One of the original taglines for the Ultimate Fighting Championship used to be, “There Are No Rules,” and while we’ve come a long way from those simpler times, you could make a philosophical argument that there still aren’t many rules in mixed martial arts (MMA) given the lack of enforcement in the cage when they’re broken.
Pretty much every week, we watch fighters grab the cage, kick the groin and paw the eyeballs of their opponents. And every time the referee gives them a stern talking to at best. Actual point deductions are extremely rare ... or at least they usually are. On Saturday night at UFC Vegas 41, the referees refreshingly deducted three points from fighters for breaking the rules.
Two point deductions came from referee Jason Herzog: the first when Seung Woo Choi hit Alex Caceres with a big grounded knee to the face. And the second in the main event when Paulo Costa ignored Herzog’s request (helpfully given in Portuguese) to watch his fingers and ended up poking Marvin Vettori in the eye.
There was no “2 for 1” deal here where the first foul is free. And honestly, that’s the way it should be at this point. A fighter is responsible for their weapons, and if they’re holding their hands out with their fingers out-stretched, they deserve to lose a point when those fingers meet eyeballs.
Of course, we know that isn’t going to be a universally agreed upon sentiment. In fact, former UFC “champ-champ,” Daniel Cormier, had the opposite view, accusing Herzog of looking for an opportunity to punish him for his fight week weight cut debacle.
“We have seen much more severe eye pokes happen in fights,” Cormier opined on his YouTube channel. “I’ve done it myself. I’ve poked guys more than this guy poked Marvin Vettori and didn’t get a point taken away. As an official, you can’t read the headlines.... I think in this, Herzog read the headlines and he may have judged Costa unfairly.”
That’s an opinion shared by certain Costa fans on social media, who went so far as to accuse Herzog of being part of a conspiracy to ensure “Borrachinha” lost. That one actually elicited a response from the referee himself:
Untrue. The real conspiracy was to start a social media platform where we could identify the lowest IQ equivalent contributers and sterilize them. We'll be in touch. https://t.co/z1i81Rn4Yd— Jason Herzog (@JasonHerzogMMA) October 24, 2021
But, for the most part, fans seemed more than happy to see fouls earning consequences.
Appreciate that, Ollie. But it's all the incredible team of doctors, inspectors, staff, and officials working together. Without the team I am nothing. https://t.co/rJNbWhPyCD— Jason Herzog (@JasonHerzogMMA) October 24, 2021
The event wasn’t perfect by any means. Nick Negumereanu hit Ike Villanueva with a couple punches to the back of the head to finish off their fight, and no replay was called by officials to even take a look at the situation. And in another fight featuring referee Jason Herzog, Mason Jones hit David Onama with a knee on the ground and no point was taken.
It’s a difficult jobs referees have, and the scoring system in MMA means every point deduction plays a massive role in the outcome of a fight. But, why have rules if you’re not going to enforce them? In a sport where way too many gimmes are handed out, it was nice to see a few fouls finally getting called the first time they happened.
For complete UFC Vegas 41 results and coverage click here.