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Burns’ win at UFN 14 should be overturned

I still have not seen UFC Fight Night 14 in its entirety, however, I’ve been able to view a good chunk of it. The biggest storylines of the night were obviously Anderson Silva’s dominant debut at 205 pounds as well as Brandon Vera’s successful debut in the same weight class.

But a big storyline that hasn’t gotten as much play as it deserves, and likely because MMA media sites only have so much staff and space to devote to coverage, is Kevin Burns’ controversial third round TKO victory over Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

First, the fight between Burns and Johnson was excellent. Burns proved his win over Roan Carneiro was no joke and that he belongs in the UFC. Credit goes to UFC V.P. of Talent Relations Joe Silva for unearthing yet another diamond in the rough.

That said, the outcome of the bout should be appealed by Johnson’s camp and overturned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Throughout the course of the fight, Burns kept getting his fingers caught on Johnson’s face. Johnson pointed this out several times and referee Steve Mazzagatti warned Burns multiple times about the infraction. However, that did not stop Burns from poking Johnson in the eye in the third round as he put out his hand to jab. Just like any normal human being taking a direct poke to the eye and feeling blinding pain, Johnson hit the deck and covered up. From the live angle, it almost looked as if Johnson went down from a punch and was truly TKO’d. However, replays from a better angle clearly showed that Johnson had taken a direct poke to the eye.

The fight was called to a stop and there was a delay. Mazzagatti was talking to several officials at cageside and the Spike TV showed zoomed in replays of Johnson taking the poke. It seemed like a done deal that Burns was going to lose via disqualification but when it came time for the official announcement, Burns was pronounced the winner via TKO.

I was shocked and amazed at the outcome. I can understand why there might be some initial confusion after Mazzagatti called a stop to the fight. But why did he get the decision wrong even after conversing with people around the cage? It makes little sense but something needs to be done. Rarely does it make sense for a fighter to appeal the outcome of a fight but in this case, it does. If Johnson raises hell, I don’t see how NSAC doesn’t overturn it.

My biggest problem might be with Burns’ repeated use of his fingers. After the fight was over, Burns said during the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan that he has to jab with an open hand because he’s fractured the hand three times in the last 18 months. That’s a valid excuse, except for the fact that I thought open palm strikes were illegal? Why was he allowed to routinely attempt an illegal punch? Maybe Burns has a medical reason for using the method, but rules are rules.

To Burns’ credit, he was contrite about the infraction and said he believes Johnson deserved a rematch. It almost sounded as if he had a problem with the outcome as well. Hopefully the commission gets involved and justice is served.

  • Matthew Lenz says:

    Why would an open palm strike be illegal?

  • canuck says:

    Sam, you’re so right about this – i hope it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. There should have been a point deduction for a couple of the pokes, then a no contest for the fight.
    A poke in the eye is a foul, there’s no language after that that says “unless you’ve got a bad hand and must fight with it extended”

    It’s been very apparent lately that there was Big John McCarthy, then a large gap, then the rest of the referees. We need Big John back.

  • Frank Wallace says:

    An outrage i tell you. Maybe the rules forbade Mazazgati from changing his original call but it was obvious to me that the fight was going to a Pro Johnson decision with the reapeated take downs and the vicious strikes. After all the hard work and solid strikes, to lose in the 3rd round by a hasty call is at the least unfair to Johnson. It only makes sense for the sport that the decison be appealed ,reviewed.
    What about honor amongst fighters? Where is this touted honor amongst MMA fighters that Goldberg constantly harps on? After repeated replays of the foul committed by Burns could he not have publicly admitted the call was wrong and shown the same level of class as Johnson, the fighter who wrongly lost a match he was obviously winning up to that point? Would true honor not compel a fighter to only accept an honorable win and not quietly accept a larger purse and rewards for something he did not earn?

  • flassasin24 says:

    I’m glad that more and more people are talking about this fight. Honestly, I was surprised by how unemotional Johnson was after the decision. I was on my feet angry over this.

    Yes, Burns seems likes a stand-up guy – but he deserves a loss. Not only would he have deserved a DQ, but he would’ve certainly lost a judge’s decision if it was left up to them.

    I am far more upset with Mazzagatti. There are no excuses for this. Unless he offers up a good explanation soon, I would like to see him censured or penalized in some way. This is far more egregious than the Lesner-Mir debacle that gained him so much infamy earlier in the year.

