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ABC Passes Vote to Change the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts

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We have all seen it before. A fighter makes like a tri-pod when in a front face lock, touching one hand or even a finger to the canvas to avoid being kneed into next week. He might catch the knee anyway and get rocked so bad he ends up with a DQ win to the dismay of both the crowd and his opponent. A fighter has his opponent hurt and rushes in throwing hay makers like a mad man, only to be met with an extended finger that catches him in the eye so hard it would make Moe from the three stooges envious. Some fans may have caught themselves wondering why one technique is legal, while a similar technique or strike is considered a foul. Well those days are now over.

These rules changes have been being talked about since the beginning of the year and yesterday the MMA rules and regulations committee, represented by their speaker “Big’ John McCarthy, met with the ABC at their 28th annual Conference held at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada and proposed the plan to alter some of the rules currently in place under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.

Tuesday the Association of Boxing Commission (ABC) voted on and approved several changes to the Unified of Mixed Martial Arts. This is a historic vote that marks the biggest change to the rule book of how MMA is governed since it was first written back in 2000. Several rules were amended by the vote including changes to verbiage of how to judge a fight, a redefinition of what constituents a grounded fighter, standardized apparel allowed to be worn by women competitors, fouls that were previously banned under the old rules and a new rule that will make eye pokes less frequent.

These amendments were first passed by the ABC’s rules and regulations committee a well as their medical committee before being voted on at the ABC’s annual conference. The results were nothing short of a landslide as the measures passed with a vote of 42 to 1. The states of Tennessee and Mississippi abstained for voting and the only state opposed to the changes was New Jersey whose Athletic Control Board deputy commissioner Rhonda Uttley-Herring stood firm to statements that she made on Monday when she stated that her state opposed some of the changes, particularly the ones regarding grounded opponents and heel kicks to the kidneys. Her opinion is that some the changes could potentially encourage more kicks and knees to the head and result in more injured fighters.

Monday Uttley-Herring boldly stated:

“I tried to tell this body…It’s not in the best interest of the fighters.”

When asked Monday if New Jersey would adopt all of the rules changes if they were passed on Tuesday’s vote Uttley-Herring emphatically stated:

“Absolutely not, we will not.”

Some state’s commissions will be able to implement the new rules immediately however due to the way other state’s athletic regulatory bodies are set up, some states will have to traverse the bureaucratic red tape before they are allowed to implement the new rules.

One of the most sought after rule changes from a fan and fighter perspective is the clarification of the scoring criteria. The change to how fights are to be scored makes it clear that effective striking and grappling are the two top criteria for how to judge who won a round and only if those things are equal does a judge take into consideration aggression and ring or cage generalship. A 10-8 round will be more liberally given as a score and will be based on dominance, duration and impact or “damage” (the word damage was replaced by impact under the new rule change). The new rules direct judges that if two of those criteria are overwhelmingly in the favor of one fighter, a 10-8 should be considered and if a fighter has established all three of them with in a round, then it must be a 10-8 round. Another amendment was added directs judges to weigh the initial impact of a strike heavier than the cumulative damage done by them over the duration of a round.

Below is a more lengthy release of the approved judging criteria:

