Boxing Commissioners implement new rules for MMA bouts in the US and Canada


UFC President Dana White has long gone on record that he wants to see better judging in MMA. From judges recording the wrong scores to referees stopping fights to early or too late, white has been a vocal critic of the current system and he is not alone. In a sport with no instant replay, fighters, promoters, trainers and fans have long been complaining about real or perceived problems with referees and judges and their scoring of certain matches. It seems as if someone who can make a difference has stepped forth.

The Association of Boxing Commissioners (ABC) has handed down some changes to the Uniformed Rules of Mixed Martial Arts today in an effort to improve judging and scoring in all MMA bouts held in the United States and Canada.

The most significant being that the half-point system has a negligible impact on scoring the outcome of a fight. Four commissions took part in this evaluation: the Colorado State Athletic Commission, Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission, California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization and the Edmonton Alberta Athletic Commission. The ABC sounded the official death knell of the half-point system with the following statement: “It appears that changing the current scoring system, when only a marginal amount of fights would be affected (2% if you reference [the California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization, Inc], and 4.85% if you reference [the Edmonton Alberta Athletic Commission]), would not be a significant reason to adopt this change.”

The ABC has made a few other revisions to the current MMA judging criteria:

Effective Defense has been removed as a criteria for scoring. American author John Steinbeck said it best: “The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in defense. The sword is more important than the shield and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental.” Whether it is on the battlefield or in the confines of the ring or the cage, that quote breathes the truth. The ABC rightly noted that: “offensive actions should be the only criteria used to score MMA matches. Offensive fighters are fighters which carry the fight and push the action, and make the fight happen. Defense is its own reward. A fighter who chooses to avoid using defensive actions will invariably suffer the consequences. For example if a fighter decides that they do not want to block or avoid a strike, protect themselves from a submission, or avoid a throw or takedown then they will suffer the results of those offensive actions being used against them. 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. Having two fighters avoid offensive actions and rely solely on defense goes against the basic primary consideration of any combative sport: To score using offense.”

Hopefully this will put an end to a trend we have been seeing in the UFC where certain fighters engage at long distance and give the impression that they are “running” from the fight. This is organized sport combat, not a self-defense situation.

Striking and Grappling now have equal weight with respect to scoring In a huge step forward for wrestlers and jiujitsu practicioners ABC stated: “The old scoring system rewarded striking (as a primary consideration) more than grappling. Mixed Martial Arts is based on two skill sets – striking and grappling. The committee felt that grappling should not be a secondary factor in determining the outcome of a match. Grappling has a definitive skill set and athleticism and offensive capabilities which when used correctly can effectively end a fight. As such grappling skills should be rewarded and given equal weight to striking.”

This has been a long time coming. When first enacted the rules were based strongly on the existing rules of boxing and kickboxing, so grappling took a back seat. It may be true that more people want to see a knockout, but as long as submission is an equal part of the game it should be judged accordingly.

The term “damage” will no longer be used as a descriptor when discussing the scoring of a round. It will be replaced by “effective”. According to the ABC: “The legal considerations surrounding the term “Damage” as a descriptor were given considerable weight and as such the committee felt that using the word “Damage” may contribute to the potential for liability in the event of any litigation that commissions may find themselves involved in. The sport of MMA is still relatively new and has not received sanctioning in various jurisdictions. The committee felt that “Damage” as a descriptor may play a factor in helping to determine future sanctioning if the term was taken out of context with many opposed to MMA as a sport. ABC Instructors who currently use this as part of their teaching curriculum are advised to make any and all subsequent modifications to their course material.” This is more symbolism over substance or political correctness. I have seen this sort of language creep into the shooting sports with mixed reactions. On the one hand, I applaud any change that may legalize or legitimize the sport in more backward-thinking locales such as New York City; but at the same time think in the long run it may give the illusion that this is not a combat sport. In and of itself the language will not water down the sport, but may give the impression to some that it is more like professional wrestling as opposed to boxing.

What do you think? Are these rules really going to effect the changes we want to see or are they merely a band-aid on a gaping wound? Granted there is more to judging and scoring than the basic rules, but is this a placebo or a big step in the right direction?

Learn more about the rules of MMA in USA and Canada and in general. 

  • All of this sounds great – there should be no need for half point systems if fighters know that defense doesn’t score, and that effective aggression (offense) is what wins fights.

  • A change to the rules is not sufficient, we need better trained judges with a decent pair of glasses. Also I think the judges should be allowed to see some indepth replays and stats, it’ll probably cause extra five minute delays per fight which can be filled with analysis. I’d prefer not to see a repeat of the nurmagomedov vs tibau, or fukuda vs ring decisions. A committee which has the power to over-rule controversial decisions wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

  • They have to actually be accepted by the NSAC, CSAC (California pro), or the NJSAC before anything is implemented. I doubt the UFC will supersede any of them.

  • Evan, from my understanding, they will be. ABC is having a month long series of conferences on this subject (among other things) and those 4 commissions merely represent where the 1/2 point system was tried out.

