Pride Never Die: Should An MMA Fight Be Judged As A Whole?

While I was doing my due diligence and listening to Jorge Masvidal on the most recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, the topic of Alexander Volkanovski vs. Islam Makhachev came up. The two both agreed that they thought that Volkanovski had won the fight. Then Jorge Masvidal said something that really stuck out to me.

When talking about the Makhachev win he asked, “Who would you rather be at the end of the fight?” Take a look at this picture and you tell me, who looks like the better fighter in the fifth and final round:

What is a fight?

As I was driving home from work and listened to this podcast, I got to thinking to myself: what exactly is a fight? What’s the essence of a fist fight? According to the Google machine’s dictionary result the definition of a fight is the following:

Fight (noun): a violent confrontation or struggle.

So yes, Volkanovski and Makhachev absolutely fought. But who wins a fight? For that I didn’t think Google would give me a good answer. It would be all single people’s opinions. Instead, I went to everyone’s favorite buzzword in tech and asked ChatGPT a few questions and then asked, “What does it mean to win a fight?” Here’s what ChatGPT had to say:

To win a fight, whether it’s in the context of a regulated combat sport or a real-life fighting situation, typically means that one individual has physically defeated the other and emerged as the victor. In the context of a combat sport, winning a fight may mean achieving a knockout or earning more points than the opponent through a variety of techniques such as striking, grappling, or throwing.

In a real-life fighting situation, winning a fight may mean physically subduing the opponent or escaping the situation without harm. However, it’s important to note that the concept of “winning” a fight outside of the realm of combat sports is not always clear-cut, as the situation may be influenced by a wide range of factors such as the presence of weapons, the element of surprise, and the physical condition and abilities of the individuals involved.

Overall, the concept of “winning” a fight can be subjective and dependent on the context and circumstances of the situation.

So, should we score fights as a whole? After all this was Pride FC’s claim to fame. While there were rounds, the fight itself was scored as a whole. Whoever was winning at the end wins the fight. You came out on top and would win. With modern MMA, should that be what it’s about? Who is on top at the end of the fight? That would mean Volkanovski beats Makhachev. It would mean Nate Diaz defeated Leon Edwards. There are countless other close calls like this as well. But is that the right call?

Boxing: The Round By Round Case

A boxing match is a fight. While it has a highly specialized and limited ruleset, it is still a fight at its essence. With MMA modeling itself after boxing, which has 100 years on the sport of mixed martial arts, the two are quite similar in how the rules are set up. But with boxing, we have generally 8 to 10 rounds of fighting and 12 rounds if we are in a championship bout. Even more wild was the fact that boxing championship bouts went to 15 rounds until 1987.

Boxing is scored round by round which is why we score MMA round by round in the mainstream version of the sport. But with mixed martial arts only being three or five rounds, it makes the essence of the fight quite different. In boxing, there is a natural ebb and flow of a fight. There’s pulling ahead, much like traditional sports, there’s rallying back, there’s come from behind victories. The sport of boxing is more a sport than MMA truly is.

With MMA’s short round format, each round in a title fight is 240% more important than a round in boxing. In a comparison between MMA’s 3 round and boxing’s 10 round formats it’s even worse: each round in MMA is 333% more impactful than boxing. This means each championship fight in MMA has as much sway on the scoring as an entire 2.4 rounds of boxing, nearly 7 minutes. In a non-title bout, each MMA round of five minutes is worth 3.3 rounds of boxing scoring, or 10 minutes.

Boxing has scoring perfected. It should stay as it is. But for MMA, too much of the fight hinges on each round. Boxing is more of a sport. MMA is a fight and should be judged as so.

How to judge MMA?

So how to judge MMA? Did Pride and does ONE Championship have it right by scoring fights as a whole? According to ChatGPT, you don’t win a fight unless you subdue your opponent or escape without harm. That last part is what I want to focus on: escape without harm. We know that fights have to have an end. Otherwise, it will end up like traditional jiu jitsu matches and go on for an hour and a half and nobody will watch. So there has to be an end which means both fighters escaped harm’s way due to reaching the time limit. But we have to pick a winner, otherwise the sport is pointless, and nobody will actually fight, just coast.

-escape without harm.

Let’s extrapolate from that statement to “escape with less harm” as in be less damaged than your opponent. If you inflict more damage, then you should win the fight because we decided collectively that there needs to be rounds, there needs to be time limits, and there needs to be a winner (for the majority of fights). So while judging the fight as a whole may not make sense for mixed martial arts, judging damage as a whole could be a way to go. How did you best your opponent in the purest definition of a fight?

The UFC already does something similar to this with the modern ruleset of MMA emphasizing damage in it’s judging criteria. But they do it on a round by round basis. No, I say judge the fight as a whole based on damage, not control time. It should be about how much of your opponent you can tear up. Smash the legs, punch their face in, rip their arms clean off.

Mixed martial arts should be judged on damage, not points. It’s not a sport, it’s a fight.

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