Judging Criteria/Scoring

The following is the proposed update to the MMA Judging Criteria. This criterion will work extremely well within the current 10 Point Must System of numeric scoring AND will also work very well if some form of numerical half point scoring becomes implemented in the future. Proposed Judging Criterion & Definitions: Evolve the Mixed Martial Arts Judging Criteria. Simplify the criterion to focus on the result of action (versus action itself). It needs to be stated that criteria is to be used in specific order and may not move from one criterion to another without the prior criterion being 100% even in the judges’ assessments. In other words, Effective Striking/Grappling will render the high majority of rendered assessments. Effective Aggressiveness is a ‘plan B’ and should not be considered unless the judge does not see ANY advantage in the Effective Striking/Grappling realm. Cage/Ring Control (‘plan C’) should only be needed when ALL other criteria are 100% even for both competitors. This will be an extremely rare occurrence. Effective Aggressiveness and Fighting Area Control are back up plans, should the effect of striking/grappling be 100% equal for both competitors. Criteria may not be mixed and matched to assess a result. 1. Effective Striking/Grappling: -“Effective Striking is judged by determining the impact or damage of legal strikes landed by a contestant solely based on the results of such legal strikes. Effective Grappling is assessed by the successful executions and an impactful/damaging result coming from: takedown(s), submission attempt(s), achieving an advantageous position(s) and reversal(s).” Top and bottom position fighters are assessed more on the impactful/damaging result of their actions, more so than their position. This criterion will be the deciding factor in a high majority of decisions when scoring a round. The next two criteria must be treated as a backup plan and used ONLY when Effective Striking/Grappling is 100% equal for the round. 2. Effective Aggressiveness: – “Aggressively making attempts to finish the fight. “The key term here is ‘effective’. Chasing around an opponent with no result, impact or damage should not render in the judges’ assessments. Effective Aggressiveness is only to be assessed if Effective Striking/Grappling is 100% equal for both competitors. 3. Fighting Area Control: – “Fighting area control is assessed by determining who is dictating the pace, place and position of the bout.”

– Examples of factors to consider are: imposing successful position in the cage when fighters are standing separated, controlling an effective clinch or position for a takedown attempt, achieving and controlling dominant/semi-dominant ground position. Fighting Area Control is only to be assessed if Effective Striking/Grappling and Effective Aggressiveness is 100% equal for both competitors. This will be assessed very rarely. Round Scoring 10–10 Round A 10 – 10 round in MMA is when both fighters have competed for whatever duration of time in the round and there is no difference or advantage between either fighter. A 10 – 10 round in MMA is a necessity to have for the judge’s possible score. It is possible to have a round where both fighters engage for 5 minutes and at the end of the 5-minute time period the output, damage, effectiveness and overall competition between the two fighters is exactly the same. It is possible, but highly unlikely. If there is any discernable difference between the two fighters during the round the judge shall not give the score of 10 – 10 10–9 Round A 10 – 9 Round in MMA is where one combatant wins the round by a close margin. A 10 – 9 round in MMA is the most common score a judge will make during the night. If, during the Round, the judge sees a fighter land the better strikes, or utilize effective grappling during the competition even if by just one technique over their opponent, the judge shall give the winning fighter a score of 10 while assessing the losing fighter a score of 9 or less. It is imperative that judges understand that a score of 9 is not an automatic numerical score given to the losing fighter of the round. The judge must consider was the fighter engaged in offensive actions during the round. Did the losing fighter compete with an attitude of attempting to win the fight or just to survive the offensive actions of their opponent? A score of 10 – 9 can reflect an extremely close round or a round of marginal domination. 10–8 Round A 10 – 8 Round in MMA is where one fighter wins the round by a large margin. A 10 – 8 round in MMA is not the most common score a judge will render, but it is absolutely essential to the evolution of the sport and the fairness to the fighters that judges understand and effectively utilize the score of 10 – 8. A score of 10 – 8 does not require a fighter to dominate their opponent for 5 minutes of a round. The score of 10 – 8 is utilized by the judge when the judge sees verifiable results on the part of both or either fighter. If a fighter has little to no offensive output during a 5 minute round, it should be normal for the judge to award the losing fighter 8 points instead of 9. When assessing a score of 10-8, judges shall evaluate Damage, Dominance, and Duration and, if two of the 3 are assessed to have been present, a 10-8 score shall be considered. If all three are present, a 10-8 score shall be awarded. Damage – A judge shall assess if a fighter damages their opponent significantly in the round, even though they may not have dominated the action. Damage includes visible evidence such as swellings and lacerations. Damage shall also be assessed when a fighter’s actions, using striking and/or grappling, lead to a diminishing of their opponents’ energy, confidence, abilities and spirit. All of these come as a direct result of damage. When a fighter is damaged with strikes, by lack of control and/or ability, this can create defining moments in the round and shall be assessed with great value. Dominance – As MMA is an offensive based sport, dominance of a round can be seen in striking when the losing fighter is forced to continually defend, with no counters or reaction taken when openings present themselves. Dominance in the grappling phase can be seen by fighters taking dominant positions in the fight and utilizing those positions to attempt fight ending submissions or attacks. Merely holding a dominant position(s) shall not be a primary factor in assessing dominance. What the fighter does with those positions is what must be assessed. Duration – Duration is defined by the time spent by one fighter effectively attacking and controlling their opponent, while the opponent offers little to no offensive output. A judge shall assess duration by recognizing the relative time in a round when one fighter takes and maintains full control of the effective offense. This can be assessed both standing and grounded. 10–7 Round A 10 – 7 Round in MMA is when a fighter completely overwhelms their opponent in Effective Striking and/or Grappling and stoppage is warranted. A 10 – 7 round in MMA is a score that judges will rarely give. It takes not only overwhelming DOMINANCE of the round, but also significant DAMAGE that can, at times make the judge assess that the fight could be stopped. Judges should be looking for multiple blows that diminish the fighter or grappling maneuvers that place the fighter in dominant situations with damage being inflicted that is visibly diminishing the losing fighter’s ability to compete.”

