Judging is a problem in mixed martial arts. In fact, it's one of the biggest problems the sport faces, right alongside the usage of performance-enhancing drugs and fights that are canceled due to injuries.
You know it, and I know it. And luckily for us, it seems that the Association of Boxing Commissioners—the fine fellas who mostly determine the rules for the sport on a nationwide basis—seem to realize the problem as well. And they're doing something about it.
The ABC is in the midst of their annual meetings in Clearwater, Fla., right now, and they've instituted a few changes to the rules that govern the sport.
Here's a listing of the changes:
- Effective defense is no longer a criteria for scoring. This means that defending takedowns or blocking submissions and strikes don't count for anything. Under the new rules, the only advantage that defense brings to the table is that it keeps you from being finished by offense. The only way you can actually score points is through offense.
- Striking and grappling have been given equal weight. In the past, striking was always listed first as a scoring opportunity, thereby giving it more importance. That's not the case anymore. Striking and grappling are, from this point forward, to be viewed as equal offensive measures.
- Heavier strikes will be given more weight than number of strikes landed. They're now classifying damage as "effective damage," which means strikes that do more damaged will be weighed more heavily than an overall strike count. Of course, this is still a visual thing, as judges don't have access to in-fight statistics.
- Grappling moves that are scored heavily: Takedowns, reversals, submissions, transitions, activity and threatening moves from the fighter on the bottom and attempted submissions that lead to the threatened fighter being tired. In theory, this will put more weight on guys who play a great guard game and constantly threaten submissions off their back. Witness the Miguel Torres vs. Demetrious Johnson fight for example. Torres consistently threatened with submissions, and used plenty of sweeps and reversals from the bottom, but Johnson was awarded the fight because he was on top. This, to me, is one of the more significant rule changes.
- Effective aggression is now defined. Aggression in the cage is now defined as a fighter moving forward and using legal techniques. Attacking with submissions or strikes on the ground is included.
- Control is also defined. "Octagon control" means that a fighter is dictating the pace and position of the fight in the cage.
One unfortunate note: The current 10-9 system remains in place. That's all fine and good, except for the fact that judges are still discouraged from using 10-8 or even 10-7 round scoring, even when it's more than warranted. I'd still like to see this changed, or at least see licensed judges feel free to assign those scores when they are needed.
These rule adjustments are a good step, but there is still plenty of ground to cover before we have an ideal system in place. The biggest step lies in more education for judges, and that's something that only the commission can fix.
I'm going to open this up for discussion. What viable rule changes or additions would you like to see in mixed martial arts? And by viable, I mean realistic, coherent changes. Don't tell me you want soccer kicks, knees to the head on the ground and the banishment of time limits or all rules. Those aren't viable options.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter. I'll use the best suggestions in a story later in the week.