Welterweight Erick Silva is a spectacular fighter. In his UFC debut at UFC 134 in Rio, it took 40 seconds to knock out opponent Luis Ramos Do Nascimento. Four and a half months later he came back and did it again, knocking out Carlo Prater in even less time.
But then it got complicated.
Referee Mario Yamasaki determined that Silva threw illegal blow or blows to the back of the head, and disqualified Silva, awarding the bout to Prater.
A replay - not available to Yamasaki - appeared to show that the blows landed to the side of the head, depending upon the definition of "back of the head" in use.
In the past there have been multiple definitions of what constitutes the back of the head. One is the "Mohaw/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.
When a clearly upset Rogan showed the replay to Yamasaki, the referee did not offer a compelling explanation for or defense of the call.
At the post-fight press con UFC president Dana White said Silva will receive his win bonus despite being saddled with a disqualification loss. "We're going to pay him like he won the fight," White said.
Silva has the right to appeal the disqualification. As Brazil does not currently regulate Mixed Martial Arts, Marc Ratner, former Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and current Vice President of Regulatory Affairs with the UFC oversees those duties.
"I would appeal it if I was him," said White. "The thing is that when you do it, Ratner is the guy to talk to about this. We try to run things the way that they're supposed to be run, like the athletic commission would."
"Listen, there are refs out there like Steve Mazzagatti that are just plain bad. He's a bad ref. He's got no business in the ring. But you've got guys like Mario Yamasaki and some of the other guys that are going to make mistakes. There's nothing wrong with making mistakes. There's nothing wrong. We're f------- human. We're going to do it. But you have to be able to go back and say, 'We made a mistake. Here's the proof. Let's overturn it.'"
Rather than blame Yamasaki, who is one of the leading refs in the sport and one of just a handful recognized by the Association of Boxing Commissions as a qualified referee instructor, White turned his ire on the lack of instrant replay.
"It drives me crazy," White said. "It drives me f------- crazy. Every other sport has instant replay.
Dana White is right. UFC 142 may prove to be a momentous event. Instant replay has to become available to officials.
And something has to be done about weight cutting in MMA, before someone dies.
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