As for the grounded fighter rule change it was redefined to state:

“A grounded fighter is defined as: Any part of the body, other than a single hand and feet touching the fighting area floor. To be grounded, both hands and feet, palm/fist down, and/or any other body part must be touching the fighting area floor. At this time, kicks or knees to the head will not be allowed.”

Under the previous rule a fighter only needed one hand, or any other body part to be touching the canvas to make them considered a grounded fighter. There had been many fighters using this stipulation to avoid being kneed or kicked in the head when for all intensive purposes they are on their feet. Referees had described such tactics as touching one finger to the ground as “playing the game.” Given the position that the fighters are in at the time, the aggressor is not able to see what position their foes hands are in and this lead to a foul being called and the fight stopped momentarily while the affected party recovers, or halted all together and ruled a disqualification win due to the foul.

Another hot topic and one of the biggest rule changes dealt with extended fingers that have the potential to poke a fighter in the eyes. Eye pokes have always been a problem in MMA and you do not have to be a genius to figure out that it is due to the fact that the fighters are wearing finger-less gloves. The new rule states:

“In the standing position, a fighter that moves their arm(s) toward their opponent with an open hand, fingers pointing at the opponent’s face/eyes, will be a foul. Referees are to prevent this dangerous behavior by communicating clearly to fighters. Fighters are directed to close their fists or point their fingers straight in the air when reaching toward their opponent.”

As with any other foul where a fighter is warned, repeat infractions after being warned could result in a point deduction even if they have not actually poked their opponent in the eye yet.

One of the topic that has flown under the radar for a number of year dealt with the clothing of female fighters. This rule change makes it clear what female competitors are and are not allowed to wear during competitions:

“Female competitors must wear a short-sleeved (above the elbow) or sleeveless form-fitting rash guard and/or sports bra. No loose-fitting tops are allowed. Female competitors will follow the same requirements for bottom coverings as the male competitors, minus the requirement for groin protection.”

Two technique that were previously deemed as fouls have now been changed as well. Heel strikes to the kidneys and the grabbing of the clavicle will once again be allowed under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts however as promised on Monday, New Jersey will not approve or implement these new rule changes.

New Jersey State Athletic Control Board counsel Nick Lembo seconded deputy commissioner Rhonda Uttley-Herring statements on Monday in a press release Tuesday morning:

“Absent overwhelming medical evidence, we are not in favor of any type of expansion of striking to the head, let alone a change that would allow powerful, potent knees to the head of a downed fighter, We should be wary of the NFL litigation, NHL and WWE head injury issues, and we should not be hasty with regard to matters involving the human brain and it’s well being.”

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Sensor Equipped Tracking Gloves to be Used at UFC 219

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From implementing the likes of USADA, the UFC Performance Instiute and the introduction of the instant replay. The UFC has always prioritized being at the top of the sport science game. 

Now, at UFC 219 on December 30th, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has approved a test run for sensor equipped tracking gloves to be worn by a selection of fighters on the card.

The technology behind the gloves comes from AGI International (an analytics company) along with HEED (a consumer platform company). A collaboration founded by the UFC.

