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UFC In Need Of Rule Changes

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The last two UFC main events have ended on judge's scorecards and the decisions were controversial. Last night at UFC 105, Randy Couture beat Brandon Vera by unanimous decision and at UFC 104 Lyoto Machida defended his light heavyweight belt with a unanimous decision over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. To many fans at home these looked the wrong decisions.

Last night, Couture controlled the pace of the fight well throughout, but Vera appeared to do more damage than Couture did throughout the fight.  At one point Vera rocked Couture with a strike, Couture fell to the ground and turned his back as if retreating. Watching from home it appeared that Couture won the first round, Vera won the second, and Vera won the third.  Both the second and third rounds were close but Vera got the lone takedown of the night in the third round. Couture's win was not as much of a surprise as the unanimous decision. The fact that Couture retreated from combat during the fight and yet still won does not sit well.

The title fight in UFC 104 was rather uneventful, with not much happening in the five rounds.  No fighter appeared to have a distinct advantage on the scorecards. Rua attacked, while Machida was content to defend and never really pressed much of an offense.  It could be argued that Machida showed better technique, but he showed less fighting all around.

UFC President Dana White cannot be happy with the way his last two Main Events have gone.  White has clashed with fighters he thought did not bring enough a show to the Octagon.  He took more than a few shots at former heavyweight champion Tim Slyvia, who he thought was too timid in his title defenses. For fights to end the way White wants them to, there might have to be a change to the rules.

Right now the UFC uses the Unified Rules for Mixed Martial Arts. This rule set is a 10-Point Must System were the winner of a round is awarded ten points and the loser is awarded nine or less.  The points are awarded based on "effective striking, effective grappling, control of the fighting area, effective aggressiveness and defense. " That kind of rule set works fine if there is a consistent pace of action. But there does not seem to be enough incentive for all the fighters to push the pace. A belt-holder knows that they can hang back; there may be more of a risk in losing the belt by engaging the opponent.

 There is a thought that you have to take the belt away from a champion and that a veteran will receive a more favorable decision than an up-and-comer. While those sentiments make sense, they are not fair and they do not always make for good fights.  The UFC needs to modify the rules to fit the style of fights the fans want. There needs to be points deducted from a fighter who does not engage or retreats during a fight (Timidity is a foul but that does not seem to cover plain tentativeness).  Punishing fighters who retreated or refused to meaningfully engage would force the action of a fight to continue and turn snooze fests like Rua vs. Machida into actual entertainment.

The NHL and the NFL made changes in recent years to increase the offense in their games. While some purists complain about the bastardization of hockey and football most fans are happier than ever with those sports. If Dana White wants the UFC to continue to grow he needs to make sure the fight by decisions we have been seeing recently stop happening.

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About Mark Kalriess

  • combat fan

    The fight was close…could of gone either way. I thought Randy was clearly ahead in the third round until the takedown. If Brandon had held him there (but he couldn’t) I would have given him the win.

  • combat fan

    Oh…and as far as a rule change…there are two fighters in the cage/ring. If one is timid, then I expect them to get hurt by a more aggressive fighter. MMA involves different styles (not all exciting). It wouldn’t be the same if you penalize a fighter for their style (if they impose their will over another fighter)

  • combat fan

    lastly…what’s the difference between Randy vs Brandon and Michael Bisping vs Denis Kang…Bisping eventually imposed his will, Brandon didn’t. In the first round Kang had Bisping on his back for most of the time but only worked for position (instead of inflicting damage). In round two, Bisping put Kang on his back and proceeded to inflict damage. Randy had Brandon pressed against the cage (imposing his will with a reasonable goal…to wear Brandon down). The much younger Brandon Vera was unable to do anything about it.

  • Combat fan,

    I get what you are saying, but regardless of a style nobody wants to see fights like Shogun and Machida or Slyvia vs. Orlosoky. A title fight is supposed to be the pinnacle of the sport, not the most boring of matches.

    Yes, arguments could be made for Couture to have won that fight, but the unanimous decision when a fight is that close is what worries me.

    The difference between Randy vs Brandon and Bisping vs Kang is obvious. Bisping vs. Kang fight was finished it didn’t go to the cards. Everyone wants to see more fights like that.


    Vera got dominated and Randy didn’t. Vera couldn’t capitalize when he had Randy hurt and Randy controlled the fight. Was it a close fight? Sure.. but not close enough to question whether Randy won or not.

  • IbrahimJ

    Why would it worry you that it is a unanimous decision?? Doesn’t that mean the judges are being consistent?? Not trying to attack you or anything but just trying to understand your point of view. Cheers

  • MDT

    I do agree that there needs to be more clarity in MMA judging. I’m not sure, however, that over-rewarding aggression is the way to do it.

    A system you describe wouldn’t take away from defensive styles like Machida’s. If anything, it would force other fighters to over-commit in their offense, which is exactly what a counter-attacker wants.

    Look at Rua, for example, who’s been a rushdown fighter throughout his career. The smartest thing he did in that fight, and the reason he should have won, is that he controlled himself and picked his spots. A system that penalizes that behavior wouldn’t help. If anything, it might favor defensive fighters who could learn to look just busy enough to get their opponent to step into traps. Most defensive fighters are smarter than Kalib Starnes that way.

    Sometimes you get a slow fighter like Couture against a boring fighter like Vera and bad matchups happen. And I do think that MMA needs more judging education. But I think the market will sort out boring fighters at the top of cards (let’s see if Jake Shields finds himself on TV again anytime soon). In the ring, we need to let them fight their own styles.

  • I think I should have made my two points more separate. There needs to be more clarity in judging and less bias for a champion or veteran. I did not think the Couture fight was a boring fight, but I thought the decision was questionable. In my eyes Vera won that fight, his strikes did more damage, and he got the takedown, which Randy was unable to do. But it was a close fight and if the there was a split decision I would have not been as disappointed in the outcome. To me it looked like the judges being consistently wrong.

    My other point was about keeping the tempo of the fight’s up. MDT made some good points. I don’t think there’s any need to “over-reward” aggressive fighting, like I said in the article I think the system works fine when the fighter’s engage. The UFC should let fighters play their styles, but they shouldn’t let fighters be over-protective of themselves and their belt. Liddell was a counter-puncher but I can’t remember one boring fight of his.

    Maybe the simple answer is to increase the number of rounds, maybe five for main events and more for title bouts. Maybe then there will be less controversy when it does go to a decision.

  • Ralphie

    Electrify the cage, and let the audience press the juice button whenever they feel the fight is too slow ;-).

  • Ralphie

    But seriously… the 10-9 system virtually guarantees that a fight WON’T be tied after 3 or 5 rounds. Unfortunate since many 3-rounders often end inconclusively, and should go to a 4th round more often. And I think non-title fights between ex-champs should be 5 rounds.
    The only problem with more rounds is more boredom when guys just hug. So add a Pride-like yellow card, deduct 10%, 20% if fighters are lame. But donate that money to charity; UFC is already exploiting these guys too much!

  • Ralphie

    And also, how about educating the FANS! I think people have ridiculous expectations that every fight should end in spectacular fashion. Having trained mma a bit, I really appreciate the tactical struggles that other fans boo. Maybe in big venues, the crowd can’t see the finer points of the battle.

  • SINCorp

    Easy Fix! 1 round, no time limit, fight till someone looses! The Original UFC!!!