Changes to Unified Rules Will End Frequent Complaints From the MMA World

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

On January 1st, 2017, the changes to the Unified Rules of MMA made by the Association of Boxing Commissions will come into effect, which should stop some of the frequent complaints we hear from the international community throughout each calendar year.

Among the various changes that were made, the most functional in today’s sport are the new amendments to the scoring criteria, the new definition of what is deemed to be a grounded fighter and more stringent punishments that have been put in place for fighters who extend their fingers in striking exchanges, which often leads to their opponents suffering eye pokes.

Furthermore, there have been changes made to what female fighters can wear in competition. According to Marc Raimondi of MMAFighting.com’s concise report on the changes:

“Female competitors must wear a short-sleeved (above the elbow) or sleeveless form-fitting rash guard and/or sports bra. No loose-fitting tops are allowed. Female competitors will follow the same requirements for bottom coverings as the male competitors, minus the requirement for groin protection.”

The amendment to female fighter attire came following complaints from Valerie Letourneau following her TKO loss to Joanne Calderwood in the third round of their June meeting in Ottawa. The Canadian was adamant that her loose fitting attire caused her trouble during the bout. Reebok even met with Letourneau to stop any future incidents taking place, so the changes will more than likely be welcomed by a lot of female MMA proponents.

The Trouble with Eye-Pokes

You only have to look back as far as January to see how badly eye pokes can affect fighters. After suffering two blatant eye pokes at the end of Travis Browne’s long reach, Mitrione’s right eye was disfigured, which no doubt obscured his ability to get out of the way of the punches of ‘Hapa’.

Interestingly, one of the biggest serial offenders of the poke, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, quipped that Browne was using his “favorite technique” via social media during his bout with Mitrione. The suspended former light heavyweight champion’s repeatedly touched the face of Glover Teixeira during their title clash at UFC 172, which led Dana White to assert that the situation needed to be looked at.

“We’ve got to stop that stuff. The openings of the hands and putting the hands on the face are something bad, but it happens with guys who have reach. They do that a lot,” said White.

Now fighters who move their arms towards their opponents face with their fingers outstretched could suffer a foul, and referees must communicate with fighters throughout contests to stop the dangerous. Should Jones return to the Octagon, the officiating in his bouts in particular could be very interesting.

(Hopefully) No More ‘Playing the Game’

The amended rules will also see the ‘grounded fighter’ terminology redefined. We’ve all seen it before; a fighter deliberately putting a hand to the ground to stop their opponent being legally able to kick or knee to the head. However, ABC has adapted the rule which should make it far more difficult for opponents to avoid the aforementioned blows.

According to the previously cited report on MMAFighting.com:

“A grounded fighter is defined as: Any part of the body, other than a single hand and feet touching the fighting area floor. To be grounded, both hands and feet, palm/fist down, and/or any other body part must be touching the fighting area floor. At this time, kicks or knees to the head will not be allowed.”

More Liberal 10-8 Round Scoring Criteria

As recently as the latest Ultimate Fight Week, there have been debates as to whether 10-8 rounds should have been scored rather than a 10-9.

Despite all three judges later giving the Polish champion a 10-8 round for her dominant showing in the fourth round, there were many who disagreed that the multiple-times Muay Thai champion should have been given such a big slant in the scoring.

According to the ABC’s report:

“If a fighter has little to no offensive output during a 5 minute round, it should be normal for the judge to award the losing fighter 8 points instead of 9. When assessing a score of 10-8, judges shall evaluate Damage, Dominance, and Duration and, if two of the 3 are assessed to have been present, a 10-8 score shall be considered. If all three are present, a 10-8 score shall be awarded.”

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New Jersey’s commission has not taken on the new rules in terms of the redefinition of the grounded opponent. In a press release sent out on Tuesday, Board counsel Nick Limbo wrote: “we are not in favor of any type of expansion of striking to the head, let alone a change that would allow powerful, potent knees to the head of a downed fighter.” 


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