The debate as to whether or not takedowns in MMA should be score emphatically was fiercely brought back to the foreground amidst New Mexico MMA fans a few Saturdays ago at the UFC On FOX 8 event. Nestled in the middle of the fight card, FIT NHB’s Tim Means battled Team Alpha Male’s Danny Castillo in a lightweight bout that Means took on two weeks notice.
In the bout, Means repeatedly showcased his superiority in the stand-up battle as fight statistics showed “The Dirty Bird” out landing “Last Call” 126-strikes to 59-strikes which amounts to a 67-strike difference. In the significant strikes, Means landed 38 to Castillo’s 25. Clearly, the striking arsenal of Means forced Castillo to avoid the stand-up as much as possible.
This is where the debate begins.
Castillo took Means to the mat six times in eight attempts which made for a very high and effective ratio in the grappling department. The contrast in offensive output put some steam in the arguments by fight fans as to how much emphasis should be placed on takedowns if the fighter on top doesn’t inflict any damage or create any considerable or significant offense whether it is strikes, submissions or positional improvement.
The guidelines of scoring in mixed martial arts are based around the term “effective”, and the definition is simply “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect”. To expand on that in context of actual fights, effective implies that the fighter has a desired outcome and imposes that on the opponent. If the fighter wants to keep the fight standing with punches, then the Judges should recognize that and judge accordingly. If the fighter is attempting to take the fight to the ground, the same should be recognized and judged accordingly.
The second facet of the scoring system is based on “Octagon Control” which implies who is in control of where the fight is taking place. Some fighters will immediately take the middle of the cage in order to start walking down opponents, others don’t mind fighting with their backs closer to the cage as they’d rather explode or play the role of a counter puncher. Wrestling is most impacting on this premise as fighters who really push the takedown are in essence controlling where the fight takes place.
The Octagon Control aspect of scoring is often scrutinized due to the fact that a fighter with a wrestling base can easily win a MMA bout just through takedowns. They don’t necessarily have to do much else, as grounding an opponent and keeping position leads to Judge’s awarding that fighter the round.
In the case of Means and Castillo, the party in favor of Castillo argues that Castillo wanted Means grounded and accomplished that at a very high percentage with his takedowns. When Castillo wanted to stifle the successful striking of Means, he simply shot in for a takedown. There is no argument as to whether Castillo was the better wrestler in the bout; the argument is centralized around the idea that once Castillo earned the takedown, he did very little to cement his offense as “effective”.
Means fought off of his back valiantly and the argument extends that defensively, Means fought more effectively offensive once Castillo took him down. Means has always had very solid elbows from bottom position and against Castillo his guard was active. If we go back to the definition of effective we can implement it into Mean’s game from his back. He desired to return to feet where he enjoyed an advantage, he decisively worked his guard to stifle Castillo’s top game and decided he would use strikes and sweep attempts to do so. In can be argued that Mean’s from the bottom position in fact was effectively offensive battling Castillo as he defensively attempted to hold position.
The final outcome however is in the hands of three Judge’s cageside and the problem with scoring in MMA could be attributed to the training these Judge’s receive. Several variables occur in single moments during MMA competition and if the Judge’s are well educated in all disciplines of MMA then they will understand the intricacies of the chess match playing out before their eyes.
Maybe Castillo bested Mean’s at the UFC On Fox 8 event, he definitely earned the “W”; but the argument doesn’t stop with one decision. The argument of defining effective has always been a popular arguing point in MMA conversations and I don’t think it will change anytime soon. The UFC has been full of such decisions; from title fights to undercard fights the scoring system has been debated from both parties.
Some of the most notable argued decisions have involved high profile fighters. Most recently Phil Davis upset Lyoto Machida with some timely takedowns throughout their bout. In that fight, Davis scored late takedowns that seemingly swayed the Judge’s in his favor as he won a very contested and debated decision in Machida’s home country of Brazil.