The Worst Foul in UFC History: The Leech vs Jake Matthews Eye Gouge

In the history of MMA there have been plenty of fouls. The sport that was once compared to human cockfighting is actually decently regulated now – in spite of being relatively young. But every now and then, an infraction so heinous happens it’s necessary to keep talking about it.

Li “The Leech” Jingliang  is currently set to fight rising up and comer Khamzat Chimaev but in this article we’ll be looking back at the egregious foul he committed back in 2018. Jingliang was on a four fight winning spree when he met Jake Matthews. This is one of those cases where a picture is worth a thousand words:

When we talk about the UFC we usually talk about eye pokes, some deeper than others but rarely are they this malicious. To make matters worse Matthews was holding Lee in a submission hold at the time and the ref didn’t really intervene. And both Matthews and Jingliang were awarded 50k for Fight of the Night so in fact he was even awarded after making this foul.


At the time of the incident podcast host & UFC’s longtime commentary Joe Rogan made the following statement:


“I thought it was f-cking bullsh-t,” Rogan said. “You can’t let a guy get away with that, or he’s going to do it again. … You don’t do it that way. You tap. It’s straight up cheating; it’s not just shady. It’s cheating.

“They should tell him, ‘If this ever happens again, if you ever think you’re going to do this again, we’re going to kick you out of the league.’ You can’t do that. You can’t gouge someone’s eye when they’re choking you.“It felt like the fingers were in long enough for him to know the fingers were in there,” Rogan said.”

“The referee f-cked up. The UFC should do something. Someone should do something. Maybe, even in Nevada? You’ve got to look at that and go, ‘Hey man, you can’t ever do this again. And we have to fine you. You should be suspended, and if you ever do this again, you’re out.’ You can’t gouge someone’s eyes. They’ll lose their vision. We can’t have any leniency whatsoever toward intentional eye-gouging. Zero.””

Matthews went on to win a decision victory. But it came at a price. He later revealed that following the incident he had to start wearing glasses.



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A post shared by Jake Matthews (@jakematthewsufc)

It’s possible Jingliang felt that the fight would be stood up if he did something so obvious – but this too would be a win in the situation for him. One frequently proposed solution is to always and consistently dock points for this type of tactic.

Eyepokes are another area where the UFC is keeping the financial interests of the organization as a priority over the fighters well being. For one – a consistently applied harsh sanction policy would definitely help. For another, having a different type of a glove would substantially lower the rate of accidental eye pokes. It still wouldn’t help in situations like this one but it would greatly help with the overall percentage of them that happen during striking exchanges.

Coach extraordinaire Trevor Wittman designed such a glove.

According to Wittman these new gloves would solve a lot of extra problems in addition to the accidental eyepokes. But here’s where the UFC profit margin once again trumped all of fighter’s best interests. In spite of being interested in the glove the UFC wouldn’t be adopting the technology – for one simple reason – they wanted to own it as opposed to partner with Wittman or even license the technology.

And smart cookie that Wittman is, he patented his invention before showcasing it to the MMA community.

The UFC’s current glove manufacturer is with Dyaco, listed company from Taiwan. The current brand licensing agreement deal is multi-year deal started in 2018. In Dyaco financial report, the contract is listed as effective from 06/2017 to 12/2022. Over the years White has talked about new glove designs in the works however nothing materialized.

Earlier this year Belal Muhammad and Leon Edwards fought to a no contest thanks to the damage stemming to an eye poke Muhammad suffered.