Timidity – avoiding contact, or consistently dropping the mouthpiece, or faking an injury:
Timidity is defined as any fighter who purposely avoids contact with his opponent, or runs away from the action of the fight. Timidity can also be called by the referee for any attempt by a fighter to receive time by falsely claiming a foul, injury, or purposely dropping or spitting out their mouthpiece or other action designed to stall the fight
The above passage is a direct quote from the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, listed under section 23 of the “Fouls” section. After Clay Guida’s performance or lack thereof last weekend against Gray Maynard, it’s quite possible we all need a refresher of the rule in question.
Guida’s gameplan against Maynard appeared to be an offshoot of his Jackson’s teammate Carlos Condit’s strategy against Nick Diaz. But where Condit was able to use constant movement to set up counter-punching, Guida seemed content to run for his life, landing only 14% of his significant strikes attempted during the fight.
The fight caused a stir in the MMA world, with everyone looking for someone to blame for the debacle of a televised main event. Some fingers were pointed at Greg Jackson for coming up with the gameplan. Dana White said at the post-fight press conference that “someone must have put it in [his] head” to fight that way, and compared the bout to “Dancing with the Stars.” Roland Delorme said in an interview with nextsportstar.com that “Greg Jackson has been making exciting fighters boring since 2008.”
Referee Dan Mirgliotta finally warned Guida about the lack of action in round 4, but by then the live crowd was already angered, the TV audience had either zoned out or changed the channel and Dana White was throwing a fit on twitter. White later commented that he would have been happier if Mirgliotta had issued the warning in the second round. One would be hard-pressed to find anyone that disagreed with him.
Not every performance is expected to be an all-out brawl along the lines of the famed Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar fight which kickstarted the current MMA boom, but when people pay their hard-earned money to go to a UFC fight they expect to see two fighters engaging in combat; not one athlete looking like he is trying to win a track meet, and the other begging him to engage. The UFC hadn’t seen such a lacklustre main event since Anderson Silva fought Thales Leites.
Too many performances like the one we saw last week will see the audience head for more exciting programming, like bowling or darts.
The solution is to make use of the rules that are currently available to the referees. Judicious application of the timidity rule will ensure that fighters continue to engage or risk the loss of a point. A reminder in the pre-fight instructions will re-enforce that point. If the problem persists, perhaps a return to the Pride system is in order. Pride officials were able to issue a yellow card to a combatant who was not advancing the action, which immediately deducted 10% from the fighter’s purse. If the risk of the loss of a point on the scorecards isn’t enough to convince the fighter to engage, hitting them in the wallet certainly will.
One thing is plain as day, and that is that UFC cannot continue to put on main events of the quality of Guida-Maynard or they risk losing their audience, and thus their network TV deal with Fox. No one is asking for bar room brawls or “human cockfighting”, but the name on the marquee says “Ultimate Fighting Championship”, not “Olympic sprinting finals.” No one has ever tuned in to a Clay Guida fight to see his impression of Usain Bolt.