UFC 128 in Newark, New Jersey crowned a new light heavyweight champion as 23 year old challenger Jon "Bones" Jones annihilated the now former champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in just under three rounds of action.
Jones used his length to keep himself from danger in the stand up where he employed a combination of flashy punches, kicks, knees and elbows that eventually finished the fight. Although Jones looked at ease in the stand up department with Shogun, it was Jones' superior wrestling and top control that was paramount in his victory over the Brazilian.
Not being a practitioner of the sport myself, it is difficult to say where Shogun's game plan went wrong. However, seeing as how Jones does have long lean legs it was a little surprising to not see the Shogun leg kicks people had seen against Lyoto Machida in the past. Maybe Shogun was too worried about being taken down and judging by the way the fight went it looks like Jones' take downs were something to be worried about.
Leg kicks aside it appeared as if anything Shogun was going to try against Jones that night wasn't going to work, Jones was simply too strong.
Referee Herb Dean had to step in and stop the fight after Shogun scrambled to his feet and took a punch to his body that buckled his legs which was followed up by a knee as he was going down. The stoppage was at the right moment and Dean didn't let unnecessary damage to Shogun occur.
Not only did Dean think Shogun had enough, but some people seem to think Shogun had enough as a claim has been made that the former UFC light heavyweight champion and Pride Champion tapped out just as Dean was stepping in to make the call.
After having a chance to see the slow motion animated GIF, which can be found through a quick Google search, it is clear that once Shogun is down on his hands and knees he makes a tapping gesture on the mat with his right hand.
It is difficult to say whether Shogun was really tapping out or whether it was just a reaction because at that point Shogun's brain probably wasn't firing on all cylinders. Even if Shogun did tap out to Jones' strikes, who cares?
Popular opinion seems to be that tapping to strikes is one of the worst ways a fighter can lose. There is no doubt it is a tough way to go out, but how is it any tougher than tapping to a submission? Is tapping out to strikes really a show of true character? Maybe in some cases, but in most cases it should never be seen in that light.
Georges St. Pierre tapped to Matt Serra back in April of 2007 and lost his title before regaining it again in April 2008 where he paid back the punishment Serra dished out in full. St. Pierre was on his back and wobbled by Serra who continued to rain down punches and just as the referee stepped in St. Pierre tapped.
BJ Penn called St. Pierre out on the fact that he had tapped to strikes prior to their meeting at UFC 94. BJ Penn's corner threw in the towel at the end of round four.
St. Pierre has defended his title an astonishing five times now and that tap to strikes is probably one of the least of St. Pierre's worries.
Good on St. Pierre and Shogun for tapping to strikes, there is nothing wrong with tapping to strikes and there is no reason anyone involved in the sport, whether they be fans, fighters, media, promoters or trainers should be criticising a tap out due to strikes. One of the major guiding principals behind the UFC and the mixed martial arts sanctioning bodies is fighter safety.
Nobody wants to see a fighter die in the cage or ring and nobody wants to see a fighter with irreversible injuries that may ruin their careers or worse, their lives after fighting.
Does anybody question a fighter who taps out to a locked in submission hold? No and for obvious reasons, the main one being that bones, tendons and ligaments will break if the fighter doesn't tap. Why then should it be taboo to tap out when one of the body's most important organs, the brain, is going to be seriously hurt?
The tap out exists for a reason, to let the fighters protect themselves when they feel they are in a situation that risks injuring them gravely.
After all the investigations in to what concussions do to players in the NFL, in light of all the head shot controversies in the NHL and the dangers of concussions in mixed martial arts, would it not be wise to allow fighters to tap out to strikes without having to worry about the wrath of spectators and rabid fans who feel it is a sign of a weakness?
Obviously there are situations where fighters have tapped out to strikes where it probably wasn't warranted, just as there are fighters that have tapped out to submission holds that weren't really locked in yet. Of course fighters who tap out too early are going to get their just deserts from the media, fans and promoters alike, but there are plenty of cases where a tap out due to strikes is perfectly acceptable.
Case in point, Shogun against Jon Jones. Whether Shogun actually tapped out to Jones or not, the fact of the matter is tapping out at that point isn't something Shogun should be ashamed of.
Jon Jones had dominated Shogun up until the referee stoppage in round three and Shogun had been visibly hurt on numerous occasions. At the time of the stoppage, Shogun was in no shape to be fighting anymore.
There was no way Shogun was going to win the fight against Jones that night and with the damage he had taken there wasn't any reason to take more and both Herb Dean and Shogun should be commended for knowing when enough was enough.
Herb Dean stepped in, so the fact that Shogun tapped is moot, but even if Herb Dean had let the action continue Shogun has no reason to feel ashamed for tapping out. This was a tough loss to swallow for a fighter that was once in Jones' shoes not so long ago, but tapping to strikes shouldn't be as frowned upon as it is right now.
If people can't be satisfied with the impressive performance by Jones and give Shogun credit for hanging in as long as he did against the superior fighter that night, then what makes this any different than the days of the Roman gladiators fighting in the coliseum?
The UFC and the sanctioning bodies have been very careful in ensuring the fighters' safety despite the dangers of the sport and it would be nice to see some of the fans and others adopt a similar attitude towards the safety and security of the fighters we all love to see compete.
Leon Horne has been contributing to Bleacher Report for two years now. He focuses mainly on mixed martial arts, but he has also written about tennis, football and hockey. Just send him a message if you want to talk sports or discuss any opportunities. You can follow him on Twitter for updates:
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