Dos Santos, Gaethje Among Those Questioning MMA’s Ruleset Following Foul-Filled UFC Vegas 51

Chris Barnett Martin Buday UFC Vegas 51
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 16: (R-L) Chris Barnett punches Martin Buday of Slovakia in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 16, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 51 card was a foul-filled affair, with two fights ending early due to fighters being rendered unable to continue as a result of illegal strikes.

A full three fights had point deductions, with Istela Nunes rapped for poking Sam Hughes in the eye more than once early on the preliminary card. But it was Martin Buday’s illegal elbow on Chris Barnett, and later Caio Borralho landing an illegal knee on Gadzhi Omargadzhiev that really turned heads.

Both fights had already entered the third round, and with Barnett and Omargadzhiev left unable to continue, both went to the scorecards as a result. Leading to technical decision wins for the fighters who committed the fouls, namely Buday and Borralho.

The same referee, “Big” Dan Miragliotta, oversaw both contests. In the case of Buday, many watching, including Barnett’s fellow UFC fighters, were incensed that no point was taken, and that the blow was ruled “unintentional.” Among them was former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, normally as affable and soft-spoken as they come.

“Clearly intentional!” Dos Santos wrote on social media following the bout. “I don’t know what kind [of] sh*t is going on in those guy’s heads. And the referee saying it was an accident. BS”

An “elbow on the back of the head is never, never an accident,” the former champ added.

Lightweight contender and former interim champion Justin Gaethje also had a take on the Borralho fight. For his illegal knee, with his opponent down, Borralho was deducted a point; he won the bout on the scorecards regardless.

“I think at the very least it should be a no contest,” Gaethje wrote after the fight’s conclusion. “Borralho was the better fighter. He committed a foul that ended the fight. You can argue unintentional but it should be irrelevant. I don’t understand. It should go down as a DQ win for his opponent. You’re not discouraging others in future and you are almost encouraging a fighter to take that route. The stakes are too high and [people] cheat. This is why this situation is in the rule book, probably an entire section. To add more confusion, the legality of this knee specifically is different from state to state, ffs.”

Gaethje’s reference to the legality of the knee being different state to state is in regard to the definition of a downed fighter, which was updated in the most recent revision of the Unified Rules of MMA. However, as not all states have adopted those rules, some states define a downed fighter as one with three points of contact with the canvas — “A grounded opponent is any fighter who has more than just the soles of their feet on the ground” — while others use the newer rule, which in full, reads:

A grounded fighter is defined as: Any part of the body, other than a single hand and
soles of the feet touching the fighting area floor. To be grounded, both hands palm/fist
down, and/or any other body part must be touching the fighting area floor. A single
knee, arm, makes the fighter grounded without having to have any other body part in
touch with the fighting area floor. At this time, kicks or knees to the head will not be

Of course, no one is arguing that Saturday’s fouls weren’t fouls. And Miragliotta did appear to follow the rules as written, though declaring a foul intentional or unintentional is a judgment call, and his judgment may have failed him in the Barnett case.

Still, the larger concern is the fighters who committed fouls being granted decision wins after leaving opponents unable to continue. Rather than being disqualified, whether the fouls were intentional or not. That’s something that may need a fresh look from the sport’s rule makers.

Plenty of other fighters questioned the lack of disqualifications in these cases, or at the very least gave their input.



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