After a sparring exhibition between top lightweights, Edson Barbosa (19-4-0) and Mark Diakiese (12-1-0), HEED co-founder Mati Kochavi had this to say regarding how “70 insights” collected from sensors on the gloves, the corner-men, the octagon itself can depict a clearer image of a fight.

“Those insights are covering entire aspects  of the fight between Diakiese and Barbose. Their passion, power of the fight, resiliency and strategy. All happen in the octagon.“

Shouldn’t sport be told in real-time, with real data, information and emotions?”

He finally promises “We are a company which is trying to revolutionize the way we (broadcast) sports and live events”

As for now there is little to zero information into the technical aspects of the gloves, however products like a Fit Bit have similar abilities to give data on speed,  force, motion, elevation, heart rate etc.

The UFC 219 card takes place on Decemebr 30th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will be headlined by a women’s featherweight title fight between current champion Cris Cyborg (18-1) and former UFC bantamweight champion, Holly Holm (11-3).

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Mark Hunt Returns to Fight Curtis Blaydes at UFC 221

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UFC 221 in Perth has officially added a another Australian to the main card. Joining Robert Whittaker is the knockout legend Mark Hunt.

The Daily Telegraph first reported that Hunt will be stepping into the octagon to face #9 Curtis Blaydes. Some weren’t sure if we would ever see Hunt fight again after he was pulled from the main event in UFC Fight Night 21 against Marcin Tybura. The UFC removed him due to “medical concerns” while Hunt was stating he was perfectly fine.

After getting evaluated and cleared to fight by Australian and American doctors, it looks like his time has come to return.  Hunt’s last fight was back in June when he derailed the Derrick Lewis hype train with a 4th round TKO win.

Hunt had been adamant about calling out #3 ranked heavyweight Fabricio Werdum and trying to get that rematch booked, labelling Werdum a “chicken shit” and a “coward.”

Curtis “Razor” Blaydes who has an 8-1 record, is coming off a TKO victory due to doctor stoppage at UFC 217 in November. Since losing to now title challenger Francis Ngannou in April of 2016, Blaydes has rattled off three straight wins over Alexey Oleynik, Daniel Omielanczuk, and Cody East.

With all this momentum from the win streak, Blaydes looks to capitalize and win the biggest fight of his career against Hunt.

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Angela Magana says she has been cut from the UFC

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Angela Magana announced her release from the UFC on Twitter yesterday.

The now-former UFC strawweight was 0-3, in as many contests with the promotion. Her most recent loss came at the hands of Amanda Cooper, at UFC 218, on the UFC Fight Pass Prelims. A bout which she lost by TKO in the second round.

Her first opportunity arose with the UFC when she appeared on, The Ultimate Fighter 20. A #12 seed, in the tournament of strawweights, Magana lost her preliminary round bout to #4 seed, Aisling Daly. Unfortunately, her promotional debut, on The Ultimate Fighter Finale: 20, resulted in another loss. Tecia Torres defeated Magana that night via unanimous decision. The following summer, Magana fought Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson at The Ultimate Fighter Finale: 21. Waterson won by submission (rear-naked choke) in the third round of the bout.

Oddly enough, following her July 2015, loss to Waterson and before her final bout with the UFC, Magana seemingly instigated a feud between herself and current featherweight champion, Cris Cyborg. A feud which began on social media and boiled over at the 2017 UFC Athlete Retreat. Disregarding her well-documented spat with Cris “Cyborg”, Magana managed her way through a storm of misfortune on her way to UFC 218.

After falling in love with Puerto Rico while on vacation, Magana moved to the island in the fall of 2016. Her entire life followed her there, as she began to train on the island she fell in love with. The tropical paradise turned to an apocalyptic wasteland following Hurricane Maria, the category five hurricane which decimated the area. The disaster became an extreme hindrance for the strawweight.

Her UFC 218 bout became official in early October. Yet, in spite of horrendous living conditions, she powered on through the natural disaster that left her home without power, until the week of the fight. Magana took to social media to tell fans that she would not stop fighting and is currently training for her next opportunity.

 

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