  • Sam Caplan says:

    #1, I’m not 100% sure why open palm strikes are illegal. I do know that if used a certain way, you can intentionally kill someone. I’m also pretty sure that open palm strikes are also illegal to try and avoid the exact thing that happened to Anthony Johnson.

  • ACK! says:

    Yeah, this is a mess. It was the fight of the night up until the poke too…

    However, I’ve never known open-handed strikes to be illegal in the UFC and a quick glance at the rules seems to reaffirm that.

  • […] urged them to turn the boos into cheers as he claimed to bear no ill will against Burns. However, Johnson still should have been awarded the victory. brings you all the […]

  • Rich B says:

    There’s an urban legend that a hard open palm strike can drive the nose upwards into the brain and kill someone. It’s bullshit, but mildly interesting.

  • Sam Caplan says:

    Rich, it’s not bullshit. Open palm strikes are banned for a reason.

  • ufcfan says:

    i too was perplexed about the decision.

    the fight should have been ruled a no-contest….

  • jaykay489 says:

    didn’t they oerturn a matt serra decision a few years back when they realised they had made a mistake in the judges scorecards, surely this should fall in to the same catagory and they would be able to overturn the decision post fight

  • Derek B says:

    Johnson didn’t look the same that night. He looked very tentative during his fight.

    He should have won the fight.

  • Kuch says:

    My question is how was Burns cleared to fight if he couldn’t make a fist for fear of re-breaking his hand? He said he broke it 3 times in the past 16 months. Wouldn’t his inability to punch with it be grounds to not medically clear him?

  • William W. says:

    Yeah, Johnson should definitely appeal. Mostly because Burns cost him his win money, which he was well on his way to picking up with a decision win.

  • Syd O says:

    open palm strikes were not penalized in Werdum v. Arlovski. Werdum threw the open palm several times.

  • flyingogoplata says:

    Open handed strikes are illegal? News to me. What about all of the fighters that routinely strike with the palm of their hand to the side of the head when they have a fighter in their guard? Would that not be illegal too? I would love if a link to the rule banning open handed strikes could be posted by someone.

    As for the criticism of Mazzagatti…

    Look at where Mazzagatti was at the time of the eye poke. He could not see the poke (there’s no way a ref can see every possible infraction during a fight). He had to step in to stop the fight as Johson was not intelligently defending. It appeared that Burns had landed a solid uppercut which could also have appeared to be the reason for Johson hitting the mat. I question whether after stopping the fight Mazzagatti could have changed his call after consultation with others or whether he’s bound by his initial call.

  • JacRabbit says:

    Dear god, why do they still allow Mazazgati to ref? In my mind he is by far the worst I’ve seen in combat sports. He’s constantly lost!

  • Blaze says:

    Decision should be overturned and it would make a mess of alot of people that lost bets due to the lack of skills by all officals envolved.

  • Bear says:

    Sam I hate to call you out but If you go to the NSAC website and read what is a foul in MMA competition open hand strikes are not illegal blows.

    NAC 467.7962 Acts constituting fouls. (NRS 467.030) The following acts constitute fouls in a contest or exhibition of mixed martial arts:

    1. Butting with the head.

    2. Eye gouging of any kind.

    3. Biting.

    4. Hair pulling.

    5. Fishhooking.

    6. Groin attacks of any kind.

    7. Putting a finger into any orifice or into any cut or laceration on an opponent.

    8. Small joint manipulation.

    9. Striking to the spine or the back of the head.

    10. Striking downward using the point of the elbow.

    11. Throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea.

    12. Clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh.

    13. Grabbing the clavicle.

    14. Kicking the head of a grounded opponent.

    15. Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent.

    16. Stomping a grounded opponent.

    17. Kicking to the kidney with the heel.

    18. Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck.

    19. Throwing an opponent out of the ring or fenced area.

    20. Holding the shorts or gloves of an opponent.

    21. Spitting at an opponent.

    22. Engaging in any unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to an opponent.

    23. Holding the ropes or the fence.

    24. Using abusive language in the ring or fenced area.

    25. Attacking an opponent on or during the break.

    26. Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee.

    27. Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat.

