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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to develop, many things will change and be tweaked to bring the sport into what it will eventually become. In addition to rules changes, the criteria used by judges will also be adjusted from time to time, and that's just what the The Association of Boxing Commissioners has done this week.
According to Dave Meltzer in a new update at WrestlingObserver.com, the ABC, at its annual meetings in Clearwater, Fla., have come to some minor changes to the wording in the unified rules of MMA on scoring. Here are the changes heading to the unified rules, along with some of my comments on each proposed change.
1) Effective defense has been removed as a criteria. Only offensive moves are to be used in scoring fights. This should end any debate or talks when people ask if defending a takedown should be scored as a positive, or blocking a submission, or avoiding strikes. The new ruling is that effective defense only helps you in that it keeps you alive to do offense, but only offensive moves are the ones to be scored.
-This is a solid wording change, because it clarifies that the judges are looking for offense. This also doesn't necessarily mean a takedown attempt will be scored if it gets stuffed, more it will mean those moments will essentially be a stalemate, with it up to the fighter to then get in offense of his or her own.
2) Striking and grappling are of equal weight. Before the old criteria listed striking first and grappling second. Now they are equal, with the idea that they are weighed based on how much of the fight is standing and on the ground.
-This is an excellent change, because far too often things aren't weighed the same, leading to some very confusing scores when all is said and done. The ground game is as important as the striking game in many fights, and in a close bout contested everywhere, this means the striking won't take precedence over ground work.
3) The term damage as a criteria has been replaced by the term effective damage.
-That's another good wording clarification. Effective damage is still a bit vague, but it makes sure to say that something needs to be effective to score. Now, with it still up to the judges to decide what is effective and what's not, there's still a lot of subjectivity to it, but it means that they hopefully won't be counting every strike that lands equally.
4) Heavier strikes with impact should get more weight than just the number of strikes landed, most notably strikes that cause an opponent to obviously react, stagger, cut or bruiser, be in pain, as well as cumulative impact of strikes.
-There could be some issues with this line of thinking. Heavy impact strikes should definitely score further than a simple accumulation of strikes, but only to a point. If a fighter scores a knockdown but gets out-struck 15-3 in the round, that sole knockdown shouldn't necessarily win a round if it's not a stoppage-worthy KO. Case in point: Forrest Griffin got knocked down by Tito Ortiz twice in their third fight, but Ortiz did very little throughout the rest of those respective rounds. He shouldn't get the nod in that fight based solely on those knockdowns without more sustained offense.
5) Grappling moves scored are takedowns, reversals and submissions, passing to dominant positions, use of active and threatening moves from the bottom, close submissions count more than just attempted submissions and submissions that lead to people being tired are also weighed significantly.
-Smart clarifications on ground work, especially giving credit to fighters who are active on the bottom. One of the biggest problems in MMA judging stems from the overwhelming penchant for top control alone dominating scores. Just because a fighter gets a takedown doesn't mean he/she should score more based off that one move. There has to be more done on the ground to score on top of the takedown, and if the fighter who has been taken down is active from their back with some success, they absolutely should be scoring as well. Getting the judges to recognize this aspect of the sport is one of the single most important scording issues that needs to be resolved.
6) Effective aggression is moving forward scoring with legal techniques, as well as attacking with strikes or submissions on the ground from either the top or bottom position.
-This once again goes to being effective. Moving forward doesn't necessarily mean you're scoring, and moving backwards doesn't necessarily mean you're not being effective. It comes down to the actual offense being applied, and whether or not you're actually landing attacks. Simply moving forward shouldn't be enough, and adding the "effective" wording once again makes that distinction.
7) Cage and ring control is dictating the pace, place and position
-This could be expanded on a bit more, because it can go back to the defensive issue. Would they score a stuffed takedown in favor of the fighter for keeping the fight standing? How are they scoring the clinch? Both and more are questions that should be addressed for clarification.
8) The current scoring system (ten point must) remains in place
-Thee only issue with this is there wasn't further discussion on how well or not the 10-point must system works, nor how to better apply it to MMA fights. There still needs to be a more liberal use of 10-10 and 10-8 rounds, as there hasn't been much improvement on that front for quite some time.
All-in-all, the ABC essentially didn't change much, but the tweaked enough things to make it clearer how things should be scored. Fighters need to be on the offensive, and fighters using stall-tactics will likely not score as well as they have in the past. That could lead to a slight shift in the strategies of some fighters, and hopefully it will be implemented to a point where it can have a real effect on fighters and the sport.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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