UFC 130 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 28, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) via video.ufc.tv
Judging a fight is a thankless task. Get it right and no one pays a blind bit of notice, but get it wrong and all sorts of people will be calling for your head. On first watch of the Miguel Torres vs Demetrious Johnson fight I had scored the first two rounds to Torres and the last round to Johnson and when the scorecards were read unanimously as 29-28 the only thing that caught me a little off guard was Johnson's name being read instead of Torres'. I was surprised but I wouldn't call it a robbery.
Already on grappling forums Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players are lamenting over the perceived unfair scoring advantage Wrestling has over BJJ, even some stating the guard is dead in MMA because the judges only care about who is on top. It's a familiar argument that comes up time and again but this time I thought I'd take them to task by re-watching the fight and attempt to implement the grappling scoring found under the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) and Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) rule sets.
With MMA scoring it's always been difficult in attributing value to the more intricate aspects of grappling. How do you score a takedown compared to a sweep or guard pass? Do you score attempted though unsuccessful submission attempts and to what extent of execution must an attempted submission be worthy of scoring consideration? Should a fight be won round by round or as a whole? The world of competitive BJJ and Submission Grappling has at the least tried to quantify common positions and transitions which is why I've turned to the most prestigious and predominant Gi and No Gi bodies for inspiration.
I'll be the first to tell you that I've not done a lot of grappling scoring in the past and certainly not in any official capacity so forgive me if any errors have been made - it's just my subjective view of the fight that tries to be as objective as possible, which is all judging is in any sport. I will also produce the IBJJF and ADCC style scores of the fight based on the grappling data provided by Fight Metric in case they saw something I didn't (and it's always handy having a second opinion).
Firstly, here is the scoring criteria of both the IBJJF and ADCC though without the penalties as most of what they deem fouls are legal in MMA, and even the shared fouls in both aren't relevant at this time since neither fighter fouled the other.
4 points – mount, back grab (both hooks in)
3 points – passing the guard
2 points – take downs, sweeps and knee on the belly
1, 2, 3... – advantages
Advantages: It is considered an advantage when the athlete attempts but does not complete any of the fundamental moves of the fight; i.e. sweep, take down, submission etc. Basically 1 advantage point is given from each genuine though unsuccessful attempt that puts the opponent on the defensive, but the relevance of advantage points is only in the event the score is a draw at the end of the match. There is no minimum amount of time needed per position or transition to score points, the only instance of time frame comes in the case of stalling and when a penalty is levied or if one player falls for a leglock allowing the other player to get on top, the top player scores 2 points once he is out of danger and can maintain position for 3 seconds. Though there was an instance of Torres and Johnson going for leglocks there wasn't a 'leglock sweep' so i didn't count it as such.
For the purpose of scoring the Johnson vs Torres match I included the advantages in the IBJJF style scoring when it came to close submission attempts which came from Torres only in the fight. However trying to stay true to IBJJF scoring, the advantage points only come into play if the main score is a draw and so do not make up the total scoring.
For the full rules of IBJJF competition please click here.
Each position must be established for 3 seconds or more being out of any danger of submission in order for points to be awarded.
* Mount position = 2 points
* Back mount with hooks = 3 points
* Passing the guard = 3 points
* Knee on stomach = 2 points
* Clean Take down (Ends passed the guard) = 4 points
* Take down (Ends Guard or Half Guard) = 2 points
* Clean Sweep (Ends passed the guard) = 4 points
* Sweep (Ends Guard or Half Guard) = 2 Points
- Reversals are considered Sweeps as well.
- When changing multiple positions points will be awarded only for the position that has been established for 3 seconds or more.
- When passing the guard going straight to mount or knee on the stomach in less than 3 seconds points will be given only for passing the guard.
- The sweeps must be done in one continuous motion to be awarded with points.
As you can see the scoring is different here compared to IBJJF with more or less points being awarded to similar positions / transitions and in some cases more of a distinction is made such as clean sweeps vs sweeps and clean takedowns vs takedowns. Also when it comes to sweeps, a sweep only counts in IBJJF if it is from guard or half-guard and IBJJF do not score reversals (such as Johnson reversing from under Torres side control) where as ADCC do. IBJJF does not make the distinction ADCC does and so scores all takedowns and sweeps equally and I have factored this in to the IBJJF style scoring and the ADCC style scoring.
The exceptions I have made came in the instance of Torres using a triangle frame up to sweep Johnson. I'm not sure if IBJJF would consider that a sweep, and I'm sure ADCC would, so for the sake of argument I've included it as a sweep for both (but not a clean sweep for ADCC).
Another exception I made was ADCC's 3 second rule and I scored takedowns once the head was clear and the upper body was out of any submission danger. With that in mind I did not score Johnson's last second takedown at the end of round 3 as Torres finished the round in a guillotine from guard position, but by the same token I did not award Torres an advantage because I felt Johnson was not in submission danger long enough with the round ending so soon afterward.
Similarly with sweeps I ignored the 3 second rule because I felt there was merit in getting a sweep even if a scramble ensued a second later as was often the case with Johnson after being swept by Torres. This actually benefits Torres in the scoring where genuine ADCC scoring might not be so lenient. The main reason for ignoring the 3 second rule was partly to make scoring both IBJJF and ADCC style easier, but also because MMA fighters only have 5 minutes at a time to play with where as in IBJJF and ADCC matches the top adult Blackbelt categories can grapple from 10 to 20 minutes non-stop, and total duration for ADCC matches in particular can double if there's a draw and the match goes into overtime.
