New MMA judging system shows promise

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The 10 Point Must system of scoring a round is flawed. If one fighter narrowly wins two rounds and is destroyed in the third, in the eyes of onlookers he clearly lost, but as judges are loathe to give out 10-8 rounds, the winner of the two rounds is the winner.

Now Danny Edwards, a former journalist for the Fresno Bee and current professor at Bakersfield College, has put together an alternative – a points system.

Dave Meltzer has the story.

Two things struck me immediately. The first is that there were more disputes than I would have thought. The second was, in those disputes, in every case, the fights I thought were really bad decisions last year were scored the right way under this system. And in the vast majority of disputed cases, I agreed with the winners in the booklet.

In examining the data further, it was clear that, on paper, this system was superior, perhaps significantly so, in determining who really won the fight.

Edwards scored 434 fights last year, of which, 45 percent went the distance. In all, just over 18 percent of the total in 2013, had different winners under his system. That's nearly one in every five fights that went the distance.

Sometimes it was due to arguably correct interpretation of the flawed ten-point must system (Georges St-Pierre's welterweight title win over Johny Hendricks), or fights with outright bad judging (Tim Boetsch awarded a win over C.B. Dollaway or Ryan Couture over K.J. Noons, Jessica Eye over Sarah Kaufman or Phil Davis over Lyoto Machida). But in most cases, they were close fights that could have gone either way.

Because the system is superior than the current one when used on fights where the fighters and corners aren't trying to work to score within the system, doesn't mean it will be superior when implemented. But it does mean people should be opened-minded enough to consider that it might be.

If it was to change how fighters fight in their quest for superficial points, it may have a motivational flaw. But again, that flaw already exists in the sport today. The system does not have the inherent scoring flaws the ten-point must system does.

I had always figured it was about five percent of judged fights go the wrong way, not 18 percent. But that was based on accepting any close round could go either way. Robberies, like what happened to Dollaway, do exist. Yet, with the current system, you have to accept judges have a tough job in close rounds, which in MMA, constitute a lot of rounds in a lot of fights. In other words, in my mind, anything close gets a pass.

The basics of the point system is that every strike that lands, whether standing or on the ground, counts as a point. Jabs and strikes without much force are worth one point. Strikes that land with force are worth two points. Strikes that do real damage are worth three points. A knockdown is also worth an additional three points.

The ground game has elements of wrestling, but with the submission factor added. A takedown is worth two points. A reversal, or sweep, is worth two points. Getting up from the bottom is worth one point. Keeping an opponent grounded is worth two points every 30 seconds, similar to riding time points in college wrestling. Submission attempts, which likely should be ruled on by trained referees, similar to back exposure points in wrestling, can be anywhere from one to four points, depending on things like time span, and how close they are to finishing.

The best idea would be to test the system out on smaller shows, perhaps amateur shows, gather enough feedback to be meaningful, likely tweak some components, experiment with others, and report back. There could be problems, but in its present sense, this system is superior in determining who won fights based on how fighters fight right now.

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