'Sudden victory' good for flyweight tourney

Demetrious Johnson is bringing a rule change with him when he debuts at flyweight. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

The four men involved in the tournament to crown the UFC’s first-ever flyweight champion won’t make their 125-pound debuts in the promotion for another eight days, but already they’re shaking things up.

During a recent appearance on Tapout Radio, tournament participant Demetrious Johnson revealed the contract for his tourney bout against Ian McCall includes a provision for a fourth, “sudden victory” period in the event their fight is a draw after its three regularly scheduled rounds.

“I don’t know if anybody has said anything about it and this is the first time I’m mentioning it -- that [McCall and I] had to sign for a ‘sudden death’ bout,” Johnson said. “If it goes three rounds and the judges can’t decide who the winner is then we’ll do a fourth round.”

Johnson said he didn’t know for certain if the same was true for the tourney’s other first round bout -- pitting Joseph Benavidez against Yasuhiro Urushitani -- but is guessing that will be the case.

"I can't say if it's going to be for Joseph and Yasuhiro because I'm not going to say that the UFC made those guys sign, too,” Johnson said. “I'm telling you, specifically, that I signed a contract for an extra round on the bout agreement. I'm not going to say that [Benavidez and Urushitani] did. I'm assuming, in my unprofessional opinion, that they did as well."

Probably a fair assumption. Also, a smart move by the UFC. If the tournament’s opening rounds are scheduled for just three rounds, as Johnson indicates, it’s a good bet that one or both of the organization’s first flyweight fights will need assistance from the judges to determine a winner. A draw in either fight -- while still a rarity in MMA -- would obviously be a disaster for what the fight company has otherwise planned as a cut-and-dried two-round bracket.

It’s also a little unorthodox. Short of the truncated “exhibition” fights of the “Ultimate Fighter” reality show, we’ve never seen this sort of arrangement in the UFC before. Since both opening-round flyweight fights are taking place in Sydney, we have to assume the promotion will be acting as its own regulatory body, and therefore can sort of make its own rules. (You know, within reason).

To date, the UFC has always stayed true to the unified rules during its international events. That’s typically been a good thing and adding an extra round to the flyweight tournament bouts seems an innovative and positive step. The extra rounds probably won’t be needed, but in the event that they are and all fighters have contractually signed off on them, there should be no problem.

Perhaps the UFC’s experiment with “sudden victory” rounds could even lead to changes in the way draws are handled stateside. Nobody likes a tie, after all, and few would likely argue with a safe and sane solution to eradicating them.

Who knows? Perhaps the UFC’s flyweights will prove to not only be the organization’s newest, smallest additions, but also agents for change.