and got hammered on for three rounds and you'll have 'think of the children!' coming at you from every angle.

I will take what happened to Kos over the alternative. Having the fight called after a fighter is absolutely rocked, is out for a second and then has his opponent passing his guard before he knows whats happening isn't horrible.

What is horrible is watching Brock Lesnar dribbling Randy Couture's head like a basketball for what seemed like a full minute, or watching Cheick Kongo rain elbows on a helpless Al Turk for an actual 30 seconds.

Is is a hypocritical standard that watching MMA with your kid is horrible, awful stuff and watching your favorite defensive end break a QB's spine is good ol' American bonding? Yes.

Is that how it is? Yes and the UFC is just living in the world in front of them. They have to be aware of their image and the backlash a serious injury would cause, and the UFC handles this in a very media savvy and market concusses way.