There's nothing loathsome about soccer kicks. Those that are concerned about possible health detriments seem to have forgotten that the sport of fighting is rife with such hazards.
Yes, a soccer kick can cause damage, but so can a punch, an elbow, a knee or pretty much every other legal technique in mixed martial arts.
The issue of soccer kicks has seen some limelight recently due to former UFC star Roger Huerta's stunning KO loss at the hands—or feet—of Zorobabel Moreira at this past Saturday's OneFC: Destiny of Warriors event.
It was one of the most brutal knockouts of the year, and it's sad to see a once-great fighter get dispatched in such a manner, but the fight didn't warrant the negative clamor and criticism it received.
For example, MMAjunkie's own Dr. Johnny Benjamin recently took soccer kicks to task, stating the following:
Broken necks (cervical spine fractures) can easily injure the spinal cord and cause permanent paralysis and, in some cases, death. Depending on the positioning of the head at impact, direction and magnitude (vector) of the blow, the neck will break (fracture) at roughly 800 to 1,000 foot-pound force (preferred unit is Newtons (N) but I will not bore you with the math).
The average casual adult soccer player can kick a ball with 1,000 foot-pound force. The average professional soccer player can kick at about 1,200 foot-pound force. My educated guess is that an elite, highly trained MMA artist will perform very similar to the professional soccer player.
As we can see, the MMA athlete can very easily generate more than enough force to cause a very significant injury (specifically cervical spine fracture) to a grounded opponent. If the neck luckily is not broken with this crude, unskilled maneuver, the trachea (wind pipe) and carotid artery also lie directly in harm's way; significant trauma to either can be permanently life-altering.
The rationale that it is safe because it has been done before and no one got hurt is faulty on many levels. Just because you may be unaware of anyone being injured doesn't prove that the act is safe. It could merely mean that you are not well-informed, poor documentation was gathered, or we're just lucky no one has been seriously injured yet.
Dr. Benjamin is right that the kicks are dangerous—but many if not all techniques employed in the cage or ring are in some capacity.
Just like Austin Powers, "Danger" is the sport's middle name.
No technique should be outright banned from the sport. If fighters are wary of being injured or of the inherent risks involved in such a sport, they are welcome to not participate in professional mixed martial arts (although there'd be nothing wrong with removing certain techniques in amateur mixed martial arts, since it's for people testing the waters and weekend warriors).
Concerning the force with which soccer kicks land, punches from certain fighters are far more powerful than a soccer kick. For example, George St.Pierre's punch registered at 2859 pounds of force and his kick had 3477 pounds of force (beating even Muay Thai ace Mauricio "Shogun" Rua whose kick landed 2749 pounds of force).
Keep in mind that this was NOT a soccer kick. If a round kick landed with over two times as much force, why shouldn't round kicks be banned?
This isn't to provoke or insult the Doctor—he did a fine piece. But the fact of the matter is that removing techniques from the sport just because they are "dangerous" is nonsensical. The sport has perils, men can strike with eight limbs, slam opponents violently, choke their opponents as well as torque their limbs until they're broken.
Even so, detractors likely don't need to worry about soccer kicks/kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent in general.
The sad truth is that kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent will almost definitely never be seen in the UFC and in North American MMA in general. The sport has image problems in the United States and KOs like the one Huerta received would just further perpetuate the belief that MMA is a barbaric, uncouth bloodsport fit only for white trash and other such dregs of society.
This is rather unfortunate, seeing as the addition of these strikes would be a boon to the sport. There would be more finishes and less stalling.
Removing techniques, no matter how dangerous, ruins mixed martial arts. It takes something that was originally meant to be as close to a real fight as possible and makes it naught but a sport—a sport that's been neutered and significantly watered down.
If there's something wrong with soccer kicks, there's also something wrong with mixed martial arts as a whole, as well as all the fans who partake in enjoying it.