Graph for MMA Round Judging, Simpson vs. Tavares Round Two

This is a continuation from yesterday's introduction of a graph to plot and quantify the critical elements of scoring an MMA round. It's also a sanity-check for my most bizarre score yet, which was a trio of 10-10 rounds across the board in the Aaron Simpson vs. Brad Tavares match.

The second round, which is mapped out above and explained in detail after the break, is more interesting. The first round had a comparable level of minuscule offense, while the second showcased a lot more activity and memorable encounters that better fulfilled some of the most important scoring criteria.

The results highlight the recurring burden of how to prioritize better offense that's squeezed into a smaller time frame versus more tame offense that's stretched out across the round.

Really, Tavares had the most effective actions under effective striking and grappling for the brief knockdown and the demonstrative takedown. The question then becomes: what did Simpson do to equalize or overcome those actions? In my opinion, his higher volume of strikes -- though not nearly as effective as the brief knockdown -- and his effective grappling by forcing Tavares to the ground momentarily and threatening with ephemeral submission attempts was comparable to (not greater than) the way Tavares took a strong lead at the beginning of the frame.

To compare with other live play-by-play action across the internet, Jordan Breen and Mike Whitman of each scored this round 10-10 (but gave the first to Simpson), Damon Martin from gave this round to Simpson (but the first to Tavares, which seems puzzling), and Ben Fowlkes of gave this round to Tavares, and notched the first for Simpson.

The detailed breakdown of significant scoring actions, as depicted in the graph above, is posted in the full entry.

1. @ 4:50: They both exchange on the feet: Simpson lands a low kick but Tavares counters with a hard one-two that you can hear land on the broadcast. Simpson doesn't wobble but his forward movement is halted by the blows. Tavares throws a front kick that doesn't land. (Tavares takes a slight lead with effective striking.)

2. @ 4:38: Tavares counters with a left hand that sends Simpson reeling back and down to the canvas for a moment. This should qualify as a brief or near-knockdown, as Simpson stumbled back, lost his footing, and went down, but recovered quickly. (More effective striking for Tavares.)

3. @ 4:30: As Tavares swarms Simpson after stunning him with the punch, Simpson gets double underhooks in the clinch and hits an outside trip. Tavares goes down for a flash, but as he pops right back to his feet, Simpson takes his back standing with a rear waist-cinch. He holds the position and throws no strikes, tries to sink a hook in, but Tavares spins out with his back against the fence at 4:07. (While this attempt was countered, I do give Simpson credit for gaining a dominant and threatening position, albeit briefly, under effective grappling.)

4. @ 4:05: Simpson lands a short knee, one short right to the arm, one right to the back of the head, none of which are significant. Tavares lands two short knees, circles out to put Simpson against the fence, and lands a knee to the body. This mutual exchange is even and cancels each other out.

5. @ 2:55: After Simpson circles to put Tavares against the cage, he throws two inconsequential punches, then Tavares circles and drops for a double leg with Simpson defending against the cage.

6. @ 2:21: Simpson, defending the takedown, lands a few short punches that land like a hammer-fist would (landing but doing no damage nor having impact), but then gets the Thai plum and lands two decent knees. (Slight momentum for Simpson under effective striking for the last two entries.)

7. @ 2:03: Tavares drops for a double, pulls Simpson off the cage, lifts him off his feet and completes a slam-like takedown. Simpson gets right back to his feet and they clinch. (I give this a little more credit under effective grappling than the takedowns Simpson hit in the first round, because Tavares only went to a knee and neither were completed, and this was completed and a very demonstrative takedown.)

8. @ 1:59: Simpson lands a nice knee right after they clinch, then quickly applies a standing guillotine (one or two seconds) and Tavares crouches down to defend. Simpson threatens with a D'arce, Tavares drops to his back to get out of it, Simpson lands two short elbows and Tavares scrambles back to his feet, and Simpson holds the front-headlock position and lands one hard knee. (This little burst of effective grappling -- for threatening briefly with two subs -- and effective striking for the two elbows and knee puts my score back into 10-10 range. Though it's not as effective as the near-knockdown and strong takedown, it's comparable, so this evens the round out.)

9. @ 1:00: We're back against the fence, they trade knees, Simpson throws a hard right that's blocked. (No advantage.)

10. @ 0:29, Simpson throws three lefts that are all soundly blocked, then a knee to the thigh that's "checked", then drops for two double legs that Tavares counters. (Simpson has thrown 4-5 more strikes, they are blocked or have no impact, and his two TDs are countered. He'd get a slight edge for aggression and at least attempting strikes in this last thirty seconds, but I can't sway the entire round his way for a handful of blocked punches and failing on two takedown attempts.)

My Score: 10-10

This is a good example of one fighter having a short outburst of significant and effective offense, but his opponent slowly chipping away at that lead with steady offense, though none as effective. It begs one of the most polarizing topics in MMA: if one fighter gets outworked by a close margin for most of the round, but scores the most damaging and meaningful offense of the round, who wins? I'm attaching a poll on that question.



Reference: Unified Rules of MMA on the ABC website

Downloadable pdf file of rules and discussion topics from the 2008 ABC Meeting on MMA rules

Effective striking is judged by determining the number of legal strikes landed by a contestant and the significance of such legal strikes.

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.

Effective aggressiveness means moving forward and landing a legal strike or takedown.

Effective defense means avoiding being struck, taken down or reversed while countering with offensive attacks.

The following objective scoring criteria shall be utilized by the judges when scoring a round;

1. A round is to be scored as a 10-10 Round when both contestants appear to be fighting evenly and neither contestant shows dominance in a round;

2. A round is to be scored as a 10-9 Round when a contestant wins by a close margin, landing the greater number of effective legal strikes, grappling and other maneuvers;

3. A round is to be scored as a 10-8 Round when a contestant overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round.

4. A round is to be scored as a 10-7 Round when a contestant totally dominates by striking or grappling in a round.

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