I had the privilege of attending John McCarthy’s and Jerin Valel’s COMMAND MMA Judge training course this weekend in Richmond, BC. The experience is invaluable in providing insight into the complexity of judging an MMA bout with integrity. Whether you aspire to become an MMA judge or are simply a fan of the sport it’s a great experience that I highly recommend.
One of the points stressed by John was that MMA needs not just better judging but also more 10-8 rounds. A lesson I took away is that a contributing factor to this problem is a gap in the Unified Rules judging criteria that needs to be addressed.
During the course various bouts were displayed and the class participants were asked to score the rounds and justify their decision. The attendees, largely comprised of MMA officials, combatants and gym owners, were divided on many bouts and the reasons for the split opinions were often well articulated. After watching this unfold several times it became clear that the heart of the dispute often came down to a gap in wording (and therefore application) of the Unified Rules. In short, there is a gap that can be addressed of when 10-9 and 10-8 rounds should be awarded.
The Rules require 10-9 rounds to be used when “a contestant wins by a close margin“. Standing on its own this criteria is simple enough.
When you get to the 10-8 round, however, the problem becomes evident. The 10-8 round is to be used when a “contestant overwhelmingly dominates” their opponent. Do you see the problem? There is a lot of middle ground between winning a round by a “close margin” and “overwhelming domination“. How do you score a decisive round that is neither close nor overwhelmingly dominant? This leaves a lot of discretion for judges to either be overly liberal or overly conservative in awarding 10-8’s.
A step in the right direction may come with an addition to the Rules. If the Rules are amended to call for 10-8’s in situations where a combatant wins by a ‘clear or decisive margin‘ this can fill the gap and lead to the consistent (and far more frequent) scoring of 10-8 rounds. 10-7’s can then be reserved for overwhelming domination.
If implemented this can help address unfair results where one combatant squeaks out a few close rounds and is awarded a victory over an opponent who wins the remaining round in a far more decisive fashion.
There is much consensus in the MMA community that the current scoring system can use improvement and that 10-8 rounds need to become far more frequent. While the above suggestion would not in itself change the landscape, if the ABC adopted this rule change it would send a strong message to MMA officials and help move things in the right direction.