  • Ah, good to know.

  • As long as laying on your opponent is not considered an “offensive action” , takedowns should score but not separately from what you do with them, in other words in you take someone down but do nothing or they pop back up you should score ZERO. !!

  • I actually have seen one instance where a decision was overruled. At the local amateur fights at least one judge (ISCF) wears a camera on a headband. A fighter struck another fighter and when the guy went down he screamed that the other guy poked him in the eye. It was ruled “no contest”. A trip to the hospital revealed it wasn’t an eye poke, but the fighter shattered the other guy’s eye socket and sent that into his eye. About a month later the ISCF reviewed the footage and reversed the NC to a win. Here’s the link, fighter’s last name is Bowman 1/3 down the page:

  • Points matter most…aggression shouldnt be such a factor.

  • I have AADD….what was I doing here?

  • Well it’s a step in the right direction but it needs to happen in professional MMA a lot more, Dana awarding fighters their win bonus is a kind gesture but it doesn’t make up for the loss.

  • DEERRpppPP Me no Get this

  • i like the aggression ruling will stop the running of most greg jackson fighters.

  • Yes there is a reason, if both fighters go offensive crazy and are basically equal in effectiveness for a round then it feel unfair to score that 10-9 when Weidman Munoz rnd 1 could have been 10-9 as well.

    I think a half point system is the way to go, the only problem being too many draws. The only response I could think for that is to add a sudden death 3 minute round.

    Fighters may be exhausted at the end of 15 minutes but if it is equal after he three rounds then whoever worked harder in camp should win the last 3 minutes or likely finish, and deserving so if they put in the extra time.

  • That happens in the UFC as well?

    Mackens Semerzier got KO’d by a clash of heads and was originally given a loss to Robbie Peralta but in the following weeks was changed to a NC following reviewing of the fight.

    Same happened when Oliveira finished Nik Lentz after illegally kneeing him in the head, it got changed to NC later.

  • You should have to hold the position for 3 seconds or something similar to score on it.

  • Greg Jackson just took it up the rear with that smug look on his face…

  • @ the writer. I’m not saying you are but are you a “Nick Diaz won rounds 1,2 and 5” kind of guy?
    Saying the trend of people running not scoring on defense doesn’t have anything to do with the rule change – for example Condit backing out far after every attack didn’t get him points on defense but it stopped Diaz from getting any offense and point from it.

    If you can not cut your opponent off in the cage or get a hold of him it’s your problem and responsibility.
    I just think you should get less points if your aren’t commiting to your strikes, which will be the case if you are back pedaling or barely engaging.

  • Also it says that grappling is counted just as much as wrestling now? That is a scaryt hing since takedown are commonly fight winners and the much better grappler usually wins.

  • Big News Guys,

    Dana White has just changed his “KNOCKOUT OF THE NIGHT” bonus


    Yours truly….Political correctness

  • This seems to favour wrestlers which leads to more boring hold a guy on the ground fights. I already thought grappling was on par with striking with how many guys win fights by holding a guy down without doing much, so now they get even more points for that?

    And then to remove defense, so if you take me down and I get right back up you still score for really doing nothing instead of it potentially cancelling out?? What about if a guy is defending ground and pound by trying to catch that guy in a submission? Is that offense or defense?

  • Even if the rules are amended you still have three independent judges seeing the fight differently and whenever there is a split decision guys will continue to get robbed.

  • Nick did win rounds 1, 2 and 5. Are you kind of guys that is saying Nick didn’t win rounds 1, 2 and 5? Dear me, you ARE that guy!!!

  • Nick lost the first round.

  • Correct Keith. Was wondering when somebody was going to bring those up.

  • Im glad they are trying to make improvements, but the current judges cant even add whole points togeather, Its going to be a learning peroid for sure.

  • Some takedowns do damage
    sometimes even more than a good punch
    so that doesnt make any sense
    if its a sloppy takedown against the cage then i could think about it

  • The term “damage” will no longer be used as a descriptor when discussing the scoring of a round. It will be replaced by “effective”.

    the continuing pussification of the america and its language


  • Guys like Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz might not have become or remained champions with these rules. Guys like them will need a finish in order to win their fights from now on.

  • Maia’s most recent win is exactly your point Mac. Maia won by takedown.

  • I have to disagree, I’m sick of Guida/running matches.

  • lol MK. I can see Guida/ Condit and Greg all getting sh*tfaced tonight at a local bar.

  • I think Nick won the whole fight. Condit was scared of Nick and ran the whole fight. More Nicks and less Condits and the UFC would be far richer for it!

  • That ranks right up there with the liberal’s “The killer was really a nice guy when hes not mad”

  • They simply need to get rid of half those bozo boxing judges and go for more “effective judging”…. I think guys ike Kenny Florian are just the ticket. Im sure that job would suck though.

