Following a controversial decision in the main event of UFC 195,’s Marc Raimondi took a deeper look at the misconceptions of judging criteria, speaking to a few prominent figures on the regulation side of the sport including John McCarthy and Andy Foster:

Whenever we get a disputed decision like this, we hear words like “volume” and “aggression” and “Octagon control” bandied about. Those are all secondary methods of scoring rounds, at best. Yet we still hear fans and fighters alike using those terms as well as phrases like “that takedown stole the round.”

John McCarthy, the godfather of MMA officials and a man who helped pen the unified rules of the sport, teaches in his seminars that judging rounds is done by the following criteria, in descending order: effective striking and effective grappling, ring or cage control, and then effective aggressiveness. Only if the striking and grappling are equal do you then even consider the latter two items.

What defines effective striking? There’s another misconception. Yes, it is damage. The “d” word is never written specifically in the unified rules, because at the time leaders were afraid state athletic commissions would shy away from the sport because of the raw terminology. Effective grappling is defined by significant submission attempts more than position. And if a fighter gets a takedown and does absolutely nothing with it, it’s not supposed to count for anything unless it’s a slam with notable amplitude.

“What is effective striking?” McCarthy said. “Well, effective striking is strikes that cause damage to the opponent in a way where they are limited in their ability to adjust to, limited in their ability to be offensive off of it and it is affecting their ability to fight effectively against their opponent. That’s what a damaging strike is or effective strike. To sit there and say a fighter is not trying to damage their opponent, it’s not being honest.”

All of these things seem fairly straightforward. So why do so few fighters know how judges are taught to score fights? You better believe everyone in the NFL knows a touchdown is six points and a field goal is three.

The fault, to me, lies mostly with the athletic commissions. They’re the ones regulating the proceedings and enforcing the rules. They’re the ones installing judges and referees. They should be way more proactive about informing fighters and coaches how scoring is done.

“I’m gonna try to do a better job of that in 2016, on how these things are scored in California,” California State Athletic Commission executive officer Andy Foster said. “Probably that’s a failure on our part to not get that out to the public.”

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