The great debate- Damage vs. Control

I know this might draw some ire from you guys, but the idea for this article came from a back and forth I had on the Sherdog Forums, under the alias of "Connoisseur" starting on page 2.  ( How would YOU judge a fight in real life?  )  Now, before you get out your pitchforks, hot tar and feathers, let me say that generally I just go on the dog for it's subforums, especially the grappling & standup technique forums, which have some intelligent discourse, and occasional fighter input (John Wayne Parr & Phil Baroni post every so often on the standup forum).

But I digress.  The real issue I want to bring up here is- what should be valued more in a fight?  Damage, or control (or perhaps a combination of the 2)?   I take the stance that damage is the most important goal in a fight, as it is the most readily quantifiable, and the most cut & dry criteria.  Some highlights from the thread:

 Damage > all else. If damage was equivalent (rare), then control is an acceptable tie breaker.

I thought Andre Winner beat Nik Lentz, 29-28. I thought Diaz beat DHK 29-28. I thought Vera beat randy 29-28 (round 1 10-9 randy, round 2 10-8 Vera based on the knockdown, tie round 3). 

The way it is right now, fights are (supposed to be) scored based on 2 criteria- damage & dominance. Who does more damage and controls more of the action, where the fight is taking place?

It's judging incompetence that fucks things up.

MMA is the sport of fighting, and the purpose of fighting is to inflict maximum harm on your opponent, while receiving a minimum.

Takedowns, and grappling positions shouldn't count for anything, unless they are damaging. A high elevation throw or slam is damaging, certainly. As is a position like knee on belly, a strong crossface from on top, and the body lock from back control; near submissions where a joint is being cranked, or a neck is being choked also counts. But low impact takedowns and passing guard are only a means to an end. Whoever generates the more meaningful offense should win the round.

Inordinate stalling while standing up, clinched against the fence, or on the ground should be discouraged and punished.

I hate the half point system. In reality, you could just give out more 10-10, 10-8, and 10-7 rounds.

10-10 for when there's no clear winner in the damage or control departments. Say, no significant strikes are landed standing, and a fighter pulls guard or takes his opponent down and lands in his guard, where neither man is able to generate any significant offense. Or, no significant strikes are landed, and the 2 combatants are just clinched against the fence.

10-9 for when one of the combatants exerts more damage or control, but breaks even in the other department. Say, one guy lands more strikes, and holds his own grappling. Or both guys land the same amount of strikes, but one guy is dominating the grappling.

10-8 for a round where a competitor clearly does more damage and controls the action better. Hits/ stuffs takedowns, keeps/ closes distance at will, passes guard or relentlessly smothers the top man with his guard, and lands more strikes standing/ on the ground/ in the clinch.

10-7 for a round with the same description as 10-8, except the fighter nearly finishes the other, hurts them badly, repeatedly almost finishes them. I consider the 1'st rounds of Carwin/ Lesnar and Maynard/ Edgar 10-7 rounds, as Gray & Shane seriously hurt their opponents and nearly put them away on multiple occasions, stuffed all their takedowns, and didn't take any damage.

Being someone who trains in both striking and grappling arts, I would argue that Damage absolutely > Control.

Being controlled doesn't really hurt. Receiving damage does. And no matter how you want to sugarcoat it, MMA is the sport of violence, the sport of fighting, and the ultimate goal is to inflict as much harm on your opponent as is possible, while receiving a minimum.

If I want to watch superior control techniques, I will watch amateur wrestling. If I want to see superior control, mixed with devastating submission holds, i'll watch submission grappling. If I want to see devastating damage inflicted, i'll watch a striking sport such as Muay Thai, K-1, Savate, or boxing (depending on what style I fancy). But if I want to see a sport that encompasses all those combat arts, in a comprehensive contest between 2 elite, consenting athletes, i'll watch MMA. The sport of fighting.

To defeat someone, you must damage them. Merely controlling them does not inflict pain, and will not break them, or "impose your will" as you love saying. To beat a man, you must BEAT a man.


(my response to the argument against 'cosmetic' damage)

Not all damage has to be visible on the face, IMO. If you see a strike connect solid, that's damage. If a guy gets slammed onto the canvas, damage. If a fighter gets a joint cranked on/ muscles compressed, or gets his trachea crushed by a near- guillotine, that's damage.

