"Written by Jack Barrington and Matt Bishel"First things first, I would like to preface this article by assuring you all that I am not writing it as an angry emotional Shogun fanboy, I am not writing it as a slight at MMA judges, and I am not writing it as an attention-starved journalist desperate to ride the wave of unrest that has been flowing amongst MMA fans these last few weeks. This article is written by an MMA fan, a fan who notices there is something very wrong with our sport, something that that has led critics to question its legitimacy and fans to question their very faith in what constitutes "winning" a fight.
I will not be criticizing the three men who sat ringside as Mauricio “Shogun” Rua lost an unjust decision to Lyoto Machida. No, I will not be demonizing them. What I will be doing, however, is thanking them for stirring-up such tumult rawithin the MMA community to the extent that, finally, average MMA fans are pushing for a better and more consistent scoring system. It is too easy to blame poor decisions on the judges' perceived incompetence and it is a feeble excuse to feign outrage and then blanket it with that everlasting and frankly ridiculous phrase, “you can’t leave it in the hands of the judges”, or "to be the champ, you have to beat the champ." Those axioms only ring true when there is something inherently flawed with the current scoring criteria, and if a system designed to determine the winner of a fight cannot be trusted, then it is definitely time for revision and even revolution.
The biggest issue I have with the system currently in place is that it simply wasn’t designed for MMA; it was adapted from boxing and given its own terms such as the mythically ambiguous “Octagon Control”, which essentially gives each judge carte blanche regarding how it is interpreted. Some see it as aggression, others see it as holding the center of the octagon, and others see it as simply holding your opponent -- be it on the floor, or against the cage. For MMA to truly be seen as a legitimate sport and to prove it can go right where boxing has gone wrong, a stand must be made against wrongful decisions and the very system that allows them to take place.
Talk on this subject has been prevalent on the MMA forums as of late, and there is clearly no time like the present to take action given the strong sense of emotion running through the MMA community with regard to this issue that has exploded in interest these past weeks. With the help of several other FightLockdown members (especially Matt Bishel) I have compiled a brief list of suggestions that would dramatically improve the current system that is being implemented, through slight alterations.
Five Judges Scoring the Fight.
My only hesitation here is the sheer logistics of employing another two people to score the fight. However, with the rate MMA continues to grow, it should prove to be only a small hurdle. With five judges as opposed to the usual three the risk of human error unfairly determining the outcome of a contest is greatly decreased. I think even those most opposed to this proposal would struggle to make an effective case against it. At the very least, judges should have access to monitors without play-by-play commentary feeds, preventing the possibility of physical obstructions interfering with visual perception of events inside the cage.
More 10-10, 10-8 and 10-7 Rounds.
Without lingering too heavily on the outcome of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Lyoto Machida, there is no doubt that more 10-10 rounds would have impacted that fight’s outcome in a huge way. There is an inexplicable notion amongst MMA judges that you cannot score a 10-10 round when there is little to choose between two fighters. Forcing judges into picking a winner, sometimes seemingly at random, is not only unfair to the fighters and the fans, but also makes way for far uglier shades of human error and, dare I say? Bias. When a round is that close, it is easy to give it to the fighter that has impressed you more across the course of the fight, even across the course of their career, even the most professional judge can be swayed by the direction of the fight when scoring a close round, simply giving rounds to the fighter who is already ahead.
10-8 and, in extreme circumstances, 10-7 rounds reward dominance. It’s as simple as that. With the existing scoring system, a fighter can clearly drop the first round yet squeeze out the last two and take home a nice 29-28 unanimous decision win. Incorporating more 10-10 and 10-8 rounds not only gives a more accurate reflection of the fight as a whole, but they also give a clear incentives for fighters to go out there and attempt dominating their opponents, rather than being content to ride out a comfortable 10-9 round. While I would advise extreme hesitance in awarding a 10-7 round, they still have a place in MMA. For instance, when a fighter does everything but achieve the finish in a round, in my eyes, they deserve to be clearly rewarded and a round scored 10-7 would reflect that.
Attempts to Finish the Fight Scored More Highly.
A palpable follow-up to rewarding dominant rounds with more points is to give credence to a fighter trying to end a fight there and then. I am not referring to fighters indiscriminately “throwing bombs” for an entire round or lazily throwing up triangle attempts from the bottom; this criterion pertains predominantly towards close submission attempts, hurting or dropping your opponent standing, and finishing the round in a dominant position, close to stopping your foe.
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal in a fight is to stop your opponent, be it through submission, separation from their senses, or the referee’s discretion, and fighters who strive to attain that goal should be rewarded, substantially on the scorecards.
Top Control Scored Significantly Lower.
This point may be every MMA fans biggest frustration. I fail to comprehend how maintaining top position constitutes winning a fight, beyond sheer aesthetics -- which is absurd. People argue that you are controlling your opponent, but you can just as easily control your opponent from your guard. Maintaining top control while landing love taps is as effective as keeping your opponent in guard and landing heel kicks to their liver. Neither do much damage, neither finish fights, and neither exert your superiority over your opponent -- so neither should score major points.
read part two