Former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres and fast-rising contender Demetrious Johnson met at UFC 130 in a fight with clear title implications. After three rounds of highly skilled combat, the judges awarded the win to Johnson. All three cards read 29-28 for Johnson.
To our eyes this was a mistake. Johnson may have spent more time in top position, but Torres spent more time in control of the fight and was the only fighter to come at all close to finishing.
Effective grappling is judged by considering the amount of successful executions of a legal takedown and reversals. Examples of factors to consider are take downs from standing position to mount position, passing the guard to mount position, and bottom position fighters using an active, threatening guard.
Fighting area control is judged by determining who is dictating the pace, location and position of the bout. Examples of factors to consider are countering a grappler's attempt at takedown by remaining standing and legally striking; taking down an opponent to force a ground fight; creating threatening submission attempts, passing the guard to achieve mount, and creating striking opportunities.
In the first two rounds against Demetrious Johnson, Miguel Torres embodied the definitions in the scoring criteria for using an active, threatening guard. Unfortunately, he also proved the painful reality that most judges and many fans believe the top position to be "dominant" by sheer default.
The answer is obvious, which means that we have two choices: switch around the definitions of the scoring criteria based on the attributes of each individual fighter, or simply score MMA grappling with no preconceived bias toward position.
There is a terrible misnomer that scoring a takedown and landing punches from the top is the only way to mount offense and exhibit control in MMA grappling. This can be done off your back as well by using an active guard, by threatening with submissions, and by executing sweeps and reversals.
The critical turning point in the entire art of fighting -- not just combat sports -- was Royce Gracie finishing his opponents from the position the populace foolishly deemed as weak and vulnerable. It's mind boggling that while everything in the sport evolves at light speed, we have forgotten the one lesson that triggered mixed martial arts as we know it today.
The mentality of damning a guard player as automatically losing has made fighting off your back a position to avoid at all costs. The end result is that if you are using your guard, you must finish (not just threaten) with a submission, sweep or reverse to regain the top position, or escape out of it.
Even further, the end result coincides with the fan's most vocal complaint: getting a takedown and staying on top will win you the round and the fight.
The net effect of this type of ignorant judging bias against the guard game is to discourage fighters from working on advanced guard techniques and instead spend all their training time on scrambling back to their feet for more bad kickboxing.
In the full entry we'll break down the fight with lots of animated gifs.
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of Iron Forges Iron.
Miguel Torres gets a deep half-guard and uses the leglock transition to sweep and put Demetrious Johnson on the defensive. A popular point of view is that a missed submission attempt is "like a missed punch", which is just untrue.
The unified scoring criteria specifically states that "bottom fighters using an active, threatening guard" qualifies as effective grappling, and includes the number of reversals along with the number of takedowns. In the sequence to the left, Torres reverses Johnson and threatens with a technique that will finish the fight if it's successful. Also, in the process, he's putting Johnson in defense-mode and controlling the fight by "dictating the pace and location" and "creating threatening submission opportunities" as described under effective control. Quite obviously, he is the aggressor as well.
The animation above is a good example of how it might look like Demetrious Johnson is "on top throwing strikes". Torres is once again wielding an active guard, this time threatening with the triangle choke.
He passes Johnson's right arm with his left leg, then postures up and controls the head. This is the beginning sequence of the triangle and requires 100% of Johnson's energy and attention to avoid the catch.Right now, Torres is a few steps away from ending the fight if Johnson doesn't immediately defend.
Wisely, he does, and shifts his balance in order to free up his right arm. Simultaneously, anticipating the basic triangle defense and preying on the reaction, Torres counters Johnson's counter by hitting another sweep and escaping. This again scores for threatening with a submission and reversing while dictating the pace and location.
Here is another triangle attempt by Torres, which forces Johnson to react defensively and put himself in a horrible position just to avoid the catch. Be sure to watch Johnson's posture as he falls backward -- he's willing to accept any position other than inside the locked triangle because the scenario epitomizes dominance for Torres.
Torres forces Johnson to back out, reverses, stands, and knees from the clinch. This meets effective grappling, striking, control, and aggression.
Above, we have another sweep from deep half-guard while transitioning to a leglock attempt.
The words "effective" preceding the scoring directives applies on the ground like it does standing: the volume and effectiveness of the techniques are weighed the highest. We must compare Johnson's most threatening offense with Torres' most threatening offense, and who threatened more often with the more effective maneuvers.
Here Torres hits a sweep and uses the reversal to take the mount, gaining a dominant position in the process. Taking someone down into guard scores for effective grappling, control, and aggression, but we know that it's what you do with the takedown that counts.
Other than escaping from so many of Torres' attacks, it's hard to see what Johnson did to that constituted winning the fight.