Earlier this year the Association of Boxing Commissions approved a series of MMA rule changes set to take effect January 1, 2017. The new Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts aim to eliminate the ambiguity of the current rules, while others aim to improve fighter safety.
Longtime Referee and California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) Official ‘Big’ John McCarthy appeared in a video posted by the California Department of Consumer Affairs today to discuss how the sport will be impacted going forward.
The Extended Finger Rule
Fighters are no longer allowed to keep their fingers pointed towards the opponent’s face when their arms are outreached. A fighter who ignores this rule runs the risk of being deducted a point, as it will now be considered an illegal action.
Prior to the passage of the “Eye Poke Rule,” only eye gouging was considered illegal, although referees would often warn competitors and threaten to take away points if the behavior did not change.
According to McCarthy an individual make keep their hands up to defend their face and can keep their fingers outreached if they are pointed towards the ground. The ability to defend has not been compromised.
Jon Jones actually requested a different referee for his scheduled bout with Daniel Cormier after ‘Big John’ was assigned the bout, citing his negative interactions with John McCarthy in the past.
McCarthy had previously cited Jones’ potential for eye gouging on a 2014 episode of Submission Radio.
“As a referee can say ‘Jon close your hand now, and I’m warning you if you don’t, if you put it out in the same fashion I’m gonna start taking points,’” said McCarthy.
What Constitutes a Grounded Fighter
As it stands, mixed martial arts uses a boxing rule if the fighters are standing. That is — if anything more than the soles of the fighters feet are touching the canvas, then the fighter is deemed to be grounded. This leads to a cat-and-mouse game, where a fighter would reach down and touch the mat in order to avoid knees or kicks to the head, as it is currently illegal to kick or knee a grounded fighter in the face or the head.
“What we’ve actually done is we’ve changed the actually interpretation of a grounded opponent,” said ‘Big John.’
Now, a official will view a fighter as grounded only if more than both feet and a hand are on the canvas. That means that if a fighter has one hand on the mat, he can be stomped and kicked.
Should any body part other than a hand or foot touch the canvas, a fighter is automatically considered a downed opponent and is ineligible to be kicked or knee’d in the head.
Heel Kicks to the Kidneys Will Now be Permitted
A grounded fighter in full-guard will now have more options available to them, as the ABC will also allow fighters to use heel strikes to their opponent’s back.
Some strikes though, were deemed to be too dangerous
“The spine is still protected,” said McCarthy.
Changes to Scoring Criteria - ( Striking/Grappling > Aggression > Octagon Control)
Under the new criteria, McCarthy says judges are supposed to look at striking and grappling first when scoring rounds.
“Who is doing the most to impact the fight and bring the fight to (an) end,” said ‘Big John.’
“If you are starting to give more credit to numbers over quality, you’re making a mistake.”
As far as scoring, the winner of a round will win 10 points and the loser will be awarded 9 or less — that much hasn’t changed. What is more clear though, is when a judge is to award a fighter a 10-8 or even a 10-7 round.
There are three key words to remember here : Damage, Dominance, and Duration
If a fighter achieves any two of the “three D’s” then a judge is urged to award a fighter a 10-8 or even a 10-7 round.
“Your job is to give them what they deserve for the round,” said McCarthy, who wants to avoid a situation where judges are scared to give the correct score.
“When we have damage and domination in the round, we’re probably looking at a 10-8 round.”
McCarthy said if only one of the first two criteria are met, then duration should be looked at.
10-10 round - Completely Even Round
10-9 round - Close Marginal Round
10-8 - Large Margin Round
10-7 Overwhelming Round
According to McCarthy, 10-7 rounds will be rare — not awarded often because a referee will often stop the contest before it reaches that point.