Verbal Taps?

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Recently, Submission Underground Champion Craig Jones lost to Mason Fowler by a grunt during a neck crank, and it was called a submission victory due to verbal tap. You can see the action below at 8:10 seconds.

In my opinion this was a poor stoppage. Craig had made a similar grunt working to escape the neck crank at 7:40 seconds in as well, which he managed to escape without being called for verbal tap.

There was no physical tap, and no verbal tap from Craig. Grunting does not constitute a tap in my book. Otherwise, any time I do a a strong lift or a hard pull, I would be tapping out, lol.

Back in the day, my brother and I ran the submission grappling tournament scene in south Florida, hosting around 10 shows in a few years. I have reffed hundreds of matches, from kids to black belt superfights.

It’s one thing if we are referring kids matches. For sure, we err on the side of safety with kids. I have stopped kids matches where there was no verbal or physical cues, but I just saw limbs in bad positions and I didn’t want to risk harm.

Kids matches have no real implications in their future of the sport. Whether they win or lose, it doesn’t affect their financial outlook. However, suffering a severe injury can ruin future mobility, or at the least push them away from the martial arts.

Likewise, I can even understand being overly cautious to amateur adult competitors. No money is being made, and likewise, no real career effects either. But an amateur adult getting a broken leg might have real life consequences, such as hospital bills, not being able to work, and having lasting physical limitations.

For someone who is doing it for recreational purposes, it doesn’t make sense to let something go to far. A referee stopping it isn’t the end of the world. Personally, I have never had to stop an adult match in this manner. They have always tapped or verbally tapped. I have had people that claimed they didn’t tap when they did and throw a fit, but had to show them the video where they then apologized and walked away.

With all that being said, professional athletes are a completely different case. Competition is their livelihood and how they earn money. Losing a match does affect their career and financial outlook.

They also have a full understanding of the risks involved, and know when they should tap – if they desire to. If a professional athlete wants to allow their arm to be broken, that is THEIR choice. We might not agree with it, but if they were worried about getting hurt, they would not choose combat sports as a profession.

Anyone that has done any strenuous physical effort knows you will grunt. It would be more understandable if Craig was screaming in pain, or a bone was sticking out, he was having spasms, or something drastic like that.

As a promoter, I’m sure Chael Sonnen doesn’t want to see someone die or get their neck broken. I’m not super familiar with the SUG rule set, but I’m sure they must have some stipulation that they can stop the match if they feel a contestant is in dire physical danger.

A neck crank with some grunting doesn’t really qualify for that in my humble opinion. I know that neck cranks can be quite painful, and I have both cranker and crankee. It’s not fun hearing your neck snap, crackle, and pop. Forget about looking left or right for a few days, lol. In fact, it was one of the reasons I stopped using them in training – as many people wouldn’t respect it until it was too late and they had injured themselves.

So I’m very familiar with neck cranks. Personally, I haven’t seen a severe injury with them in my over 2 decades of experience. It’s not like the movies where you can kill someone by twisting their neck in one swift motion. The worst I have seen is very stiff necks for a couple of weeks.

So when you have your main event athletes in such a position, personally I would have been watching carefully, but not calling a tap to such a submission.


What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?

Comment with your take on this. And if you like this article, please do me a solid and share it with your friends. Thanks!

  • I feel you, David. A lot of people just don’t get grunts, but I think more grunting would make MMA more visceral and dramatic. It’s good theatre, you know?

    • That’s for sure, lol! I have had some interesting grunts in training. Some sounding like I was a Japanese samurai with multiple tones, which is weird because I wasn’t thinking – it just came out. Perhaps in a past life…lol!

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