A committee formed to assess the effectiveness of a half-point MMA scoring system has recommended the Association of Boxing Commissions stick with the current 10-point must system.
In a report obtained today by MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com), the committee found that the half-point system would have a minimal effect on scoring and recommended further training and vetting of judges with the current system.
"We thought putting in a more complicated system would hurt more fights than would help," said Jeff Mullen, who chaired the ABC's committee on half-points.
The committee, which was formed in 2010, hoped recent revisions in scoring criteria would "help aid the judges in making more accurate scores."
Four athletic commissions – in Georgia, Colorado, California and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – volunteered for a yearlong pilot program held in 2011 to test the effectiveness of a half-point MMA scoring system, which was developed over three years by longtime referee and judge Nelson "Doc" Hamilton.
A close round would be scored as a 10-9.5 under the half-point system. In a round with a clear winner, it would be 10-9. A round in which a fighter does serious damage but his opponent "gets a degree of offense in" is tallied as a 10-8.5. A dominant round remains 10-8.
The system, which overall gives more weight to damage, striking and grappling, was not used for official scores in the program, but used side-by-side for a later comparison with the 10-point must, which gives a 10 to a round's winner and a 9 to its loser (based, in decreasing amounts, on effective striking, grappling, cage/ring control and effective aggression).
The findings were not glowing.
Andy Foster, secretary of the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission, stated there were no changes to scores using the half-point system and "did not do a thing to affect judging."
Colorado State Boxing Commission Director Josef Mason found the half-point system scores helpful in training judges, but believed it ultimately would cause more draws.
The Edmonton Alberta Athletic Commission found that 4.85 percent of fight results were changed in which the half-point system replaced the 10-point must. It recommended commissions use the system if they desired, but cautioned that it was unsuitable for inexperienced judges – although a poll of fighters revealed overwhelming support for half-points.
And the California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization (CAMO), which regulates amateur MMA competitions in lieu of the California State Athletic Commission, found just 2 percent of its decisions changed in 389 bouts comparing the systems.
Judging arguably remains the biggest flashpoint among MMA fans and promoters.
"I think the biggest problem is not the (10-point must) system," Mullen said. "It's the training of judges. If we have judges that are not using the current system properly, then they're going to have more problems with a more complicated system."
SCORING CRITERIA REVISED
In addition to issuing its findings on the half-point system, the ABC's judging committee issued revisions to the 10-point must system in an effort to add "greater clarity" to MMA scoring.
Among the changes: The removal of "effective defense" as a criteria; equal weight given to striking and grappling; the removal of the word "damage" as part of judging terminology.
* On "effective defense," the committee said the term runs contrary to the spirit of combat sports, which is to score points against an opponent.
"The only role defensive action plays is to keep a fighter in the fight longer so that they can attempt to score using offensive actions," the report stated.
Effective striking now means that fighters will be judged on the number of legal strikes they land in the course of a fight, and the impact of those strikes will be considered and weighed cumulatively.
"If neither fighter shows an advantage in impact of strikes, the number of strikes will determine the most effective striker," the report stated.
* By giving equal weight to striking and grappling in judging criteria, the committee found the sport will be more accurately reflected in judging.
The number of legal takedowns, submission attempts and reversals will now constitute "effective grappling." Also, the "amplitude" of takedowns and throws will be taken into consideration.
"Examples of factors to consider are takedowns from standing position to mount position, passing the guard to a dominant position, and bottom position fighters using an active, threatening guard to create submission attempts," the report stated.
"Submission attempts which come close to ending a fight will be weighted more highly than attempts which are easily defended. Submission attempts which cause an opponent to weaken or tire from the effort required to defend the technique will also be weighted highly in scoring."
* Concerns over the legal liability of commissions prompted the committee to rename "damage" to "effective aggression." The committee also hinted that keeping damage might limit the sport's ability to be sanctioned in jurisdictions which have no regulation in place.