For the full rules of ADCC competition please click here.
Results and Conclusion after the jump.
Fight Metric's Score:
IBJJF: 8-2 Torres, 11-5 Torres
ADCC: 8-4 Torres, 11-4 Torres
Fight Metric spotted a pass from Johnson in the first that I missed and an extra pass for Torres that I missed, however only I considered 2 advantage points in the first for the leglock and inverted triangle attempts from Torres. We both score the round for Torres though.
IBJJF: 12-2 Johnson, 7-0 Johnson
ADCC: 12-2 Jonson, 7-0 Johnson
I scored a sweep for Torres where Fight Metric didn't, I scored 2 passes and 3 takedowns for Johnson where Fight Metric scored 1 pass and 2 takedowns. Interestingly the IBJJF and ADCC style criteria score it the same for our respective scorecards. We both scored a submission Advantage for Torres under the IBJJF style scoring.
IBJJF: 5-4 Johnson, 8-7 Torres
ADCC: 6-5 Torres, 10-7 Torres
Fight Metric scored an extra takedown for Johnson. This could well have been the takedown at the end I didn't score because Johnson had not cleared his head of Torres guillotine attempt. Fight Metric also scored 2 passes for Torres and I scored none. I've just watched the third round again and see no successful pass from Torres against Johnson who is always able to keep a leg in during the short time he was on bottom. Even if you have the shallowest of half guards, if the guy on top doesn't clear them under IBJJF or ADCC it's not a pass. I can only guess it's a mistake on behalf of Fight Metric.
I scored 2 sweeps for Torres where Fight Metric scored 1. It's safe to bet the 1 sweep they did see was the Clean Sweep Torres achieved that got him from the bottom guard to a secure mount on top. The other sweep I saw was from a Guillotine choke attempt later on and Torres tried to mount but his legs and knees were still off the mat as Johnson looked to regain guard. Joe Rogan commented that Torres got mount, but technically he did not. I scored it as a sweep rather than a clean sweep as a result but it looks like Fight Metric didn't count it at all. Both Fight Metric and I gave Torres 2 Submission Advantage points.
So, how do the scores stack up?
Round by Round I scored it 2 rounds to 1 IBJJF style for Johnson, and 2 rounds to 1 ADCC style for Torres. Interestingly the ruleset that should favour BJJ the most scores against the BJJ guard player where as the ruleset that claims to be neutral and promote equality among all grappling styles gives it to him and it's largely the clean sweep in the 3rd round that nudges Torres ahead.
Round by Round Fight Metric scores it 2 rounds to 1 IBJJF and ADCC style for Torres, though as I mentioned while I may have missed a couple of things earlier on in the fight, the two phantom guard passes Fight Metric scored in the third round for Torres effects their scoring as well.
When considering the fight as a whole, I score it 19-14 IBJJF style and 21-16 ADCC style for Johnson. Fight Metric though produces a score of 19-19 IBJJF style and 21-21 ADCC style making it a draw. Since only IBJJF deals with advantage points and ADCC doesn't, if the fight were to be scored as a whole Torres could get a decision on 3 advantage points, but only because of the Fight Metric score translating into a grappling draw based on IBJJF style rules.
What can we conclude from this?
Firstly as fans and analysts of MMA, some of us like Kid Nate put value into submission attempts because of an attempt to finish the fight but it's interesting under grappling specific competition scoring (and one tailored to BJJ specifically) that attempt to finish the match is only considered if everything else has been scored a draw. If Submission Grappling and BJJ specific competitions only score successful transitions and positions and not attempted submissions, why are we putting more value on the attempts when watching MMA?
Secondly the notion of a Wrestling / Guy-on-Top bias when it comes to MMA scoring is either over exaggerated, or is ironically almost equally apparent in BJJ and Submission Grappling competitions. The reality of the Johnson vs Torres fight though is Johnson worked to pass guard as well as get takedowns - he did not lay in Torres guard for the duration and while it can be rightly argued he did not work to finish the fight his technical ability in passing should be acknowledged just as it would have been in IBJJF and ADCC style competitions.
I scored it as objectively as I could and it ended up round by round for Johnson under IBJJF, Torres under ADCC and as a whole it went to Johnson for both. Fight Metric's transposed data ended up with round by round for Torres under IBJJF and ADCC though not without some question marks. As a whole Fight Metric ended up with a draw for both sets of scores.
If we go just by Fight Metric data transposed to IBJJF and ADCC style scoring, and include the significant striking they scored, Johnson wins on the percentages round by round and as a whole as well.
Sheesh. Who'd want to be a judge?
UPDATE: Fight Metric were kind enough to get in contact with me to explain how they consider passing -
... we consider half guard to be a positional advance because it is a far superior MMA position than full guard. The term "pass" is imprecise in our case, where what we really mean is positional advances. We diverge from official BJJ scoring in a few ways, but this is one of the ways that would manifest itself most significantly in the analysis you were doing.
So some of the passes they consider in an MMA fight happen by passing from Guard to Half Guard, which wouldn't be scored at all in either IBJJF or ADCC style rule sets. Unfortunately what this means is the data Fight Metric publish can't be used when transposed for IBJJF and ADCC style scoring making their IBJJF/ADCC score sheet void.