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California Amateur MMA to Test New Scoring System in 2011

The California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization (CAMO) will experiment with a new scoring system in 2011, ESPN’s Josh Gross reports.

In order to conduct a proper test-run, CAMO CEO Jeremy Lappen will have the select amateur bouts scored the traditional way and will also have judges score bouts using a new system called Mixed Martial Arts Specific Scoring, or MMAS. By having both systems used, the organization will have a comparative sample of 100 fights.

Longtime MMA Official Nelson “Doc” Hamilton developed MMAS in the hopes of clarifying the criteria by which fights are judged. Hamilton, both a licensed judge and referee, was one of the people who helped get MMA regulated in California during the 1990’s and is a long-time proponent of changing the MMA scoring system. Developed with notable referee “Big” John McCarthy, it will be a modified, but similar, system to one Hamilton created as a past proposition.

The current system in place is a 10-point must system that asks judges to score based on a criteria of effective grappling, striking, cage control, and aggression. The 10-point must system has been maligned for its unspecific definitions of each criterion.

The new system will ask the officials to judge based on the damage inflicted first, with equal importance placed on effective grappling and striking. Cage control will still be a component as well. Noticeably absent in this is aggression, which many believe was a key component in the recent controversial outcome of Lyoto Machida vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

One of the other changes with MMAS will be the introduction of half-points being issued in fights instead of the normal 10-9, 10-8, and 10-10 traditional scores. A close round with a narrow winner would be 10-9.5, a definitive win would be 10-9, rounds delivering damage or domination would be scored 10-8.5, and a round delivering both damage and domination would result in a 10-8. The already elusive 10-10 round would still be possible but not plausible using the half-point method. Using the system I went back and scored the Machida-Rampage fight and the results were 10-9.5 Rampage, 10-9.5 Rampage, and 10-8.5 Machida, for a final score of 29-28.5 for Machida.

One potential drawback is the added potential for more draws (which apparently are a bad thing) in MMA as a possible common fight score could be 10-9.5,10-9.5,9-10 resulting in a 29-29 bout. The solution: adding a fourth judge to keep track of “technical accomplishments” that would be weighted based on difficulty and damage. For instance, a takedown to a dominant position (i.e. mount or back mount with hooks) would net more points than a takedown into guard. Also, the referee will be asked to signal near submissions and catches from the bottom under MMAS, which could make the offensive guard relevant again in my opinion. The fourth judge, however, would only be used in the event of draws on the scorecards as Hamilton was quoted:

“If at the end of the fight it’s announced as a draw, they’ll go to the table judge and whomever is winning on that score wins the fight on technical merit, That’s how you do it in martial arts. There are no draws. Somebody wins, somebody loses. Even in Olympic judo or wrestling, if everything is even down the line, the judges get together, confer and someone gets their hand raised. Period. Well, I don’t see why we should be any different.”

This past weekend, CAMO used the half-point scoring aspect of MMAS for their first amateur state championship. The fourth judge and referee input were not used but will be an option decided for future events.

There are potential drawbacks to every scoring system in any sport that does not always have a decisive outcome and MMAS is not alone in that. The potential for draws without the fourth judge, lack of understanding of the new system or all martial arts from judges, assessing what is a meaningful definition of “damage” (is it their face showing damage or punch count?), still having to deal with cage side perception, etc. are all there. To the judges’ education and whether or not something needs to be done, Hamilton states:

“You teach the people out there how to get it, that’s the key. Just because someone may not understand it and may have to learn it, is not a reason not to implement it. What’s the alternative? Don’t implement it and continue on the path we’re on? In my opinion, that’s self-destructive.”

Clearly, the 2011 CAMO year will be one to pay attention to for more than scouting the future fighters of tomorrow.

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Pictured: Nelson “Doc” Hamilton


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