Sure, cuts/ lumps/ bruises/ welts/ fat lips all look good, and indicate that a strike landed with good power, but they aren't the only way of observing damage.


(my take on how to score damage)

It's quite simple, really.

First off, give judges monitors. Standing cageside, they have to look up at an awkward angle, have fence, fenceposts, cameramen, and the ref in the way. Just not a good angle in general. Hell, the audience at home gets a much clearer picture of what's going on than the judges.

Aside from that, it's all about quantity and quality. How many strikes were landed, and how powerful were they? Did the strike snap back the recipient's head, did it ripple their skin on impact, did it crash into their leg and spin them around? Really not that hard to tell.

As for slams and throws, those are extremely easy to recognize and judge. You can tell the difference in impact between someone running the pipe, and a full blown powerbomb.

Same with grappling positions. If you've got a knee stuck in someone's sternum, a crossface buried into their jaw, a figure four leglock around their midsection, etc- it's quite easy to tell who's in the power position, and who's uncomfortable.

Submissions as well. You can tell the difference between a triangle that isn't locked in, and one that's a microsecond away from forcing the tap. If you know grappling, you can tell when a front headlock choke is tight, and crushing the trachea or constricting the carotids. If a guy is cranking a joint lock (like an armbar, heel hook, kimura, etc) or a compression lock (bicep crusher, calf slicer), it's pretty easy to tell when it's hyperextending and hurting the joint, and when the person in the submission is doing just fine.

I ran into a few arguments along the way.  One claimed that I was an idiot, because my system favored striking, and gave an unfair advantage to the striking arts.  While this may actually have some truth, the fact of the matter is that the ultimate purpose of any martial art is to provide a system of effectively inflicting as much harm on an opponent, while receiving a minimum.  If striking is better to that end, then so be it.

Another claimed that the real measure of who won a fight is to decide who "imposed their will".   While this is true in some ways, I feel that this is far too ambiguous, and that ultimately, in a fight (especially under MMA rules), imposing your will is inflicting maximum damage and receiving a minimum.

We then ran through a set of hypotheticals, and went into some really intense debating that you can read if you like.

But the real question here is- what constitutes the 2 d's (damage and dominance)?  If I am inflicting damage on you, is that not dominating?  And can you truly even dominate without doing any damage?  One of the posters (CuePee) brought up a good point.

To all you suggesting 'control' be valued higher, how do you view this scenerio.

A striker with great tdd fights a wrestler with great striking defense.

The wrestler shoots in several times but gets stuffed every single time by the striker. BUt the striker is unable to land anything while standing due to the wrestlers great moving and defense.

The fight spends the entire standing with neither landing anything significant. 

Does the striker win because he controlled wear the fight takes place? Is it a dominant victory, a UD or close?

(my response)

Yes, I would say that the striker wins narrowly by virtue of better control. Also, assuming that the striker was actively trying to land blows, then also probably him by virtue of being the aggressor and at least trying to inflict damage.

As I said, stall tactics should be discouraged/ punished, and are against the Unified Rules of MMA.

(his reply)

See I couldn't disagree more.

Control is a meaningless term if can do nothing with it. WHo is really controlling whom? If you can hold me down but dare not do anything lest i escape and get up and punch your face in then you may be controlling me but I am also controlling you. If you fear my punches but can hold my wrists so tight I cannot escape or punch then you may be controlling my arms but I am also controlling yours. We are both stalemated. Stuck. Tied. A draw.

You want to award the person who initiates a stalemate as if that is what really matters and it does not. Not in any conventional sense of fighting and what a fight is meant to be anyway.

Survival or initiating a stalemate is a draw not a win.

You may take pride in that and it may even be your goal but it is a draw and not a win. And while a draw in a street fight is often desirable as is a stalemate, it is not a win.


I am not a 'damage' guy.

My point is that 'control' is neutral. You are neither winning nor losing if you can simply establish control. Damage is not neutral. It is a definative step towards winning. Continued cumulative damage will win the fight. Continued 'control' with no other advancement would only lead to a stalemate and eventual draw.

So, BE members- where do you stand in all of this?

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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