Unified Rules could change to include some knees, kicks to grounded opponent

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

During the 2013 annual Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) meeting, the group will reexamine rules which disallow kicks and knees to a grounded opponent, specifically in the instance where a fighter intentionally grounds himself.

The group is expected to consider a change on July 31, the final day of the convention, according to notes provided by Nick Lembo of the New Jersey Athletic Control Board. The ABC is made up of members of state and tribal athletic commissions across the United States and Canada, and provides the framework for MMA and boxing rules and regulations.

The rule change, which is co-authored by Nevada's Keith Kizer, Ohio's Bernie Profato, and New Jersey's Lembo, would address instances where a fighter appears to be attempting to draw a foul from his opponent.

If the rule passes, it would be put into play and clearly explained to fighters at rules meetings.

It reads as follows:

"Referees should instruct the fighters that they may still be considered a standing fighter even if they have a finger or portion of the hand (or entire hand) on the canvas. In the discretion of the referee, a fighter who has a finger or hand on the canvas may still be legally struck in the head with knees and kicks. The referee may decide that the downed fighter is placing his or her finger or hand down without doing so for an offensive or countering maneuver in an attempt to advance or improve their position. The referee may decide that the downed fighter is instead simply trying to draw a foul. If the referee decides that the fighter is "touching down" simply to benefit from a foul, the referee may consider that fighter a standing fighter and decide that no foul has occurred."

In addition to that, the referee would have the discretion to penalize the offending fighter for timidity through either a warning or point deduction.

The situation occurs with some frequency in MMA. Among notable instances was a January 2013 UFC flyweight title fight during which Demetrious Johnson delivered a knee to the head of John Dodson a moment after Dodson voluntarily grounded himself by putting his hand on the mat.

At the time, action was stopped and Dodson was given time to recover from the blow, although a point was not deducted for the infraction. Under the proposed new rules, the referee could have ruled the knee legal and the fight would have continued uninterrupted.

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