Kevin Burns Eye Pokes Anthony JohnsonOn July 19th Anthony Johnson was defeated by Kevin Burns at UFC Fight Night 14 via technical knockout, but that isn’t the entire story of a loss that could ultimately result in rule changes both in Nevada where the bout took place and possibly elsewhere.

Following repeated warnings throughout the opening rounds for incidentally poking Johnson in the eyes Burns dropped Johnson to the canvas with a deep-but-accidental eye gouge in the third frame. After collapsing in pain Johnson was unable to defend himself or continue the fight so the referee waived the fight off and awarded a TKO victory to Burns.

Immediate replays of the finish showed that Johnson was downed by a finger to the eye, not a punch as the originally believed, but the decision was final and Burns was declared the victor via technical knockout.

Fans questioned the ruling, asking why Johnson wasn’t declared the winner via disqualification as he was defeated using a banned maneuver or at the very least why the bout wasn’t declared a no contest. Johnson and his agent, Ken Pavia, challenged the rendered decision, filing an unsuccessful appeal with the Nevada State Athletic Commission of the July loss.

The NSAC last week denied the appeal due to a “lack of remedy”.

The current MMA rules in Nevada do not allow for the athletic commission to change a decision rendered at the end of any contest or exhibition unless one of three situations occur:

  • The Commission determines that there was collusion affecting the result of the contest or exhibition;
  • The compilation of the scorecards of the judges discloses an error which shows that the decision was given to the wrong unarmed combatant; or
  • As the result of an error in interpreting a provision of this chapter, the referee has rendered an incorrect decision.

When asked by ( whether the rules may be modified for decisions such as the one rendered in Johnson-Burns to be altered following a review process Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer simply replied “perhaps”.

Though any potential rule changes likely won’t happen for some time, the decision rendered in Anthony Johnson’s loss to Kevin Burns highlights the need for MMA rules to be an evolving system that can accompany change. Keep in mind, MMA remains a young sport. It’s rules aren’t yet completely refined and further rule changes will be necessary to keep the integrity of mixed martial arts intact.