Judging in MMA

A lot has been said in recent years about the way bouts are scored under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. But few legitimate solutions have been offered. Sure, it’s easy to complain when your favorite fighter drops a close decision. But who is to blame? The judges? The system? The fighters for “leaving it in the hands of the judges” as Dana White frequently says?

My stance is that the judges are doing the best they can with the steaming pile of crap we call the parameters laid out in the Unified Rules: effective striking, effective grappling, control of the ring/fighting area, effective aggressiveness and defense.

A full copy of the rules can be found at http://www.ufc.com/discover/sport/rules-and-regulations. Section 14 contains the judging criteria.

Effective striking is simply defined as “the total number of legal strikes landed by a contestant.” That is about as straight-forward as you can get, but it lacks much detail. Is this total strikes or significant strikes? What about damage, knockdowns, etc.?

Effective grappling is a bit more detailed. “Effective grappling is judged by considering the amount of successful executions of a legal takedown and reversals. Examples of factors to consider are take downs from standing position to mount position, passing the guard to mount position, and bottom position fighters using an active threatening guard.” This also leaves plenty of holes to consider. How much more weight should be placed on a reversal if the fighter was mounted? Going back to the effective striking, what if a fighter lands 100 strikes from the bottom? Also, effective grappling says nothing about submission attempts or escapes.

As for Octagon control, “Fighting area control is judged by determining who is dictating the pace, location and position of the bout. Examples of factors to consider are countering a grappler’s attempt at takedown by remaining standing and legally striking, taking down an opponent to force a ground fight, creating threatening submission attempts, passing the guard to achieve mount, and creating striking opportunities.”

So basically, little pieces of all the other four categories combined? And submission attempts fall under the “Octagon Control” category? Yeah, that makes perfect sense…

“Effective aggressiveness means moving forward and landing a legal strike.” Ah, the Leonard Garcia category. However, how frequently have we seen fighters do the exact opposite and still win fights? (See Sanchez-Gomi)

“Effective defense means avoiding being struck, taken down or reversed while countering with offensive attacks.” I didn’t even know there was a fourth category until I did some research. Basically, the ability to keep from having the first four things done to you.

What none of these parameters take into account is what was considered the No. 1 criteria in the Pride FC days: effort to finish a fight by way of submission or knockout. Isn’t that the goal of any fight? Hopefully the athletic commissions will refine these decade-old rules. But for now on, if judges make a bad call, don’t boo them. Boo the California State Athletic Commission for coming up with this backwards list nearly 13 years ago.


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