    28. Flagrantly disregarding the instructions of the referee.

    29. Timidity, including, without limitation, avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury.

    30. Interference by the corner.

    31. Throwing in the towel during competition.


  • Jim says:

    Sam, I don’t suppose that you could provide a link to a rule about open-palm strikes? I can’t imagine that Burns could comment that he intended to do an illegal strike but then accidentally did a different illegal strike and get away without any punishment from the commission.

    Aren’t open-palm strikes the only thing allowed in Pancrase? (Honest question, I am not familiar with it, I just remember watching the Frank Shamrock vs Bas Rutten fight on tape…)

  • MMA SKOOL™ says:

    Yeah that was a crappy result.

    I thought the ref even warned him not to poke him in the eye again, earlier in the fight?

    I thought it was intentional.

    BJ Penn did the same thing to GSP… INTENTIONALLY. (An underhanded trick that worked to slow GSP down. Not saying he thought he could TKO him with an eye poke, just that its a good dirty tactic to slow someone down. And there’s no punishment.)

    I’ve seen a PRIDE fight where Gilbert Yvel was raking Don Frye’s eyes everytime they clinched up… That was really obvious, and Burns and Penn weren’t trying to do that, but MMA is pretty relaxed on eye pokes, so its easy to get away with it.

    Besides, sticking your hand out fingers-first isn’t even an “open palm strike”, Its a finger poke.

  • Sam Caplan says:

    I will make some calls and see whether the open palm strike is legal or illegal. But the reality is that it’s a moot point: finger pokes are not legal.

    Mazzagatti did not have position to make the call, but there were those at cageside that did. There also needs to be a rule implemented that allows a referee to use replay at his discretion. While you can’t stop a fight to use replay and you can’t use it between rounds, you can use it if the fight is stopped and the nature of the outcome is in question. There was no reason why it couldn’t have been used at UFN 14.

  • Funky k says:

    that was knuckle deep eyepoke action. pretty rediculous

  • vxbpoison says:

    My immediate thougts were that if Burns was not disqualified that this fight should at least be ruled a no contest.

    Regardless, Johnson should not receive a loss on his record because he got half a finger jabber through his eye.

  • ACK! says:


    In Pancrase close-fisted strikes were banned, so guys like Bas Rutten made a career out of swatting guys with open-palm strikes.

    Like I said before, I’m pretty sure open-palm strikes are perfectly legal.

  • Kung Foo says:

    Off tangent here, but why in the heck is rule 17. Kicking to the kidney with the heel a rule? I know it could bust up a kidney, but for that to happen it will take a very long time, and I know it was used a lot in the old days, to give the guy on the bottom some offense,and here I was thinking it was a technique that had fallen to the way side due to disuse. They need to take away that rule too, and maybe there will be a bit more action for the guy on bottom when it hits the ground.

  • Jackyl says:

    It also may have had a lot to do with how Johnson fell. The way he sprawled out it was like he had been punched. At the same time he screamed in agony and Mazz should have been more on top of things. This isn’t the first time Mazzagatti has been in a questionable call. I strongly questioned his point deduction to Brock Lesnar for landing one strike to the back of the head while his opponent was turning away. Like someone said above there was a big gap with the officials after John McCarthy. I used to call Herb Dean, Herb “stop the match” Dean. He has calmed down a lot though and is pretty fair….but Affliction stole him for the night ha. I also like Josh Rosenthal…..but Affliction had him too. So we were left with the Mazz and Yamasaki. Is it just me or does Mazzagatti look like one of those guys that lets other men pee on him?

  • Jackyl says:

    The eye poke is a favorite move of Chuck Lidell. See Liddell / Couture 2 and 3.

  • joetheacupuncturist says:

    im surprised this wasnt fight of the night inspite of the outcome both guys came to bang

  • Hamp the Champ says:

    Steve Mazzagatti is definately to worst referee and Cecil Peoples is usually the judge in question. People like this NEED to be adressed. They are bad for the sport of MMA!

  • jdavis says:

    The fight should of been stopped and sent to the judges for decision. I am assuming that it wasn’t because the ref didn’t actually see the foul occur. The outcome should be overturned if appealed as this was obviously a missed/botched call.

    NAC 467.7966 Fouls: Accidental. (NRS 467.030)
    3. If an accidental foul renders an unarmed combatant unable to continue the contest or exhibition after:
    (a) The completed second round of a contest or exhibition that is scheduled for three rounds or less; or
    (b) The completed third round of a contest or exhibition that is scheduled for more than three rounds,
    the outcome must be determined by scoring the completed rounds and the round during which the referee stops the contest or exhibition.

