Former Strikeforce champion and recently retired UFC welterweight Nick Diaz had the following to say regarding MMA's existing judging guidelines: "It's all geared toward this certain scoring criteria that's really ass-backwards."
"Spastic movements are made on account of a lack of technical aspects," Diaz continued, "so some fighters try to make up for this lacking technical aspect with some sort of frantic, spastic movement. And they're awarding points for more of that stuff. They spazz out, all over the fucking place. And, all of a sudden, at the end of the fight, you realize ... Hector Lombard lost [to Tim Boetsch]? What the fuck is that? He landed all the clean shots and stood his ground. That dude [Boetsch] had to bounce around and move around all over the place. Frantically!"
"When I fought Sean Sherk," Diaz recalled of his 2006 decision loss at UFC 59, "he threw punches in the air and moved around a little more than I did. He threw combinations that weren't even landing or doing any damage. [MMA judges] don't know what they're doing out there, and I've proven it. I've fucking proven it, over and over again."
How to determine the winner of a fight is the most controversial and hotly debated topic in MMA.
In basketball, you put the ball through the hoop. In football, you score a touchdown or a field goal. In baseball, you round the bases and cross home plate. There are no exceptions or confusion -- the task and required actions are crystal clear and unclouded. Barring a conclusive finish, the same, however, cannot be said for mixed martial arts.
Amidst a sea of polarizing opinions, it's unanimous that demonstrating effective offense -- i.e. effective striking and grappling -- is the best tool for judges to determine the victor. And in decisions where one competitor clearly out-strikes or out-grapples the other, there's no mystery as to who deserves the nod. The real challenges arise when there is no finish and effective offense is fairly even in a closely contested match. That scenario triggers a cacophony of divergent opinions pertaining to which fighter exhibited the most effective control and/or aggression, and these credentials, though clearly defined as secondary to effective offense in the unified rules, often decide the fight entirely.
But ... should they?
If effective striking and grappling prove superiority and win fights, but are too close to call, should "the fighter who was moving forward more often" be granted the win and considered the better man? How about, in the same scenario, the fighter who exhibited more control? In plain terms: if the cardinal values (striking and grappling) are even, does it really matter what direction a fighter is moving in or how often they neutralized their opponent's offense with control, even though that means they weren't mounting any more effective offense of their own in the process?
If there were one simple and straightforward solution that everyone agreed upon unanimously, chances are it would be in place already. We've all debated these issues and have personal likes and dislikes about the current scoring system and maybe a few ideas for change as well, but very few of us -- if any -- have the desire or means to to start up a new fight league that would operate under our conception of proper MMA fight scoring.
Enter the new WAR MMA organization from Nick Diaz promotions, which will introduce itself to the combat sports world on Saturday, June 22 from the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California.
While more significant deviations from the commonly enforced rule-set may be adopted in the future, Jonathan Tweedale, legal representative for Diaz, explained that the WAR promotion will first establish themselves with the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) before entertaining the idea of more drastic changes.
"It makes no sense as a promotion that hasn't even had an event to go to the commission and say 'we think we have an idea here that will improve the sport' and request to use different scoring criteria," Tweedale said. "It would be presumptuous, and almost disrespectful, to approach the CSAC at this stage. Instead, we'd like to build credibility with the commission and establish a good track record first."
With the potential for more influential changes on the horizon, the inaugural WAR event will keep things simple by using a ring instead of a cage and disallowing elbows to the face on the ground. While the use of yellow cards, as they were employed by referees in Japan's now-defunct Pride Fighting Championships to flag a fighter for a lack of offensive action, is still being considered, the promotion will judge fights under the premise that only effective offensive actions will be scored. Control-based achievements, whether in the clinch or in top position, will not be recognized from a scoring standpoint.
"Referees are good enough right now so that, if you're just holding your opponent down and not trying to advance position, inflict damage with heavy strikes or attempt submissions, they're going to stand it up," Tweedale said. "But when you introduce elbows on the ground, it doesn't take much for the referee to deem that as sufficient enough to let them keep going."
This point of view should inspire some intriguing discussion. There is a notable difference between basing down in top position and maintaining control while sprinkling in a few short, pestering elbows and posturing up to create space and level heavy strikes that have a better chance of inflicting damage. From the bottom position, it's much harder to threaten with an active guard and attempt sweeps and submissions when the top-man prioritizes control and neutralization of the opponent over mounting significant offense.
One way to categorize those contrasting strategies is "winning the contest" versus "winning the fight." Regardless, combat sports fans will have the opportunity to find out if slight tweaks to scoring guidelines and the mentality with which they're enforced will have any sort of impact this Saturday night.
With veteran fighter Javi Vazquez and Sherdog's T.J. DeSantis calling the action, WAR MMA 1 will stream live in HD on www.NickDiazPromotions.com at 8:00 p.m. ET. The stream is literally on a 'pay what you want' basis -- so, yes, that means it's free. Bloody Elbow is proud to announce that we will also be streaming the live event right here for our readers. The full WAR MMA 1 fight card follows.