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Are takedowns scored too highly?

There’s a lot of chatter going on right now about how wrestlers get an unfair advantage with MMA judges because of the scoring power of takedowns and positional control. It seems like getting back up from a takedown doesn’t impress anyone and just gives a wrestler yet another chance to earn even more points off a second ground dragging. Evan Dunham, fresh off a garbage decision loss to Sean Sherk, throws in his two cents on the situation:

FO: It makes you wonder, though:  When you get a takedown, how is it scored?  What is control?  Is it a takedown or sticking and moving?

It’s interesting you ask that question, because I have some strong feelings about the weight of a takedown in the unified rules counting for effective grappling (the same as threatening with submissions and using an active guard) and also for control.  It seems that escaping back to your feet or pulling guard should be weighed the same since they are all forcing your opponent to a different location of the fight.

I think that’s right.  If you take somebody down for 10 seconds or 5 seconds and they get back up, I think the person that was taken down was able to implement their game the same way the wrestler was to bring the fight to where they have the advantage. 

The Sunday Junkie sums it up in this letter that lays it out about as straight-forward as it’s gonna get:

Either standing back up should be rewarded the same way as a takedown, or neither should be worth anything unless damage is done. When an MMA fighter gets the fight to the ground, not only does he get the fight to where he feels he is stronger and can do more damage, he also score points with the judges. But the same doesn’t happen for a striker. He works his way back up to his feet and into his comfort zone, yet he didn’t score anything on the judges’ cards. What he has done is given his opponent an opportunity to score more points with another takedown. If you get the takedown, and I stand back up, it should be a wash. Award points for the change of position – regardless of what it is.

It’s a great idea, but like most proposed judging changes ignores the key problem in this whole situation: commission judges are abject retards and nothing’s gonna get better until qualified people start getting hired and all the morons get fired. In other words, nothings gonna get better.

  • Reverend Clint

    Shit ive been saying the same thing for a while. You are not going to give a fighter points because the attempted a high kick then why should you give a fighter points for taking a fighter down and not doing anything with it.

  • Márcio

    Even with the present judging criteria you have hit the nail on the head, the judges are fucking idiots. Dunham won that fight easily, 2nd and 3rd round weren’t even close. But I guess changing the judging criteria can’t hurt.

  • Trol

    Yep. We need MMA Judges, not boxing Judges or whoever the Commissions find on the street and slap a Judge name tag on.

  • nem0

    Dunno if this has anything to do with anything, but I seem to recall that wrestling competitions score both takedowns AND escapes, but BJJ competitions only score takedowns and positional advantages, not escapes. If I remember the rules from the last BJJ tourney I competed in, there was a line in the rule book explaining that you should be trying to escape or improve your position at all times, so giving points for an escape was unnecessary, since you were supposed to be doing that anyway.

    I haven’t been to a wrestling match in years, though, so I’m not sure if what I’m remembering is legit or not.

    Still doesn’t excuse the 10 point must system or idiot boxing judges who don’t get grappling…

  • frickshun

    Current state of judging is fucking this sport up. Rasslers all realize how much takedowns & control are scored so they work the system for boring, garbage wins. This shit is PISSING ME OFF!!

  • Omomatta

    Control isn’t taking someone down and laying in their guard. Control is dropping strikes and elbows and landing scoring blows. I don’t even think that a wrestler needs to advance their position….all they need to do is stay busy and land strikes….but then you get into the man on the bottom working sub attempts.

    I really think these discussions are pointless at times. The scoring will remain the same. Strikers and jits guys have to learn how to wrestle. Soon enough, I believe, the whole “wrestling” thing may become a non-issue as young fighters develop earlier.

  • Smitler

    “I think the person that was taken down was able to implement their game”

    That’s nonsense surely? If their game is to remain standing (as would be implied with their desire to get back up) then the act of getting back up isn’t part of their “game” but something they HAVE to do in order to get back on plan.
    Their game only starts once they are back up. Up until then they are reacting to the opponents game.


