After most UFC events, I like to take a few days to reflect on what I've seen before passing any judgments. I watch the fights on my television at home, since up until that point I've only had the live experience of sitting on press row and working. And even though press row is just about the best seat you can get in any arena, you still miss things that you would normally see on the television broadcast.
I don't think UFC 159 will require many extra views.
It's not that the entire event was bad. There were several highlights, and we'll get into those in a few minutes. But I think it's safe to say that UFC 159 won't go down in the history books as a memorable event for good reasons; rather, it will be remembered as one of the weirdest events in UFC history. It's certainly the strangest event I've ever covered live.
If you're one of those folks who believe in all good things coming to an end, well, Saturday night didn't surprise you. The UFC's had a pretty good run of entertaining events, and last week's UFC on Fox card was one of the best overall shows in the history of the company.
So it felt like they were due for a bad card. And again, while I wouldn't classify UFC 159 as a bad card in the usual way of judging these things, it certainly wasn't good. And strange things were most definitely afoot.
Prior to the event, I tweeted the following:
When I tweeted that, I honestly believed that there was no way we would see it come to fruition. It was mostly done tongue in cheek, as a way of noting that I believed Chael Sonnen didn't stand much of a chance against Jon Jones. A freak injury incurred by Jones was Sonnen's best path to victory, and we all knew that wasn't going to happen. Right?
You can imagine the look on my face, then, when a few hours later we came just a few seconds away from Sonnen capturing the light heavyweight title due to a horrific compound toe fracture suffered by Jones in the first round.
It was that kind of night. The weird stuff started early and never let up, all the way through the main event.
Now that it's over, and now that I'm finally home from Newark (hands down my least-favorite city to cover a UFC event in), it's time to reflect on what I saw.
Kevin Mulhall made the correct decision in stopping the St Preux/Villante fight
When Gian Viillante suffered an eye poke from Ovince St-Preux, he stumbled backwards and held his hand over his eye. Referee Kevin Mulhall approached Villante to see how he was doing. "I can't see," Villante said.
At that point, Mulhall waved off the fight. The fans erupted in boos, and Villante protested wildly. But the truth is this: Mulhall was right, at least according to the rules. If a fighter is asked if he can see, and he says no, the referee is obligated to stop the fight.
The rule is dumb, of course. Eye pokes should be treated the same as groin strikes, in that a fighter should be given up to 5 minutes of recovery time before being asked to resume the fight. But eye pokes aren't treated the same way, and nobody really knows why. They're obviously just as debilitating as a strike to the groin—if not more so, in some cases—and yet the referees are often instantly in the faces of the injured fighter, asking if they can see and if they can continue.
They've just been poked in the eye, and they've been given no time to recuperate. Of course they can't see.
This is yet another MMA rule that needs to be changed. Eye pokes are serious business, but they don't always have to signal the conclusion of a fight. In a lot of cases, a fighter can recover if given the proper time. But if the referee is immediately tasked with getting in the fighter's face and asking if they can see just mere seconds after they've been poked in the eye, well, the chances are pretty good that they cannot see.
Fighters who suffer eye pokes should be given time to rest. The cageside doctor should be the one checking out the eye, as I can't imagine many of these referees are trained in all of the various nuances of eye injuries. If the doctor determines that they cannot continue, then the fight should be stopped. But it shouldn't be left up to the referee, and it absolutely shouldn't happen when a fighter is asked if they can see immediately after having a digit jammed in their orbital socket.