  • the sheik says:

    as long as we’ve shown Sam that he’s wrong about open palm strikes, i’m happy.

    “they’re illegal for a reason”

    whats the reason since they aren’t illegal?


  • Rich S. says:

    consider it this way:

    this fight, might as well be the equivelant to losing via TKO because you couldn’t continue after a kick to the groin..


    if this fight ended in TKO, why didn’t Lawler/Smith?
    because that fight was the exact same case..
    Smith couldn’t continue because of his eye, so it was ruled a no contest.

    I really hope we see an overturning and a rematch, because Johnson was totally winning the fight up until he was put out by a poke to the eye..

  • Rich S. says:

    but, one thing that does concern me is: you could see Anthony Johnson tap when the ref ran towards him..

    he was screaming, and nodding his head when he hit the ground.. and when Burns came in, Johnson started tapping out on the canvas. Now, whether that was just him trying to cover up the pain by beating the canvas, or him actually trying to get the fighte ended.. i don’t know..

    either way.. the fight wasn’t ruled a submission..

  • Rich S. says:

    and on the palm strike note, i’ve seen them used a lot just recently…

    i believe the fighters were: Ricardo Almeida, Joe Lauzon, Miguel Torres and…

    ahh, i’m drawing a blank.. but, the point is.. i’ve seen them plenty of times, just recently, and at no point was there an attempt made to take points away..

  • Dann S. says:

    This was the worst call i have seen in years. He was unable to continue due to an injury caused by an accidental illegal strike. According to the rules since it was after the second round it should have gone to the judges. At the very least it should have been a NC. If this doesnt get appealed i will be losing alot respect for UFC.

  • JJ Docker says:

    I am 100% certain open palm strikes are legal. Not just the fact that they are used frequently without punishment but also how there is no mention of their illegality on any website I’ve come across. But still, nasty eye gauge.

  • Drew says:

    LMFAO at open palm strikes being fatal. I believe the open palm strike to push the nose into the brain is an urban myth. In fact I believe they are no worse then a closed fist and do no more damage.

    Back on subject, I think Johnson could have motioned to the ref a little bit more instead of dropping like he was shot with a 12 guage. I can see an appeal a no contest and a rematch. Burns needs to work more off his back and try to slap a triangle or armbar. I think that is his only way to finish the fight.

  • Sam Caplan says:

    “LMFAO at open palm strikes being fatal. I believe the open palm strike to push the nose into the brain is an urban myth. In fact I believe they are no worse then a closed fist and do no more damage.”

    Drew, no offense, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    “Burns needs to work more off his back and try to slap a triangle or armbar. I think that is his only way to finish the fight.”

    Burns, a blue belt, submitted Roan Carneiro, a black belt, off his back during his first fight in the UFC.

  • Scott says:

    “Drew, no offense, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    Sam, no offense either…but I think you’re talking through your ass.

    You’ve declared very authoritatively throughout this comments section that open palm strikes are illegal, and have been refuted several times by posters asking you to provide a source stating that such strikes are illegal. Several people have even checked the UFC rulebook and posted portions, but you have refused to acknowledge this. The only reply you’ve offered was that this argument is now moot…I assume it’s now moot only because you refuse to admit you’ve been proven wrong. Others have clearly stated their sources of official information…you have not.

    Second, several posters have also refuted your claim about the “palm-drives-nose-through-brain” myth being true. All you can offer to defend yourself is “it’s not bullshit”, and “no offense, but you don’t know what you’re talking about”. Did you learn journalism from a bunch of middle school girls? If you’re going to state a claim as fact instead of opinion, and then repeatedly insist you’re right, back it up with evidence. Your “Nyah nyah, you’re wrong…now go away” retort simply doesn’t cut it.

    I’m a big fan of your site and normally I enjoy your writing thoroughly, but you seem to have let your ego get in the way a bit much here. Bring yourself back down to earth, man.

  • yuushi says:

    Canuck said:

    It’s been very apparent lately that there was Big John McCarthy, then a large gap, then the rest of the referees. We need Big John back.

    Well, Big John is not infallible either. Cases in point, Sakuraba vs Conan Silveira and Lindland vs Bustamante.

  • yuushi says:

    That being said, I sincerely hope this call is overturned.


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