    I think points should be awarded more on the basis of damage done. If you take someone down, so what? Look what happened when sean sherk took down evan dunham, evan damn near finished the fight 3 fucking times. But Sherk still won those rounds. What? How the fuck does that make any sense? So you can take someone down and lay on them for 3 rounds, but as long as your own back never hits the canvas you’re going to win. I’m sorry, that just makes no fucking sense.

    The only time top control should really come into play for judges scoring a fight is if little to no strikes were thrown.

    Call me crazy, but when i see two people fight i say the winner is the person that hurt his opponent more. It’s weird, i know.

    The whole judging system is really fucked up, and i dont see it being fixed anytime soon.

  • P W

    I’ve stopped betting on MMA because I couldn’t handle losing money (and winning didn’t feel that good either) due to fucked up rules, judging, reffing and fighters seemingly coming up with their own rules (let’s just stand and bang – yeah!) and/or treating their fights like sparring matches (hugging, smiling, STOPPING IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUCKING EXCHANGE for some high fiving).

  • Symbul

    The Dunham-Sherk fight is a bad example IMO because you’d have to rate laboured takedowns, with some punishment suffered in the process, and with no subsequent damage, over significant damaging offense. There’s just no way Sherk won the second round.

    It’s a considerably more interesting discussion when we look at something like Lawal-Mousasi where I thought Mousasi won at least one round off his back. Another example where judges actually got it right was the Grabowski-Barrett fight in Bellator.

    Regardless of that, wrestling is vastly overvalued by a whole lot of judges. I think it starts with ignorance but it’s kept alive by tradition. Judges start by seeing a guy lay on another guy and doing some ineffectual ground and pound and score it for the guy on top. That is often the right call since you’re hardly losing if the guy on the bottom is just trying to not get punched in the face too hard but it creates a precedence for then scoring all situations where one guy has the other against the fence or on the mat and isn’t doing a whole lot with it is winning the round almost regardless of what the other guy is doing.

    The Unified Rules are vague as hell too and unfortunately do not mention “Damage” as criteria for scoring a fight.

  • H.I. McDunnough

    What’s up Jackals.

    This is Dallas Winston; I did Dunham’s FO interview. The editor made a mistake in the interview, because he’s fucking British or whatever, and interchanged two comments.

    Evan actually asks me the part about “It makes you wonder, though: When you get a takedown, how is it scored?” and this response of mine is quoted as his words: “It’s interesting you ask that question, because I have some strong feelings ….”

    It’s corrected on the site now, but you guys must’ve nabbed this before.

  • H.I. McDunnough

    “The scoring will remain the same.”

    Actually the commissions are actively looking to make improvements; thus the trial of the half-point system and creation of an ABC “Scoring Committee”.

    “The Unified Rules are vague as hell too and unfortunately do not mention “Damage” as criteria for scoring a fight.”

    They didn’t use the word “damage” because they were worried about how that would sound to those opposing MMA at the time (2001), but “effectiveness” and “significance” all allude directly to damage.

  • Jarman

    I feel like damage is at the heart of most judges’ lean on the importance of takedowns. In a real fight (not on a mat) any time you fall onto someone on a hard surface, a lot of damage is going to occur, never mind a controlled slam. I agree that Dunham’s performance should have netted him a win….that second round was all him, and even the first round could have been a draw/half point win to sherk. but then again, my own subjective bias to submission attempts shows. But i think every judge sees a takedown, and is reminded of the last time they slipped in the shower, fell down the stairs, etc. what we need is more MMA fighters reaching an older age, and being pissed off by judging fuckups enough to want to become certified MMA judges, with an inside perspective on MMA fighting on a mat, in a cage. Until then, we’ll have geriatric boxing buffs who know ‘someone’ judging this young, dynamic sport that can truly only be judged by those who have been in the cage.

  • xfreekx

    If takedowns are scored, stuffed takedowns should be too. Frankie Edgar landed two takedowns in the first Bj fight and BJ stuffed 10, but Frankie gets more points for that?

    If you stuff a td you are ‘dictating where the fight takes place.’