Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MMA Scoring Changes

OK: I've complained long and loud about the crap nature of the ten-point must system currently used in all the MMA orgs I know about. It's archaic, a remnant from boxing. It's inflexible, and extremely subjective...what constitutes a 10-8 round? "You know it when you see it"? To me, it's simply ineffective as a scoring system for a much more varied, dynamic fight game like mixed martial arts. So I'm going to keep this post up for the next few weeks while I cogitate on it (and while I'm waiting for Fight Night to start here on the west coast, and can't go to my normal blogs cuz I don't want the results revealed).
First off, one immediate change that can be made is showing a running score. It's cheap, it's easy, it lets fighters and fans know who's ahead and who needs to do what. You think Matt Hamill would have fought the third round like that if he believed he'd done anything other than win the first two rounds (which in my repeated viewings, he clearly did)? The fans can yell, hoot and holler all they want, what, crowd noise is going to take away from the spectacle? Please. Ask NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB refs. Tough luck, get a quieter job. I absolutely welcome comments, and would dearly love to help start something where we get a real loud fan's voice going in changing the way this sport we love is scored, to make fights better and more fair to fighters.
Second, Olympic boxing has a system that's a bit different, but can offer insights into a possible scoring system that might offer more equity. A panel of five judges score. Each judge has two buttons in front of them, for each fighter. They push the button when a fighter lands a scoring blow. If three of five judges push their buttons at the same time (within a certain time window), the fighter scores a point. I couldn't find out right away but I believe that the score is shown cumulatively throughout a fight. There are a few advantages and disadvantages to this.

More judges leaves less to chance, or an inattentive, sleepy, or possibly crooked judge.
The system seems less subjective.
The fans can see a cumulative score.
Fighters can pile up points, and a truly dominant round is not limited to such a paltry swing in scoring.
Following on the above point, fights will become more dynamic, a true fifteen minute bout (or 25) instead of three distinct, separate rounds.

Disadvantages a slam worth more than a punch? Is a reversal worth points? What about a sub defense? What about a lay'n'pray fighter who does nothing but maintain dominant position? What about a slick Judo throw or scramble?
Fighters can pile up points...have a dominant round and the opponent can do nothing to catch up, making for a boring fight.
Fighters will watch the scoreboard (though I don't know if that's a disadvantage, it seems somewhat like it to me).

The disadvantages are thought-provoking. I'm doing this as I go along and will revise and rethink this as comments come in. Relativity seems a problem in that the judges would have to be more experienced or better trained about MMA, and that can be hard. I'm sure the judges wouldn't mind, to be honest. Imagine the boon to smaller orgs...that could actually lead to further growth, good grassroots growth, in MMA. Imagine if every interested fan had an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of judging a match?
Building a big lead doesn't seem a terrible disadvantage to me. It seems that one thing could solve that problem: referree discretion. WCL has a pretty effective system for allowing refs to penalize passivity, and a big lead could dissolve rather quickly if someone spent a round running. Hell, judges could award a point for being the aggressor and taking control of the ring/octagon/dodecahedron. Count Douche spending 99% of his fight running from Hamill would lose points as he sprinted. And having a big lead is a natural result of whupping someone's ass. To me the fact that someone can horribly mutilate his opponent for the first round, and then barely, barely get eked out on two other rounds, and lose, is crap. You can't count on a ten eight because "Well, it wasn't quite enough for a 10-8 round, you know?" More subjectivity.
Scoreboard watching might be annoying, especially with a dominant grappler, though I don't know that it would change their behavior.
I'm at a loss as to how to score between blows, throws, slams and escapes. If someone more knowledgeable than me could comment on perhaps how wrestling handles these situations, I'd appreciate it. Here is a rundown on Olympic freestyle rules, including scoring. I don't have the attention span right now (after writing how many words?) to go through the whole thing. I'd imagine that you could award a point for a takedown and then perhaps for the position the takedown ended in, and something similar for Judo, etc.
I'm not trying to answer all questions in this post, but to start the conversation, and keep track of where people lead it to. I think MMA scoring is badly flawed, and needs to be fixed. We fans can be a serious force in fixing it. What do you think?


MMA Critique said...

I like how Pride scored fights as a whole instead of round by round. You see a lot of fighters that know they have two rounds in the bank and take the last round off. I like your idea of using five judges, it nullifies that one moron in every judge panel. I think the ten point system would be more efficient if the judges that were scoring were more familiar with the ground game. Someone gets a takedown they score a million points but a fighter from the bottom won't get as much points for scoring damage from his back or going for submissions. Also I curious too know how many points a succesful reversal from bottom is scored.

garth2 said...

those are exactly the kind of questions we need answered as fans.

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