The Ultimate Fighter 17 finale has come and gone, and four items stood out for yours truly. While history repeated itself, perhaps the time has also come to examine some ideas for the betterment of mixed martial arts.
Are you really surprised?
If you were one of the parties who believed Uriah Hall was a lock to win the finale vs. Kelvin Gastelum, here’s hoping you did not lose too much money. The poor guy was already labeled “the best Ultimate Fighter” by so many people, yet he had not even won the show.
His younger opponent showcased a less dramatic style on the show, but finished every single opponent — just like Hall did. Uriah the more accomplished and technical striker, while Kelvin, by most accounts, a better mixed martial artist (for now).
Gastelum proved, yet again -- as has been done for countless amounts of times since the sport made its debut in 1993 -- that anyone can win, on any given night. There are no locks. As I always say, let the referee step out of the way, and let the guys/gals determine who the victor shall be.
For the most part, the team here at Sportsnet did not see a resounding favourite; rather two well-matched fighters, with the edge going to the wrestler in Gastelum. Ultimately, with a sound game plan, he would dictate where the fight would take place -- and that's exactly how it all went down.
Now, if Hall had a mean streak heading into that fight, I'd likely wager that he would have solidified the hype he had heading into the finale, and would have likely finished off Kelvin. But it has still yet to surface for the New York native, and something tells me, if he gets that corrected, he will then, truly, be a contender at 185 pounds.
Instant replay and immediate athletic commission positioning
In two separate occasions from two separate bouts on the main card, the use of instant replay and athletic commission positioning could have quickly squashed any controversy stemming from Travis Browne's elbow KO of Gabriel Gonzaga and Cat Zingano's knees that "TKO'd" Miesha Tate.
I do not believe it would take much for each of those scenarios to be reviewed by the commission, then a statement provided to the broadcast team, regardless if they believe the call by the referee is the final statement made. Even it takes longer than doing it right away, provide the viewership and perhaps those in attendance with an official confirmation that all was legal.
From what I saw, Browne's elbows were neither, illegally thrown (they had an arc in them) and the first two that landed knocked out Gonzaga. The referee was in motion to halt the fight, while the next few elbows did hit the back of the head. Gonzaga was already out. Moot point now. Sort of ...
I also noticed that Zingano's knees landed after Miesha's hand was off the mat -- not during. She may have started throwing the knee while her opponent's hands were on the ground, but by the time she connected, Tate was in a legal position to be kneed.
The commissions don't have to deal with the online speculation and conspiracy theories, but I do believe it would be nice if they put forth a simple statement which informs the public, fighters, managers, promoter, etc., that the bout was reviewed, and due to (insert explanation), no foul was committed, and the final call stands.
Time to update the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts
Foul 27, listed under the Unified Rules of MMA on the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions) website states:
"27. Spiking the opponent to the canvas onto the head or neck (pile-driving)
A pile driver is considered to be any throw where you control your opponent's body placing his feet straight up in the air with his head straight down and then forcibly drive your opponents head into the canvas or flooring material. It should be noted when a fighter is placed into a submission hold by their opponent, if that fighter is capable of elevating their opponent they may bring that opponent down in any fashion they desire because they are not in control of their opponents body. The fighter who is attempting the submission can either adjust their position, or let go of their hold before being slammed to the canvas.
*** This is crucial that referees are properly advised and trained and that the fighters fully understand this at the rules meeting ***"
During the preliminary bout between Josh Samman and Kevin Casey, Josh was able to escape an early arm bar attempt by continually dropping his opponent on his skull. This should be a case where the rule listed above should be modified further.
It states "if that fighter is capable of elevating their opponent they may bring that opponent down in any fashion they desire because they are not in control of their opponents body."
Hold on a second -- if you are capable of elevating someone, then I am forced to believe you do have control of their body. And if you are caught in an arm bar, are able to lift them and subsequently (purposely) slam them on their head to get out of the hold, then again, I believe you do actually have excellent control of them. The argument that an opponent should be "smart enough" to let go of the hold to prevent having his skull dented, appears to be one that should be re-examined.
Hopefully it's a conversation the ABC's Rules Committee can discuss, which hopefully will spark change to "Foul 27" before a serious injury in MMA takes place. No mixed martial artist should be allowed to perform any escape which, under the rules (or non-rules), allows him to slam their opponent on their head.
This is a professional, governed and sanctioned sport and is now considered mainstream, and since the inception of the Unified Rules of MMA, one thing was always clear: the safety of its athletes is paramount. At the moment, the waters appear to be muddy, and the original vision is cloudy.
Thankfully, today, Kevin Casey is okay, but my hope for the future is that the consumers and media that cover MMA will never have to discuss "what happened" when a fighter in the future doesn't come out "okay" after his opponent brought him "down in any fashion they desire(d) because they (were) not in control of their opponents body."