Revised Unified Rules and Judging Criteria

The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) approved changes to the Unified Rule of MMA and Judging Criteria which became effective January 1, 2017.  GCA has fully adopted these changes as summarized below.

Fouls that have been removed:

  • Grabbing of the clavicle – this technique is unrealistic for MMA and typically not seen anyway so was removed as irrelevant
  • Heel kicks to the kidney – Typically these strikes come from the bottom fighter in guard.  Strikes to the kidney while standing are fully legal; in addition, heel kicks do pose any greater danger to a fighter’s safety; therefore, it makes sense that heel kicks to the kidney be fully legal

New foul:

Extended Fingers: In the standing position, a fighter that moves their arm(s) toward their opponent with an open hand, fingers pointing at the opponent’s face/eyes, will be a foul.  Referees are to prevent this dangerous behavior by communicating clearly to fighters.  Fighters are directed to close their fists or point their fingers straight in the air when reaching toward their opponent.

New definition of a Grounded Fighter

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

Female Clothing

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.

Revised Judging Criteria

In essence, the way rounds should be scored in MMA remains the same.  Wording changes within the criteria add the clarification necessary to better understand and implement scoring correctly.

hierarchy of the importance of each criterion was established so that priority is placed first on Effective Striking and Effective Grappling.  Only in cases where both fighters are equal in their effective striking and grappling would the secondary criterion of effective aggressiveness be considered.  Only in cases where both fighters are equal in their effective striking, effective grappling, and effective aggressiveness would the tertiary criterion of fighting area control be considered.

Explanation was also provided that judges should assess a fighter’s based more on the impactful/effective result of their actions rather than fighter’s position alone.  In other words if a bottom fighter lands more damaging strikes than the top fighter, he is scoring more.

Clarification was also made for when a judge should score a round as a 10-8 round.  The definition of a 10-8 round remains the same “when one fighter wins by a large margin.” Specifications of what a comprises a  “large margin” were provided.

10-8 must be given by judges: when one fighter has dominated the action  of the round, had duration of the domination and also impacted their opponent with either effective strikes or effective grappling maneuvers that have diminished the abilities of their opponent. (Definitions of dominance, duration, and impact are included)

10-8 must be considered by judges: when one fighter shows dominance in the round even though no impactful scoring against the opponent was achieved.

10-8 must be considered by judges: when one fighter impacts their opponent significantly in a round even though they do not dominate the action.  Impact is seen in the diminishing of a fighter’s energy, confidence, abilities, and spirit; when a fighter is hurt with strikes, showing a lack of control or ability; when a fighter has been significantly damaged.


Impact: The impact of striking and grappling is observed with visible evidence such as swelling and lacerations; diminishing of energy, confidence, ability and spirit; lack of control/ability.

Dominance: The dominance of a fighter  is displayed in striking when the losing fighter is forced to continually defend, with no counters or reaction taken when openings present themselves. Dominance in grappling is shown by fighters taking dominant positions and using those positions to attempt fight ending submissions or attacks.  Merely holding a dominant position shall not be a primary factor in assessing dominance, but rather what a fighter does with those positions is to be assessed.

Duration: Time spent by one fighter effectively attacking, controlling and impacting their opponent; while the opponent offers little to no offensive output.

Official Unified rules as published by ABC may be found by clicking here.

Official MMA Judging Criteria as published by ABC may be found by clicking here.

To see video of John McCarthy’s explanation of these changes, click here