for years MMA fans have been commenting on how lenient refs are about eye pokes. The rule change which was supposed to solve everything changed absolutely nothing, and that’s because it doesn’t address the real issue. The real problem is in the way referees apply the rules. Ref always start from the point of view of “benefit of the doubt”, fights are messy, shit happens, we move on. Well here the thing tho: because fights are so messy, you will ALWAYS be able to give someone the benefit of the doubt if you think that way. Even the most blatant eye pokes in recent memory (Jones, Ponzi, Faber...) were really only obvious in replay. The ref struggles to even see the eye poke in real time, and certainly cannot tell if it was intentional or not, the ref can never really judge the intent of a fighter. The solution is simple: stop trying to punish the intent, and just punish the act itself (extending fingers towards the face). In others words, put the responsibility of keeping fingers out of the eyes on the fighters, not on the refs. Here’s an example from another contact sport: rugby has gone through a real transformation in the last decade or so, there used to be a lot of very dangerous tackles, in particular high tackles around the head and neck area and tip/spear tackles, where the tackler drives a player into the ground head first. The refs used to let a lot of it fly because, you know, they were “unintentional” or it was because of “momentum” or the ball carrier “slipped” some other excuse. They had to re-train the refs to understand that it is the tackler’s responsibility to keep their tackles low. Nowadays in rugby you don’t get to claim innocence because you didn’t mean it. If you fail to tackle below the neck, you get penalized, end if the story, no grey area. If you pick a player up off the ground in a tackle, it’s your responsibility to put him down safely. That’s the way rugby rules are being applied nowadays, the same cultural shift needs to happen in MMA.