It’s no secret that judging in the sport of mixed martial arts is seriously flawed. Problems range from lack of knowledge about the sport to a poor view of the fight to a flawed ten-point must scoring system… The list goes on and on. However, there is one problem that gains far less attention than the others, and strangely, it is also one of the most important.
MMA has no clear-cut rules for judging.
Should a close submission attempt be counted for points, or should it be scored as an all-or-none technique? Should the fighter escaping the submission get any points for defense, no matter how miraculous the escape be?
Should thrown but missed strikes count for points? Does dodging the opponent’s strikes count for points? Do semi-blocked strikes count as landed strikes? Do strikes that cannot end a fight count for points? Is striking based on damage done or number of strikes landed? Does speed trump power, or vice-versa? Does controlling the pace of a stand-up fight count for points? Does walking forward count as cage/ring control? Does walking backward automatically count as being defensive?
Should a takedown be worth anything if the opponent immediately stands back up? Should a fighter get any points if he doesn’t land a single punch after the takedown? Should defending a takedown count for points?
Should top control automatically be scored as the dominant position? Should a fighter who pulls guard score points for cage/ring control? Does passing the guard count for points? Does reversing or preventing a guard pass count for points?
Should an illegal strike unseen by the referee count for points? Should subsequent damage after an unseen illegal strike count for points?
None of these questions have an objective rubric for the judges to follow. With nothing to refer to, judges are left with few options. Most of them simply interpret the rules as they see fit, which, as we have seen, has led to some decisions that have made me question how the judges managed to write down their scores without stabbing themselves with their pencils.
Hopefully, the powers that be can formulate at least a basic set of judging criteria to assist the three people whose opinions control the fate of the two men who have just fought their hearts out. If not, I pray for the future of MMA fighters and fans alike.