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The Association Of Boxing Commissions Makes some Big Changes to MMA Judging Criteria

“THE ABC IS CHANGING….oh…the MMA judging…No, no, that’s cool too…”

As some of you may know, I am working towards my master’s degree when I’m not writing for Cage Potato and currently preparing to defend my thesis. Because of this, I have been dragged into more semantics arguments than a person should ever admit to. I’ve had to defend every little “a” that could have been a “the” with Griffinesque tenacity - and I haven’t even defended the damn thing yet. Anyone who has ever attended graduate school can sympathize.

So when The Association Of Boxing Commissions (ABC) announced their newest revisions to the MMA Judging criteria at their annual conference, I read the document with skepticism. The fact that one of the new revisions removed the word “damage” from the scoring criteria partially so that opponents of MMA sanctioning can no longer point to the rulebook and say “LOOK, DAMAGING YOUR OPPONENT IS A RULE!” didn’t exactly help matters. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that some of the rule changes are actually pretty damn important.

For starters, those of you who complain about guys backpedaling their ways to victory (I’m looking directly at you, Nick Diaz fans) will be happy to know that  ”effective defense” has been removed as a criterion for scoring a round. While Kalib Starnes would be pretty bummed about this one if he was still competing, I say good riddance. Honestly, I doubt many of you reading this even knew what “effective defense” meant in the first place. Frankly, I doubt anyone – judges included - agreed on whether it was more important than “aggression” when deciding which fighter won the round, or whether “effective defense” was part of “cage control” or not. It was far too open for debate to begin with, so taking it out of the rules should help judges make more consistent decisions.

Most importantly, striking and grappling are now given equal weight. I think we can all agree that it’s about time for this one. In theory, this means no more decisions like Johnson vs. Torres where the guy on top wins the round, regardless of how many submission attempts he’s trying to defend against. In theory, this puts effective striking and effective grappling on the same level. In theory, this may be the most significant rule change since the implementation of weight classes.

There’s just one problem that I see:

Too obvious?

This criteria is still in the hands of judges who, let’s face it, don’t always know what they’re even looking for in the first place. Take Cecil Peoples’ infamous “Leg kicks don’t finish fights” monstrosity: How do any of these rule changes change the fact that a person who is allowed to judge our sport doesn’t consider a leg kick to be an effective strike? They don’t. While the rule changes are a welcomed improvement when in the hands of judges who know what they’re looking for, they’re still pretty meaningless in the hands of judges who simply aren’t qualified.

In fairness though, the new revisions also clarify what constitutes effective striking, grappling, aggression and cage control. Likewise, the new revisions also tell judges how to score rounds as well (i.e. what warrants a 10-10 round; etc.), so perhaps we’ll start to see some more consistency in that department as well.

Time will tell how these rule changes actually affect the outcomes of fights, but there’s reason to be both optimistic and cynical as an MMA fan. The question now is, what side are you on?


Cagepotato Comments

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Get Off Me- July 18, 2012 at 9:26 am
These are "proposed" changes to judging criteria. Still need to be voted on Seth.
tmanifold- July 18, 2012 at 8:37 am
You want to prevent guys from "running" make the cage smaller. A defensive counter fighter can be exciting if he is engaged constantly. The octagon is huge with no corners to trap guys in.
XENOPHON- July 18, 2012 at 7:45 am
@nidan0303 - Maybe it should be one sports authority, with separate divisions ie. "...Boxing, Badminton, Ping Pong, Wrestling, and MMA."

Stated differently , the amateur ranks have the Olympic committee which is the echelon, but the professional ranks have many separate committees/commissions.

Unlikely to happen - too much money at stake, but it was be orderly and balanced.

I think Pen Fifteen carries the day with his closing comments. BEST
nidan0303- July 18, 2012 at 6:02 am
Silly question, why is the Association of BOXING Commissions in charge of enforcing the rules for MMA? Shouldn't MMA have it's own commission?
sp00ki kabuki- July 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm
I like these changes and agree with the comments about the takedown vs stuffs rule and also pulling guard should not count as a takedown against the one pulling guard ex. Jason High's performance Saturday night. Love the runnaway rule
Pen Fifteen- July 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm
Judge, my comparison was not meant to be between UFC 1 and the present, but something like the middle days, the point at which the sport had begun to attract serious athletes, but had yet to go mainstream. Perhaps we can just peg this as the decade of the 2000s in general. I think, generally speaking, the long-run trend will be toward top-control fighters like GSP or defensive counterstrikers like Carlos Condit or Dominick Cruz becoming the norm. In general, I disagree that we're seeing more exciting fights than we were 5 years ago, especially title fights. I still find MMA more interesting than boxing, in part because I have a much greater understanding and appreciation for the intricacies of the grappling game, but the trend toward longer fights and fewer finishes seems to me to be hard to ignore.
Chri534.- July 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm
The question now is, [i]which[/i] side are you on?
XENOPHON- July 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm
What's the UFC, Bellator, KOTC, SF, and other organizations take on this change Seth?

Maybe ask/answer this question, will these promotions liability insurance premiums decrease or increase?
JudgeHolden- July 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm
I have to disagree with "drainplugofideas" and "Pen Fifteen."

While I guess it depends on your definition of "boring," I personally feel like I've seen many more exciting fights in the last few years of MMA competition than during the first few years. Sure, it was kind of fascinating in a freak-show way to watch the early MMA fights, where the fighters each had narrow, highly-specialized skill sets, but many of those fights were sloppy and boring. For example, Tank Abbott was exciting to watch, but it was basically just a bar fight.

On the other hand, you have guys like Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo, Anthony Pettis, Fedor, etc., who are some of the most exciting, dynamic MMA fighters precisely because they are so well-rounded. They can pull off funky, creative moves because their fundamental MMA base is so polished.

I really just see the sport getting more exciting, as more and more people start training in MMA-related combat systems from an earlier age. And I also don't think that the amount of money involved is going to be the determining factor in whether or not the sport becomes so risk/safety/hazard-conscious that it becomes boring. If that should ever happen, it will probably be because someone died in a highly televised MMA match.
paperplane- July 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm
Are they effective immediately?
drainplugofideas- July 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm
I agree with the first poster up till pro wrestling thing. MMA is going to get more boring as the level of knowledge continues to increase. It's much less interesting watching two guys with good technique than two guys with wildly different skill sets and talent.
The_Dead_Cow- July 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm
It would be nice to see the commissions address takedown defense, i.e. guy goes 1-10 on takedowns but finally gets one and wins the round. This is much like your example of the guy on top winning a round even though all he did was defend against the subs.

Oh, good luck on your masters Seth.
KarmaAteMyCat- July 17, 2012 at 11:52 am
@HandsofGold; I was thinking the same fucking thing.
KarmaAteMyCat- July 17, 2012 at 11:51 am
Epic, not the complete blunder I expected.
HandsofGold- July 17, 2012 at 11:50 am
Let Cecil Peoples’ take a leg kick from Aldo, I bet he would change his mind considerably.
Pen Fifteen- July 17, 2012 at 11:48 am
I think that, despite our best intentions, MMA will probably get more boring as a sport. The long-term equilibrium will be toward an increasing emphasis on defensive techniques, because athletes will find it in their best interest to not beat one anothers brains out, given what we know about concussions, and I think we've already seen a rapid diffusion of grappling knowledge that has made the submission much more of a rarity now than it was even 5 years ago (would be nice to have some data to back this claim up). The more money is involved, you can bet that the level of risk undertaken by participants will continue to diminish. That's why I will continue to watch a lot of professional wrestling, where there always seems to be no shortage of idiots willing to do dangerous things for little money.