Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Chael Sonnen Debate: Quick Tapping vs. Involuntary Tapping

This morning MMA blogger Kid Nate published an article titled "Opinion: Did Chael Sonnen Quit, Cheat, or Choke Against Anderson Silva? It Don't Matter, He's Still the Hero of UFC 117." The article was a response to MMA reporter Ariel Helwani's tweet (pictured), which read:

"Be clear, Chael hasn't complained about the tap. That was clearly a tap. Not sure why Anderson didn't let go."

The fact that these two established mixed martial arts reporters even entertain why Sonnen tapped, or why Anderson Silva did not release Sonnen immediately is ridiculous because they're both wrong.

Kid Nate holds to the notion that Sonnen was "quick-tapping," a cheating method allegedly employed and taught by Matt Lindland. Quick-tapping occurs when a fighter quickly taps their opponent while in a submission hold in hopes that the official will not catch it and their opponent will release the hold. 

Nate references Lindland's controversial match with Murilo Bustamante at UFC 37 in which Lindland appeared to have tapped while in the grips of a Bustamente guillotine choke. Referee Big John McCarthy stopped the match, but restarted it standing after passionate argument from Lindland that he did not tap. Bustamante would go on to force the tap again for the win. But the point is, while Lindland's alleged quick-tapping may have worked for him at UFC 37, and while he may even teach this cheating method at Team Quest, this was not the case last night.

As for Ariel Helwani, Anderson Silva did not let go because he was not going to let go until he knew for sure that he had in fact clenched the win. Regardless of any knowledge Silva may have held of Team Quest's alleged quick-tapping practices, Silva was definitely loosing up to that point in the fight and was not going to release Sonnen unless he knew for sure that he had won. Also, Sonnen did briefly complain to referee Josh Rosenthal immediately after the stoppage. It was clear to see the commotion that took place after the Rosenthal jumped in, but by the time the replay was played, the tap was no doubt that it was in fact a tap. 

My point here is that, at least for a short moment, Chael Sonnen did not realize that he tapped. Why? Because he experienced a common phenomenon in combat sports (that involve choke submissions) that I like to call "involuntary tapping." I already discussed this subject in an entry earlier today, but for the sake of debate, here's some of what was discussed.

"I believe there are times when a fighter taps when he really doesn't mean to. This is especially true when a fighter is in a choke hold. Think about a time you may have choked on something, or maybe you've seen someone choking. It is human instinct to point, tap your chest, or hold your throat to loosen the trapped object and to signal to others that you are choking. Essentially, these are signs of distress. A person's life sources, air and blood circulation, are being cut off. The same occurs when sometimes when a choke hold is  applied to someone. The individual being choke may loose any sense of self-defense and revert to self preservation.

Such was the case last night with Chael Sonnen. When Anderson Silva applied a tight triangle hold to Chael, it presented the only truly vulnerable moment for the former Olympic alternate wrestler, who had dominated the match up until that point. But when in distress Chael panicked. He had every intention of continuing the fight but instinct kicked in. His actions at that point were involuntary, and for a moment he probably didn't even realize exactly what he had done -- Chael Sonnen tapped."

At this point it almost doesn't matter what happened to Chael Sonnen last night, but if you're going to call it, call it right. Evaluate the situation, and educate yourself as to what actually happened. For some combat sport experience-lacking bloggers that may mean having a buddy choke them out a few times to get a real feel. To them, I say "fight before you write."

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