Introduction to this new column:
This is the first of what I believe will be an ongoing series. What I want to do with this column is help fans to better understand judging in mixed martial arts. My goal is not to shame or embarrass anyone or come across as judgemental. My aim is to look at the scoring of an MMA round or MMA fight and explain why I think, sticking strictly to the scoring criteria, why a judge came away with a specific score.
My plan is to use the scoring criteria as it is written in the Unified Rules of MMA. The most important thing to understand about the scoring criteria is that it is to be applied in a prioritized manner. In plain language that means if one fighter is better in the first judging criteria then the judge is not to look past that touchstone.
In this column if there is no need to look beyond the first criteria, I will not look at the other scoring standards. Why? Because there is no need to consider anything outside the first priority if one fighter is better in that criteria.
I hope that by focusing on the scoring criteria in a prioritized manner, it’ll be easier to focus on proper scoring and judging.
I will also not use stats for the purpose of scoring. Why? Because 1) they can be misleading and more importantly 2) the judges don’t see those numbers.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno: Rd 2 at UFC 263
The first scoring I will do is for the second round of the UFC 263 bout between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. I picked this round because there was some confusion as to why Chris Lee scored the round for Figueiredo, while Mike Bell and Dennis O’Connell scored the stanza for Moreno.
In this bout, we do not need to go past the first criteria for judging an MMA contest. As such, that’s the only criteria I will include. Here is how MMA judges are to approach “effective striking/grappling” according to the Unified Rules.
“Legal blows that have immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute towards the end of the match with the IMMEDIATE weighing in more heavily than the cumulative impact. Successful execution of takedowns, submission attempts, reversals and the achievement of advantageous positions that produce immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute to the end of the match, with the IMMEDIATE weighing more heavily than the cumulative impact.” It shall be noted that a successful takedown is not merely a changing of position, but the establishment of an attack from the use of the takedown. Top and bottom position fighters are assessed more on the impactful/effective result of their actions, more so than their position. This criterion will be the deciding factor in a high majority of decisions when scoring a round. The next two criteria must be treated as a backup and used ONLY when Effective Striking/Grappling is 100% equal for the round. (Bold mine to emphasize that this is the most used criteria in MMA fights and it’s rare that judges need to consider more than effective striking/grappling.)
Here are my notes from the five minutes of the second round:
In the first few seconds of the round, Moreno landed a solid jab, but Figueiredo returned a jab of his own and when Moreno missed with a counter, Figueiredo scored a takedown. Moreno had Figueiredo in his guard for a brief time, but Figueiredo easily transitioned to half guard. From half guard, Figueiredo used punches and elbows to the body. Moreno had a grip on Figueiredo’s left hand, which prevented Figueiredo from sliding that arm under his chin and attempting a submission. Figueiredo connected his hands together for a short tie, but he could not cinch the choke.
A brief scrambled ensued and Figueiredo landed in side control and again went after a choke, but Moreno slipped free. Moreno tried to control Figueiredo on the ground, but the defending champion got to his feet. Moreno then landed several knees to the back of Figueiredo’s legs against the cage. Moreno scored a takedown, but Figueiredo spun to his back and put Moreno in his guard with 2:22 left in the round.
Figueiredo and Moreno were on the mat until 1:01 remained in the second round. While they were on the ground, Moreno did not pass from Figueiredo’s guard. He made one half-hearted attempt to transition to half guard. His offense comprised five or six short punches to the head while Figueiredo controlled the posture of his opponent. Figueiredo landed four elbows from the bottom. One of those opened a tiny cut above Moreno’s eyebrow and caused immediate and noticeable swelling.
Four seconds after the fighters stood, a scramble ensued and Moreno once again ended up inside Figueiredo’s guard. Moreno’s offense again was very short head strikes while Figueiredo looked to create space from the bottom to land elbows.
Considering effective striking and grappling, my belief is that Figueiredo’s passing to half guard and searching for two chokes put him ahead of Moreno in the grappling department. Moreno did not advance position or try to secure a submission with his grappling. I also side with Figueiredo when it comes to striking. His elbows from his back were more effective. They caused visible damage — a cut and swelling — and that damage is something that can, to quote the rules, “have immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute towards the end of the match.” They key word in this sentence is potential (bold mine) and the elbows did have that potential.
My score in watching this five minutes of the fight would be 10-9 for Figueiredo because he had the more effective striking and grappling.
If you would like me to look at a certain round or fight, feel free to reach out via Twitter an I will go back and look at some of the most popular requests.