Why Josh Emmett’s Appeal At Least Has a Fighting Chance

This weekend Josh Emmett lost his headlining bout to Jeremy Stephens at UFC Fight Night Orlando

The loss came with some controversy where it appears Emmett was struck with at least a glancing knee by Stephens while grounded.  This all unfolded in the midst of what was ultimately the bout ending sequence.

Emmett announced his intent to appeal.  While many appeals of bout results in MMA are dead in the water before they get started Emmett at least has a fighting chance.  The reason being is that many jurisdictions only allow appeals in very limited circumstances.  Florida, on the other hand, has slightly broader appeal rights for fighters who believe they are on the wrong end of an outcome.

The starting point of any appeal is to look to the juridiction’s rules outlining the circumstance where an appeal can succeed.

Florida Rule 61K1-3.033(4) reads more liberally than some other jurisdictions.  It holds that an appeal can succeed in the following circumstances:

  1. There was collusion affecting the result of any match,
  2. The compilation of the round or match score cards of the referee and judges shows an error which indicates that the decision was awarded to the wrong participant,
  3. There was a violation of Rule 61K1-1.0043, F.A.C., of these rules, relating to drugs or foreign substances, or
  4. There was a violation of Chapter 548, F.S., or the rules set forth herein which violation affected the result of the match.

The bold words are were Emmett will want to focus.  If he can prove that the knee was “a violation of….the rules which affected the result of the match” he has a legal avenue of appeal he can pursue.

Florida’s rules, of course, prohibit knees to a grounded opponent.   The specific foul reads as follows:

Kicking or kneeing to the head of a grounded opponent, or stomping a grounded opponent. An opponent is grounded when any part of the body, other than the soles of the feet and a single hand are touching the canvas.

Given that Emmett was on his knees when the strike apparently landed he can point to a rule violation.

From there Emmett needs to prove that the foul “affected the result of the match“.

Here too Emmett has some rules in his favor.

Florida rules give the referee discretion to deduct a point if an unintentional foul occurs.  This will not help Emmett.  Instead, Emmett will need to argue the knee was intentional.  Stephens has provided an interview in essence admitting the strike was intentionally thrown but explaining that he simply did not understand the rules surrounding a grounded opponent.

If it is accepted the knee was intentionally thrown Florida rules state as follows with respect to an intentional strike to a grounded opponent:

The first offense of punching while down shall result in the deduction of 2 points from the score of the participant who punches his opponent while his opponent is down, unless the first offense, as determined by the referee, is blatant and a clear disregard of the rule. If such determination is made by the referee, the participant committing the foul shall be immediately disqualified and his opponent shall be declared the winner by disqualification. The second offense of punching while down shall result in the disqualification

While this rule was written with boxing in mind it offers guidance in the context of MMA.  (There does not appear to be a stand alone provision in the MMA section of the rules on what a referee when a downed opponent is intentionally struck with an illegal blow).

Emmett can argue that the bout should have been stopped to award a point deduction or, on the other hand, the bout should have stopped for immediate disqualification.  In either case he can argue that the bout should have been stopped when the foul occurred and that in and of itself could have prevented the fight ending sequence from unfolding.

The matter will remain controversial regardless of the final outcome as Stephens landed severe legal blows surrounding the controversial knee.

Whatever the final outcome, Emmett at least has rules on his side giving him a fighting chance in this appeal.


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