Following the controversy of UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Munoz’s co-headline bout between Melvin Guillard and Ross Pearson, some have started questioning the reasoning of it being illegal to knee an opponent with his hand down, versus an opponent without a hand down. For example, consider the devastating and legal knee landed by BJ Penn on Sean Sherk, compared to Guillard’s knee to Pearson. According to Domenic Coletta, co-founder of mixed martial arts current unified rules, its not an easy answer.

“It’s about a matter of balance,” Coletta said. “He might be caught off balance and caught off guard and a strike in that situation could cause more damage”

Recently the legality has become objective, as the ref. is now allowed to deem a knee to a hand down opponent legal if he believes the defender is “playing the game” of avoiding strikes by taking advantage of the rule.

In the days of Pride FC, we saw kicks, knees, and stomps as the norm, but what caused the change?

It was 12 years ago that Coletta was disturbed by Tito Ortiz slamming Evan Tannar on the back of his head in a “piledriver” leading Coletta to tell the commission “This is a neck fracture waiting to happen, I don’t want to work this sport if it’s that brutal.”

Discontent with the sports status, Coletta along with Larry Hazard of the New Jersey athletic commission and a handful of UFC reps created what is now called the MMA Unified rules, removing knees, stomps and kicks to a downed opponent.

Interestingly, Coletta admits that the removal of the strikes were more so to appease detractors of the sport at the time, such as Sen. John McCain, who had called the sport “human cock-fighting.”

“A knee to the head is not going to create significantly more brain injury than a punch to the head,” Coletta said. “It probably won’t create any more.”

“For the people who want to see it banned, at the very least it seemed to civilize it a little bit,” Coletta said. “Taking away the knee to the head [of a grounded opponent], I think you made some progress.” – Fox Sports

This brings a new question as first proposed by Fox Sports. Is the sport ready for the return of Pride style attacks? Those detractors have now become miniscule with growth in mainstream acceptance. Personally, I’m not a fan of the soccer kick and find it silly to say that punches and knees are the same — but I would be open to debate. Thoughts?