During the UFC on FX 7 prelim card, Yuri Alcantara took Pedro Nobre's back and was landing what appeared to be legal blows.
Referee Dan Miragliotta warned Alcantara about strikes to the back of the head, and then stopped the contest. Eventually a No Contest was declared.
In the past there have been multiple definitions of what constitutes the illegal "back of the head" area in MMA. One is the "Mohawk/Cell phone" standard, by which you start at the top of the crown, and slide a cell phone down the back. That area - roughly one inch on either side of an imaginary line down the back of the head - is off limits. The "Headphones" standard is another - strikes are prohibited to any location that would be behind a pair of headphones worn on the head.
In 2009 the Asociation of Boxing Comissions adopted a definition of back of the head that combines both standards. The new rule uses the mohawk definition towards the top of the head, and widens the prohibited striking area towards the base of the neck:
The Committee has found a compromise between the Mohawk definition and the headphones definition. The Committee recommends a nape of the neck definition. Basically, the group concluded that a strike that touches the ear is generally acceptable. Strikes are not permissible in the nape of the neck area up until the top of the ears. Above the ears, permissible strikes do not include the Mohawk area from the top of the ears up until the crown of the head. The crown of the head is found where the head begins to curve. In other words, strikes behind the crown of the head and above the ears are not permissible within the Mohawk area. Strikes below the top of the ear are not permissible within the nape of the neck area.
The new rule can be summed up pretty simply - if you are hitting the back of the head, at least part of your glove has to be touching his ear. There is a further sometimes complication consideration - the opponent has a responsibility to not turn the back of his head into an incoming strike that would otherwise have landed legally.
However, the final blows did not appear to land on the back of the head, by any definition, although perhaps Miragliotta discerned that Nobre was feeling the results of an earlier blow that did land too close to the back of the head.
UFC president Dana White, who was not cageside in Brazil as he is recovering from surgery in the US, responded angrily, via Twitter.
Dana White @danawhite
That was BS!!! Pedro is an award winning actor and horrible call by Dan M
Although Alcantara did not get the win, he did get the win money.
"Yuri ended up getting his win bonus," said UFC Managing Director of International Development Marshall Zelaznik at the events post-fight news conference.
In the opening fight of the main card, Khabib Nurmagomedov knocked down Thiago Tavares and landed 14 unanswered elbows.
This time White was truly incensed. Again, via Twitter.
Dana White @danawhite
Ok that is officially the END of Dan M!!!! Guys head is straight up his ass 2 night!!!! 17 vicious strikes!!!! After he was already hurt
The UFC does not choose referees. That task falls to the regulating athletic commission.
In this case, the event was regulated by the Comissao Atletica Brasileira de MMA (CABMMA), headed by former executive secretary of Brazil's ministery of justice Rafael Favetti and attorney Giovanni Biscardi, who is also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
The regular presence of Steve Mazzagatti in the Octagon despite White's longstanding antipathy towards the veteran refereee is evidence that Miragliotta will be around as long as athetic commissions want him to be. But that is not going to stop White from speaking his mind.