MMA Referee Rob Hinds Talks Eye Pokes, 10-10 Rounds, Communication and Focus

Michael StetsContributor IIIMay 2, 2013

Longtime MMA official Rob Hinds has been inside the cage as a referee for more than 4,000 professional fights and sat outside as a judge for almost 1,000.  There is not much he hasn’t seen or heard. 

He is leading the charge in educating new and current MMA officials.  His company, Combat Consulting, teaches MMA referees and judges in seminars around the country. 

Recently, he provided his insight into the controversial and rare technical decision between Gian Villante and Ovince St. Preux.  At UFC 159, referee Kevin Mulhall paused the action early in the third round after Villante suffered an inadvertent eye poke from St. Preux.  Mulhall then waived off the bout after Villante informed him he couldn’t see.  St. Preux won the contest by majority technical decision.

“Any time a fighters tells a referee ‘I can’t see’ or ‘I can’t breathe,’ the only procedure at that time is to call the fight,” Hinds explained on Wednesday as a guest on Darce Side Radio.

Hinds said there could have been “better communication” or “more time to deliberate" or “call in the doctor”; however, once Villante admitted he couldn’t see, proper procedure was followed.

He said, “In the heat of the moment, that procedure was heard, which caused Villante to give the one incorrect answer that you can’t give a referee.  At that point, once that is verbalized, you have to call the fight.

“Maybe ask him a more general question: Are you all right, man?  Do you need to see the doctor?” Hinds suggested.  “Normally that gives you a more general answer, and then you can call in the doctor and actually give a little bit of time.”

Eye pokes have been a sore subject in MMA for some time.  Suggestions about altering the style of gloves are often bandied about.  Another common question is:  Why aren’t fighters given five minutes like they are for incidental groin strikes?

Hinds had this to say:

The reason a groin shot gets five minutes is because there’s absolutely no way for the doctor to check what’s happening there.  You can’t pull down their shorts or jock strap and all that and examine.  Any other injury, a thumb injury an eye injury the doctor can physically look at it, take an evaluation, clear blood away, ask questions, those types of things.

Hinds explained that it’s not necessarily about having an automatic five-minute rule but more about proper referee procedure.

It’s a determination of the referee on how much recovery time they get.  So it doesn’t need to be an automatic five minutes.  Again, this is a procedural thing from referees to where they need to take their time, assess the fighter, call the doctor if necessary, and this whole time they are getting a chance to recover.

After the fight had concluded—and St. Preux had been declared the winner—the scorecards were revealed, which showed that judges Eric Colon, Michael DePasquale Jr. and Jose Tabora had scored the incomplete round 10-10.

According to Hinds, even in that short of period of time, one fighter should have been awarded 10-9 as someone had to have “some effective advantage over their opponent.”

I always say a 10-10 round is like a unicorn.  Some people claim they’ve seen them, some people believe in them, but they don’t really actually exist.  Now, for that 33 seconds; if they just circled each other, and nobody threw a punch, kick, knee, tried a takedown, if they did absolutely nothing but circled for the 33 seconds, then you would have a 10-10 round because you didn’t have any effective offense or any effective technique.

Jose Tabora actually scored both the second and third round 10-10.

For a professional judge at that level to score a 10-10 to begin with, and then have two 10-10 rounds in one bout, that’s either the most boring bout we’ve seen or there needs to be further evaluation of those officials who score those 10-10 rounds.

Hinds explained that the sudden stop at the beginning of Round 3 between Villante and St. Preux could have provoked the three 10-10 scores.

One of the things that happens with judges on incomplete rounds is it kind of takes you by surprise.  You have the pause in the action due to the injury, and some judges if they’re not focused, they’ll forget what happened up until that point.

Hinds offered a refreshing and insightful take on what many fighters, managers, promoters and fans have complained about lately.  If more referees were to communicate better and more judges were to improve their focus, maybe there would be fewer complaints about refereeing and scoring.

Michael Stets is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.  All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.