  • haha yes i am, Condni won 49-46, if i remember thats how i scored it

  • AJY

    If the rules are implemented well, it’s great news for fans since it may cut down on fighters stalling/ going for points instead of wins.
    I disagree on the no defensive action points awarded tho. I always thought that succesful take down defense takes precedent over takedowns and should be awarded some points. It requires strength/balance and reflexes and fighting against gravity. I f a fighter gets points for a takedown, it’s only logical he gets them for nullifying attempts as well.
    Taking a step further, submission attemps are also offense, working actively to secure one should be taken into consideration. If a standup fighter or wrestler gets credit for octagon control, a bjj guy should get it for active work on the ground.

  • man machida is fukced

  • i disagree with the takedown defense taking precedent, perhaps if the fighters fought in a ring but in the cage it is far easier to avoid a takedown by backing into the cage and widening out your stance. there is no unnatural striking hinderence as a result of the cage.

    to your point on sub attempts, i believe that is what they implied with the “grappling being on equal footing with striking” statement. currently only takedowns earned you points sub attempts were all or nothing either you tap them your you just wasted your energy and time. i agree that sub attempts should be given points, as often times a failed kimura,armbar,kneebar, etc…. cause far more damage to the defending individual than a flurry of blocked/glancing blows

  • Overall I think this is positive stuff. The only issue I take is with the offense over defense rule. I think that it could lead to more guys just brawling. It also will greatly hinder guys like Machida who’s style is based on being allusive and striking when the opponent is open. If guys like him (who’s style I enjoy and admire) don’t get a KO there is a good chance under the new rule that cage control will go to the more aggressive fighter even though Machida is using his movement to set up attacks.

  • i think there is a big difference between Machida’s fighting style of jumping in and out of striking range, and say carlos condit’s non-stop back peddling in the diaz fight. Machida is constently looking to cause openings moving in and out of range, fienting creating chances to counter strike, while condit v diaz, guida v maynard are all displays of people essentially running from the offensive individual. while machid has occasionally kicked it in reverse like condit or guida it is not a constaint tactic he employs the the entire fight but a monentary tactic to readjust himself after a failed attempt i.e. he jumps into the pocket throws a hook and misses then back peddles to avoid the counter and reestablish his range.

    technique will continue to defeat brawn 9/10 times, if a individual isn’t able to effectively block/slip/counter strikes while in the mid to close range then that individual is not a very technicall striker. that is how superior technical strikers beat sloppy shot brawlers, they defend bad offensive techniqe with superior defensive techniqe this doesn’t mean you kick it in reverse and attempt to evade the situation it means you again block/slip/counter. the fact of the matter is that the majority of “strikers” in MMA are not very technical, the majority of them learn how to throw a good jab/hook and some foot work which is still enough to normally edge out a win over a straight up brawler. while the diaz bro’s,JDS,and Anderson Silva’s of the world, people who put substantial time into actuall techincal defensive skills put those mediocore strikers to shame.

  • Not really since he usually finishes. Run all you want as long as you Ko or submit your opponent somewhere along the line. Thats where I feel guys like Dominick and Frankie will lose their edge.

  • Why is MMA based on a 10 point system like boxing if it is a completely different sport??

  • problem with Nick is he hardly ever shows up

  • AMEN! That’s the part that had me confused about the “striking was scoring higher than grappling”

    How many times have you seen a guy get rocked and destoryed on his feet, proceed to hug a guy to the ground,do NO damage and win the fight?

    Ineffective grappling should recieve a zero just like ineffective striking does. Ineffective grappling is not “offense” it’s just a negation of the other persons offense. When someone is getting beat down on their feet and takes the guy down doing nothing else, it’s clear he’s just trying to survive.

  • …How often does that happen….

  • Most greg jackson fighters hug their way to wins and this won’t stop that.

  • Thanx highkick, appreciate reading an intelligent post.

    I don’t know what everyone is getting so excited about…..

  • Just ask Don Hyun Kim about how ineffective takedowns are. People on here screaming that taking somebody down is useless clearly has never wrestled or been in a Multi Art Form fight before. As an adult human being, there is more than enough body weight to do SIGNIFICANT damage from a takedown alone. Man, I can’t tell you how many people I know have been injured just from falling on their own, no less thrown on the ground by an opponent. Gravity plus technique can cause a lot of pain and win a fight by itself. Damien knows this along with Rampage.

  • I forget round to round who I had winning but by the middle of the fight my impression was that Condit was landing more and thus, winning.

  • I agree with most of what you write here but Condit wasn’t just running and neither was Guida until the end of the fight. They were backing up a lot buy they (especially Condit) were out striking their opponents. My issue is that under the new rules octagon comtrol might go to Diaz for just coming forward and might tip the scale towards him.

  • What would work better?

  • Diaz was controlling the octagon, Condit was backing away from Diaz. Diazs movement dictated Condits. diaz landed more strikes to the body and head, condit beat him with light leg kicks, and yeah under the new rule Condit would have lost

  • I don´t know…I´m not in the business….but it doesn´t seem practical and it seems that MMA just went with the scoring that fit the sport the most. It´s like scoring american football the same as rugby is scored just because rugby has been around longer.

    They´re COMPLETELY different sports so they should have their own scoring system.