Know the Score – Part Three – Fighting Area Control & Effective Aggression/Defence

In the past two weeks we’ve dealt with the most debated elements of scoring MMA in Effective Striking and Grappling. However, there are another two criteria where a judge can elect to award a round to one fighter or another should there be no clear advantage in the first two.

The third criteria is ‘Fighting Area Control’ usually called Octagon Control by the UFC, but seeing as MMA takes places in square rings and circular cages and cages the shape of any polygon with more than four sides that term is restrictive and possibly trademarked.

Fighting area control is about determining where the fight takes place. Be it scoring successful takedowns or countering a takedown to keep the fight standing. It also covers being able to dictate the terms of engagement on the ground, such as advancing position and opening up opportunities for submissions or strikes. Standing, fighting area control can be seen in taking the centre of the cage, dictating the range at which striking exchanges take places etc.

The fourth criteria is ‘Effective Aggression and Defence’ which is a slightly nebulous term, basically tacked onto the criteria to reward competitors who push forward and try to finish fights. That said, it’s worth drawing attention (once again) to the word Effective in the criteria, as well as the equal bias given to defence. This isn’t about wading forward with fists flailing and not a second thought to technique.

In my eyes, these criteria can pretty much be taken together as rewarding the fighter who most successfully dictates the terms of engagement. If a striker largely keeps the fight standing despite his grappling-minded opponent’s attempts to take and hold him down, of if a grappler

In a standing contest, neither fighter may have a noted advantage in terms of number of significant strikes landed, but one fighter may have had an superiority in determining the range of combat, by controlling the centre of the fighting area and keeping the distance between themselves and their opponent to their advantage.

This can be seen in such a way that a fighter with a longer reach, or one who relies on kicks or counter striking keeps an opponent at a distance, while a fighter who prefers dirty boxing, knees or body punches tries to close the distance.

It’s very unlikely that two competitors will prefer the same distance of engagement and the fighter who succeeds in determining that, deserves to be rewarded by the judges.

Of course, such judgements are subjective and rely on the judges being familiar with the various techniques and circumstances that can occur in the course of an MMA matchup, allied with an understanding of what each fighter is trying to do.

Between effective striking, grappling and the criteria defined this week, there are a broad number of ways to determine which competitor has won a round of mixed martial arts. Next week, we’ll discuss how you should actually go about scoring a round, dealing with the oft controversial points of what constitutes a drawn, 10-9, 10-8 or even a 10-7 round.


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