Mixed Martial Arts will benefit greatly from the soon-to-be implemented unified rules changes made by the Association of Boxing Commissions.
The commission reviewed the rules and made relatively minor changes, but they are changes that will allow MMA to take the next step in legitimizing itself as a sport. Basically, the ABC changed the criteria for effective striking defense, made striking and grappling carry the same weight in a fight, and changed the term “damage” to “effective.” The ABC did decide to wait another 90 days before they set the rules changes in effect, allowing time for comments and for the UFC to review the changes.
But the headline grabber from these rule changes revolves around the ABC voting to adopt the recommendation of the committee to not implement the half-point scoring system.
Let me be the first to say they got this right. You can’t justify initializing a half-point system when the judges we have today can’t even get the 10-point must system correct. All that would ensue is more controversial decisions, and that’s what the ABC is trying to avoid.
The ABC did away with effective striking defense, and moving forward, judges will be paying more attention to the offensive attack rather than the fighter defending. This is relatively not a big deal. The reason for it is because the offensive striking should have been judged the most anyways. It doesn’t matter how well you can defend against your opponent when you fail to inflict any damage—or should I say remain “effective”—in the bout.
As far as striking and grappling being given equal weight in the eyes of the judges, wasn’t that supposed to be the case anyway? That’s what one would assume, but according to the old scoring system, judges rewarded striking as a primary consideration over grappling. That makes a lot of sense, right? Wrong. The ABC changing this is important for MMA, and hopefully, the judges will oblige when scoring the fight.
And the change in terminology relating to damage was made simply as a precautionary action against any legal concerns. Using the word “effective” to describe a fighter’s success in a fight rather than saying “damage” sounds a lot more professional and, furthermore, more legal-friendly.
But as for the judging criteria changes, the ABC put an emphasis on establishing the system in which fights are judged, the 10-Point Must System. A round is said to be scored 10-10 when both fighters are at a stalemate and fail to show superiority. The judges must score a round 10-9 when a fighter gets the better of his opponent with effective striking and grappling, the round must be scored a 10-8 when one participant wins the round by a large margin, and a round must be scored 10-7 when a fighter dominates and puts his opponent in danger throughout the round.
This isn’t necessarily a complete change, but it’s a great way to start fresh—a sort of rebirth for MMA and judges. This is exactly what the sport needs right about now. In the past, judges have botched decisions with unreasonable scorecards. Hardly do you ever see a round scored 10-7, and if any round in MMA demanded a 10-7 round, it would have been Gray Maynard’s first round against Frankie Edgar in their second fight. That round was a 10-8, but had these changes been in place at the time, it would have given Maynard the point advantage he needed in order to score the win.
So, what do these changes mean for the future of MMA? Well, it’s a great launching pad for judges to finally get everything fixed for the better of the sport. And honestly, that’s the best news any MMA fan could receive.
Photo: Gray Maynard (R) connects with a right hand against Frankie Edgar (Heavy MMA)