Anderson Silva's devastating knee strike to Chael Sonnen at UFC 148 may have been legal, it was a game-changer that will alter the shape of MMA as we know it.
Official Rules Need to Be More Detailed
While it's true that kneeing the head of a grounded opponent is explicitly prohibited by the UFC, the official rules need to be far more detailed to avoid controversial situations in the future like the one we had at UFC 148.
There's not much more that is said about kneeing the head of a grounded opponent in the official rulebook except that it is banned, and that the referee has the right to assess the foul and take a point away from the fighter who commits it.
If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an intentional foul, as determined by the referee, is severe enough to terminate a bout, the contestant causing the injury loses by disqualification.
Was Contact To The Face Intentional?
This brings up the issue of intent, which is another game-changer that is difficult to determine.
Only Silva knows if his knee/thigh to the face of Sonnen was intentional or not. The referee on hand determined that it was not intentional, and that the point of his knee did not strike the face of Sonnen, which is why the Brazilian legend remained champion.
Upon further review of the bout, it appears that the point of Silva's knee did not hit Sonnen's face, but part of his thigh did. This is the where the murky gray area of the legality of the knee comes into play, as the official rules aren't deep enough in scope to properly evaluate the situation.
When I watched the fight live, my initial reaction was that it was an illegal blow. Silva did throw a knee to the face of grounded opponent, which is absolutely illegal. But he connected with part of Sonnen's face only with his thigh, which is not illegal.
Sonnen said he is just fine with referee Yves Lavigne's decision to call the shot a legal one, even though it ultimately resulted in his demise.
"The referee's judgment is what stands," he said. "I trust in that, and it works both ways. The referee makes the decision, and that is the decision. We live with it. We would never go and appeal. A decision is a decision. Part of competing is you have to know how to lose. It's real easy to win, but you have to know how to lose. You have to man up, swallow it and walk out."
In my view, Silva's shot was not illegal, but will definitely change the sport for the better.
Perhaps the UFC needs to introduce instant replay, or at the very least, expand on the rulebooks to include information about thigh strikes to the face of a grounded opponent.
Even though Sonnen lost, he is happy with the sport without bringing instant replay into the mix.
"The knee really hurt," Sonnen said. "All the shots really hurt. Here's the reality. We don't do instant replay in this sport, and we shouldn't. It comes down to a judgment call. And wherever the referee says the knee landed officially, that is where the knee landed. That is an excellent official, as they all are. He made his call, and I will never complain and look back."
Was Silva's controversial knee to Chael Sonnen at UFC 148 legitimately legal? Let me know in the comments.
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan and supporter of the sport of mixed martial arts. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Chael Sonnen
- Anderson Silva
- knee strike