Demetrious Johnson has been vocal through the years that he’s in favor of grounded knees in mixed martial arts, and he let it be known again on the night Petr Yan lost his UFC bantamweight title by disqualification for delivering a brutal illegal knee to Aljamain Sterling’s head.
“Knees to a grounded opponent should be allowed!” Johnson tweeted after UFC 259 on March 6.
And so it’s ironic – isn’t it? – that the first stoppage loss of Johnson’s illustrious career would be caused by a grounded knee. They’re legal in ONE Championship, and he was on the receiving end Wednesday night at ONE on TNT I, where flyweight champion Adriano Moraes won by knockout in the second round of their title fight. With Johnson trying to get up off his back, Moraes pressed on his shoulders, posted him upright, and then blasted the former UFC champ in the face.
Johnson was done almost instantly, game over just like that.
You might think the fight-ending sequence would give Johnson cause to reconsider his stance on knees to a downed opponent, but no, it didn’t.
“I’m totally content with what happened. I’m not like, ‘That rule should be taken out,’” Johnson said afterward. “That’s what the rule was, Adriano used it to his advantage, and I was on the other end of the stick.”
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Credit to Johnson for being consistent, which is what we’d expect from one of the sport’s classiest fighters. But grounded knees – to put it in the simplest terms – are bad for MMA.
Let’s start with this: Of the notable disciplines that produce mixed martial artists – jiu-jitsu, boxing, wrestling, muay Thai, kickboxing, judo, karate, taekwondo – tell me which one allows knees to a grounded opponent. You can’t, because none of them do.
Why, then, would it make sense to have these athletes compete in MMA under a rule set that forces them to beware of strikes they’ve never had to defend? It doesn’t. The position Johnson was in against Moraes happens in MMA all the time, making grounded knees available at any moment when legal. And in this case, those years fighting for the UFC – which prohibits grounded knees under the Association of Boxing Commissions unified rules of mixed martial arts – likely played a factor in Johnson’s downfall.
But if the competition aspect isn’t compelling, what about the safety aspect? MMA is already dangerous enough without the ability to knee a downed opponent. Adding more danger to an already brutal sport is unnecessary.
Take it from UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping.
“I’m not for a guy being on his knees and kneeing him square in the head if you’re standing up,” Bisping told MMA Junkie. “Because you can generate so much power, so much power like that, and you can really hurt someone. We’ve been very lucky. We’ve never seen, like, a tragic accident in the UFC. We don’t want to do things that might encourage that one day. All this hard work the UFC has done in the media and making this sport as widely accepted as it is, all it needs is one f*cking death. And God forbid, you know what I mean? Things change.”
Nobody wants that.
So, yes, Adriano Moraes deserves credit for his win over one of MMA’s all-time greats. At the end of the day, those are the rules in ONE Championship.
But don’t get it twisted: Grounded knees still suck.