Jason Head_Shot 2[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

“Don’t leave it to the judges” is one of the most popular and consistent phrases heard from Dana White over the years. Understandably there are a lot of motives to Dana making those comments. Finishes mean excitement, excitement means butts in the seats and butts in the seats, means money for the UFC.

Not leaving it to the judges is the answer to the problems with judging controversies? I do not believe so.

Not every fight is going to end with a spectacular submission or knockout. Some fights are going to be a good back and forth battle of techniques going the full 15 or 25 minutes. In those cases, the fighters should be confident in the judges to score the fight competently and accurately.

In order for the judges to do that, there has to be a common understanding of what they are scoring and how the fights are to be interpreted. The current scoring system leaves too much room for individual interpretation.

Currently MMA follows the ten point must scoring system. One fighter gets 10 points for winning the round and the other 9 or less. Judges score fights based on:

1. effective striking
2. effective grappling
3. control of the ring or fighting area
4. effective aggressiveness
5. defence

That is the criteria the judges use to make their decision. The scoring criteria rewards offense over defence; effective striking holding the most weight and defence the least—ok fine.

The problem here is that judges seem to have forgotten about defence completely and also how much credit they give for what on the scorecard. Effective striking is worth the most weight on the score card, but that does not seem to be the case, it would seem that wrestling now carries the most weight; takedowns seem to be worth more than everything else.

We have seen fights where fighters have out-struck their opponents, landed the significant punches, they get taken down in the last minute and lose the round. Machida/Davis is the most recent example I could use that would be fresh in everyone’s mind.

We have also seen scenarios where the stronger wrestler has taken his opponent down and done nothing but defend against submission attempts, mounting next to no offence round after round and somehow wins the fight. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is Clay Guida vs. Hatsu Hioki; Guida scored takedowns in every round but was able to mount no offence, while Hioki was attacking from the bottom the whole fight and Guida took home the decision.

I will use the Machida/Davis fight as an example for the lack of credit given for takedown defence. Davis virtually won the fight with two takedowns one in the first round and one in the second. Machida landed the effective, cleaner strikes and had the better accuracy

Davis was 2/10 on his takedown attempts, so, Machida was able to shrug off 8 of Davis’ ten attempts but received no credit with the judges. Now considering that avoiding takedowns has as much to do with grappling as completing them It would seem that Machida was the much more effective grappler, No?

Davis was only able to score takedowns in the last minute of both the second and third round. So that means that he had Machida on his back for less than two minutes of a fifteen minute fight. How the judges gave those takedowns enough merit to win the fight is beyond me.

MMA needs to get to a point where there is as much emphasis paid on Striking and Jiu Jitsu as there is on wrestling. Takedowns should score points, yes, but so should takedown defence, an active guard or a sweep and striking should remain the most valuable form of offence.

MMA is a fabulous sport, but changes in the scoring and educating of judges is imperative for its long term success. The ten point scoring system is excellent for boxing but does not translate well into MMA. MMA needs its own scoring system and needs to revamp the current criteria for scoring fights. Fighters should be able to trust the judges to score the fight correctly.

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