Damage, Damage, Damage. New MMA Rules To Tell it Like it Is

update – The below rules passed but the word Damage was replaced with Impact to appease objections from some commissions. 


As first reported by MMAFighting’s Marc Raimondi, the Association of Boxing Commission’s rules and regulations committee has released their proposed changes to MMA’s judging criteria.  These make it clear that, in a word, damage is what judges ought to look for.

Tracing the history of MMA’s current scoring criteria one learns that damage was always intended to be the key factor but regulators were concerned expressly using the word was simply too inflammatory.  Language was designed to pussyfoot around the reality that damage was key.  The new proposed rules seek to remedy this.

The new rules also overhaul the language of when 10-8 rounds should be considered and mandated.

The proposed rules are reproduced below.  It is worth noting that if the ABC adopts these at their annual conference in Las Vegas the current landscape will not immediately change.  The ABC has little formal regulatory power in MMA.  State, Provincial, Municipal and Tribal athletic commission will need to overhaul their own rules and regulations on a commission by commission basis if they wish to make these proposed rules a reality in MMA.

Judging Criteria/Scoring
The following is the proposed update to the MMA Judging Criteria. This criterion will work extremely well within the current 10 Point Must System of numeric scoring AND will also work very well if some form of numerical half point scoring becomes implemented in the future.
Proposed Judging Criterion & Definitions:
Evolve the Mixed Martial Arts Judging Criteria. Simplify the criterion to focus on the result of action (versus action itself). It needs to be stated that criteria is to be used in specific order and may not move from one criterion to another without the prior criterion being 100% even in the judges’ assessments.
In other words, Effective Striking/Grappling will render the high majority of rendered assessments. Effective Aggressiveness is a ‘plan B’ and should not be considered unless the judge does not see ANY advantage in the Effective Striking/Grappling realm. Cage/RingControl (‘plan C’) should only be needed when ALL other criteria are 100% even for both competitors. This will be an extremely rare occurrence.
Effective Aggressiveness and Fighting Area Control are back up plans, should the effect ofstriking/grappling be 100% equal for both competitors.
Criteria may not be mixed and matched to assess a result.
1. Effective Striking/Grappling:
“Effective Striking is judged by determining the impact or damage of legal strikes landed by a contestant solely based on the results of such legal strikes. Effective Grappling is assessed by the successful executions and an impactful/damaging result coming from: takedown(s),submission attempt(s), achieving an advantageous position(s) and reversal(s).
Top and bottom position fighters are assessed more on the impactful/damaging result of their actions, more so than their position.
This criterion will be the deciding factor in a high majority of decisions when scoring a round.The next two criteria must be treated as a backup plan and used ONLY when Effective Striking/Grappling is 100% equal for the round.
2. Effective Aggressiveness:
“Aggressively making attempts to finish the fight. “The key term here is ‘effective’.Chasing around an opponent with no result, impact or damage should not render in the judges’ assessments.
Effective Aggressiveness is only to be assessed if Effective Striking/Grappling is 100% equal for both competitors.
3. Fighting Area Control:
“Fighting area control is assessed by determining who is dictating the pace, place and position of the bout.
– Examples of factors to consider are: imposing successful position in the cage when fightersare standing separated, controlling an effective clinch or position for a takedown attempt,achieving and controlling dominant/semi-dominant ground position.
Fighting Area Control is only to be assessed if Effective Striking/Grappling and EffectiveAggressiveness is 100% equal for both competitors. This will be assessed very rarely.
Round Scoring 
10–10 Round
A 10 – 10 round in MMA is when both fighters have competed for whatever duration of time in the round and there is no difference or advantage between either fighter. A 10 – 10 round in MMA is a necessity to have for the judge’s possible score. It is possible to have a round where both fighters engage for 5 minutes and at the end of the 5-minute time period the output, damage, effectiveness and overall competition between the two fighters is exactly the same. It is possible, but highly unlikely. If there is any discernable difference between the two fighters during the round the judge shall not give the score of 10 – 10 
10–9 Round
A 10 – 9 Round in MMA is where one combatant wins the round by a close margin. A 10 – 9 round in MMA is the most common score a judge will make during the night. If, during the Round, the judge sees a fighter land the better strikes, or utilize effective grappling during the competition even if by just one technique over their opponent, the judge shall give the winning fighter a score of 10 while assessing the losing fighter a score of 9 or less. It is imperative that judges understand that a score of 9 is not an automatic numerical score given to the losing fighter of the round. The judge must consider was the fighter engaged inoffensive actions during the round. Did the losing fighter compete with an attitude of attempting to win the fight or just to survive the offensive actions of their opponent? A scoreo f 10 – 9 can reflect an extremely close round or a round of marginal domination. 
10–8 Round
A 10 – 8 Round in MMA is where one fighter wins the round by a large margin.
A 10 – 8 round in MMA is not the most common score a judge will render, but it is absolutel y essential to the evolution of the sport and the fairness to the fighters that judges understand and effectively utilize the score of 10 – 8. A score of 10 – 8 does not require a fighter to dominate their opponent for 5 minutes of a round. The score of 10 – 8 is utilized by the judge when the judge sees verifiable results on the part of both or either fighter. If a fighter has little to no offensive output during a 5 minute round, it should be normal for the judge to award the losing fighter 8 points instead of 9. When assessing a score of 10-8, judges shall evaluate Damage, Dominance, and Duration and, if two of the 3 are assessed to have been present, a 10-8 score shall be considered. If all three are present, a 10-8 score shall be awarded. 
Damage – A judge shall assess if a fighter damages their opponent significantly in the round, even though they may not have dominated the action. Damage includes visible evidence such as swellings and lacerations. Damage shall also be assessed when a fighter’actions, using striking and/or grappling, lead to a diminishing of their opponents’ energy confidence, abilities and spirit. All of these come as a direct result of damage. When a fighter is damaged with strikes, by lack of control and/or ability, this can create defining moments in the round and shall be assessed with great value.  
Dominance – As MMA is an offensive based sport, dominance of a round can be seen in striking when the losing fighter is forced to continually defend, with no counters or reaction taken when openings present themselves. Dominance in the grappling phase can be seen by fighters taking dominant positions in the fight and utilizing those positions to attempt fight ending submissions or attacks. Merely holding a dominant position(s) shall not be a primary factor in assessing dominance. What the fighter does with those positions is what must be assessed.
Duration – Duration is defined by the time spent by one fighter effectively attacking and controlling their opponent, while the opponent offers little to no offensive output. A judge shall assess duration by recognizing the relative time in a round when one fighter takes and maintains full control of the effective offense. This can be assessed both standing and grounded.  
10–7 Round
A 10 – 7 Round in MMA is when a fighter completely overwhelms their opponent in Effective Striking and/or Grappling and stoppage is warranted.
A 10 – 7 round in MMA is a score that judges will rarely give.
It takes not only overwhelming DOMINANCE of the round, but also significant DAMAGE that can, at times make the judge assess that the fight could be stopped.
Judges should be looking for multiple blows that diminish the fighter or grappling maneuvers that place the fighter in dominant situations with damage being inflicted that is visibly diminishing the losing fighter’s ability to compete

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