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Back of the Head Strikes: A Pointless or Necessary Rule?

If you’ve watched MMA long enough I’m sure you have seen a guy get stuck trying to finish a takedown off the cage or even stuck in the turtle position and watch his opponent accidentally strike to the back of the head and then the referee intervenes.

It does make the bout safer because the rule is in place due to the fact that the back of the head is an extremely vulnerable area of the brain stem and carries a much higher chance of permanently crippling or even fatally injuring someone.

It’s the same reason why you cannot target the spine of your opponent as well. All of this is explained in the “fouls” section of the UFC’s unified MMA rules website, which I’ll link here.

All of this seems to be in the name of safety for the fighters so I do wholeheartedly support it but there is one unique observation that I would like to bring attention to. It seems that these rules imply there is a zero-tolerance approach to the rule because it is so inherently dangerous but the rules for slamming an opponent attempting a submission or even finishing an explosive double leg seem to almost disregard the safety component entirely.

The way it reads on the official website is as follows “It should be noted that when a fighter is placed into a submission hold by their opponent, if that fighter is capable of elevating their opponent they may bring that opponent down in any fashion they desire because they are not in control of their opponents body“ Even though it would seem that the other illegal examples they would also not be in control of their opponents body. It appears on a surface level that safety does not take priority over exciting moments.

Perhaps there is a layer I’m not considering or maybe I’m not even understanding what they mean by “In control of their opponents body” but, it seems that they might be only be ostensibly concerned with safety as to deem one technique a foul but then allow a much more severe case of a blow to the same area when it would be more exciting.

To put this into perspective I’ll link to the worst case scenario here. VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED. After watching that video I want you to take a look at this one, where the slam finishes are being celebrated and really think about how big of a difference there is or even what changes could be made to make the sport better, keeping it exciting for fans and safe for the competitors.

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