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SHOULD EYE POKES BE FOULS IN MMA?

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Joey Beltran's Eyeby Matt Lo Cascio

There is nothing that drains the momentum from a MMA fight — or completely ruins it — like an inadvertent eye poke. But having seen them time and again, is it time to make them an offense that would cost a fighter a point? Here’s a post I wrote for Sports Untapped that deserves another look since the Joey Beltran/Pat Barry fight last Saturday night. Beltran was the recipient of an eye poke that might have cost him a round, and definitely inhibited his ability to put up his best fight.

The recent Strikeforce bout between Marius Zaromskis vs. Waachim Spirit Wolf fight lasted all of six seconds before it was stopped due to an eye poke. The bell sounded and the two fighters raced towards each other to the center of the cage. Zaromskis’ right hand was not closed when he attempted a flying knee strike and his finger or thumb jammed into the left eye of Spirit Wolf. Spirit Wolf tried to recover but he could not see. The doctor had to stop the fight.

Just minutes later at the beginning of the next fight between Ovince St. Preux and Antwain Britt, Britt was also the victim of an eye poke. He was able to recover but did not fight as well as he usually does and lost to St. Preux via decision. Did the eye poke affect his vision enough to hinder his ability to perform in the cage? That’s certainly possible.

Strikeforce commentator and MMA legend Pat Miletich likes to joke that the fighters should don “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goggles” to prevent these frequent pokes. But while most pokes are seemingly inadvertent, making them a foul could decrease the frequency of them while increasing the safety of the fighters. After all, inside leg kicks could strike the groin area much more often, but fighters know that a groin kick is an offense that could cost them a point, and in turn a victory. They employ a greater critical focus when it comes to leg/groin kicks for this very reason.

Couldn’t the same be done with pokes? If fighters start losing points because of eye pokes, you will see an increased level of discipline in keeping them tucked into a fist. I’m not sure I even advocate such a rule, but it is worth considering. After all, the fights and the safety of the fighters is paramount.

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