UFC 129 St-Pierre vs Shields on April 30, 2011 in Toronto, Canada. (Photos from Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Was Georges St. Pierre Supposed To Have Lost At UFC 129?

At UFC 129, Georges St. Pierre suffered a debilitating eye injury in his fight with Jake Shields mid-way through the fight. Doctors are now saying the fight should've been stopped. Does that make Jake Shields the rightful winner of the UFC welterweight title?

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Was Georges St. Pierre Supposed To Have Lost At UFC 129?

Much attention has been paid to the hematoma on the forehead of co-main eventer Mark Hominick, but the real story is about what happened to UFC 129 main event fighter and UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Hominick's hematoma, while seemingly gruesome, did not pose the same health risks as the eye injury GSP suffered somewhere in the second or third round. Matt Pitt over at Sherdog.com explains:

To many of us who watched UFC 129, a far more worrisome injury was welterweight champion George St. Pierre’s wounded left eye.

It was unlikely that challenger Jake Shields’ finger to the eye had caused a catastrophic injury, such as a globe rupture or complete retinal detachment, but St. Pierre was clearly distressed. Any number of reversible injuries -- a broad corneal abrasion, bleeding in the anterior chamber of the eye, a lens disruption -- would render the affected eye temporarily useless. Trainer and corner Greg Jackson’s exhortations to ignore the injury and fight through it did not appear to comfort St. Pierre.

Had the ringside physician heard St. Pierres’s anxious report to Jackson ("I can’t see," GSP said. "I can’t see at all,") the doctor would have been duty bound to stop the fight. A fighter with only one eye cannot see stereoscopically, cannot see in three dimensions. In a striking match, that is a crippling disability. Further, if a fighter has an injured eye, the ringside physician must assume the worst: that the damage is irreparable and the fighter has only one good eye left to live with. It would be unconscionable to leave an impaired fighter in the ring knowing that a blow to his now-lone good eye could leave him totally blind. In such a case, it is the ringside physician’s responsibility to step in and protect the fighter not merely from his opponent, but from his own drive to fight on in the face of a potentially life-altering injury.

So, wait, does that mean if the fight had been stopped by the doctor that Jake Shields would've won? Here's what the rules say:

Doctor Stoppage: the referee will call for a time out if a fighter's ability to continue is in question as a result of apparent injuries, such as a large cut. The ring doctor will inspect the fighter and stop the match if the fighter is deemed unable to continue safely, rendering the opponent the winner. However, if the match is stopped as a result of an injury from illegal actions by the opponent, either a disqualification or no contest will be issued instead.

But isn't there a situation where when a fight is stopped they go to the judges' scorecards first? Surely GSP would've won that way. Perhaps, but that method is employed in a case where the fighter is nailed with an illegal blow:

Where a contestant receives a foul blow, the referee may interrupt the bout and may allow him up to 5 minutes to recover. If the contestant cannot continue after this time for medical reasons the following may occur:

If the foul blow was caused accidentally, the bout will go to the judges' scorecards unless the bout has not reached the end of at least one round in which case it will be made a no contest.

If the blow was caused intentionally, the victim will be deemed the winner of the contest by way of disqualification.

To answer the question put forth in this headline: yes, Jake Shields should've been declared the winner. I take my hat off to the champion for being hard, but he fought against his own personal safety past the tipping point. Shields was the rightful winner even if the GSP team is relieved the fight did not come to a medical screeching halt.

UPDATE: there's a question about whether or not Shields committed a foul in damaging GSP's eye. The replay shows that it probably was, but perhaps not totally. Either way it's irrelevant. I explain in the comments:

Shields received no warning and there’s no instant replay. If the fight was stopped in between rounds, how do they know it was an illegal strike? They don’t. They don’t know how it happened. The fighter was never stopped during the round to account for an eye poke.

Maybe on appeal Team GSP could get the decision reversed if tape showed it was an eye poke, but right there in the Rogers Centre? That’s Shields’ title.

The notion that it would've been ruled a foul is highly, highly unlikely.

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