It has been nearly three weeks since Jon Jones defended his UFC light heavyweight title against Glover Teixeira at UFC 172, and his performance is still being discussed at length by fans and pundits alike.

While there is no question Jones impressively and decisively beat Teixeira in every aspect of the game, there are many people questioning some of the techniques that Jones employed en route to his unanimous decision victory. Jones’ most notable critic has been former UFC champion and MMA pioneer Bas Rutten. During a recent appearance on Inside MMA, Rutten called Jones out for being a “dirty fighter.”

“[Jones is] a very calm, relaxed, methodical fighter, and because he is that, I’m sorry I have to say yes, that is a dirty fighter,” Rutten said on the AXS TV show. “Maybe he was looking down and pushing the fingers in the eye, maybe that happened, I didn’t check that out. But he knows exactly what he’s doing at any given time, and his fingers were definitely in [Teixeira’s face] for a long time. He was constantly rubbing them in the face.”

This isn’t the first time that people have questioned Jones’ use of an open hand on his opponent’s head, but is it really a “dirty” move? In the world of amateur wrestling, an open hand to the forehead is an oft-used tool to gauge distance and set up a shot. In the realm of MMA, the extended open hand is an excellent tool for setting up distance to throw elbow strikes.

Any time a fighter uses an open hand like Jones does, they run the risk of unintentionally poking a competitor in the eye. But because Jones uses this maneuver so often, the likelihood of an unintentional eye poke increases greatly. That’s not to say that Rutten is entirely wrong, though, because Jones should exhibit more control over where he places his hand. But at the end of the day, it’s not “dirty.”

UFC President Dana White made a great point in an interview with MMA Junkie in which he said, “I mean, people are always going to go overboard with Jon Jones because they don’t like him.” Jones is arguably the most polarizing figure in the sport because of his aloof personality. When you are as recognizable as Jones is and when you are as polarizing as Jones is, no matter what you do, you will be scrutinized.

With all the discussion about Jones’ use of the open hand, everyone is glossing over the real “dirty” move Jones uses during his fights: the front kick to the knee. Jones deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the eye pokes—coming from wrestling, this is a standard technique, and with the constant movement by an opponent, an unintentional poke is going to happen—but Jones shouldn’t get a pass on willfully kicking his opponents in the knees.

Name any other contact sport where it is acceptable to target an opponent’s knee with a direct blow. Bet you can’t. Yet, this has become a move Jones is known for. Granted, he has not blown anyone’s knee out yet, but it is eventually going to happen. Then what? Even with modern surgical techniques, knee injuries can be career altering. Although Jones probably isn’t trying to inflict major injury on anyone, someone needs to call him out on this. The last thing anyone wants to see is a major main event ended via a horrific injury that could have been easily avoided.

It’s understandable why Jones uses the technique. Much in the way leg kicks do, front kicks to the knee take away an opponent’s power. With Jones’ length, it is also a distancing tool. Just because something is effective, though, doesn’t mean it should be utilized in the sport.

In Jones’ defense, the move is not technically illegal. Then again, neither were steroids in baseball during the ’80s and ’90s. The bottom line is kicks targeting the knees need to be taken out of the sport before a fighter suffers a major injury. However, it shouldn’t take a rule change to prompt the champion to make a change to his game. If Jones is the respectful martial artist he claims to be, then he should stop using the technique.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.