MMA Fouls And Judging Criteria

As MMA matured as a sport, there came a need to have a common set of rules among various promotions. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts has become the most widely adopted regulations today. It has been around for about two decades and has proven to be a good base. It has also been met with acceptance among various state athletic commissions. Among those included in the rules are the weight categories, fighting attire, and timed rounds. They also cover the judging criteria and the types of fouls that should be avoided.


Similar to boxing, MMA features a 10-point must system. This means that each round is scored separately with 10 being the maximum number of points and it is given to the fighter who appeared more dominant in the bout. The other fighter will be given 9 points in most cases. This can be lowered to 8 points if the round was particularly one-sided such as if there were convincing knockdowns. Points deduction can also occur due to fouls and other violations as deemed by the referee. Unless it ends in a knockout or submission, the fight will be decided by the score cards.

There are usually three judges scoring bouts. If all of them favor one fighter over the other, then it is classified as a unanimous decision win for the victor. If two judges favor one fighter and the other judge scored it a draw, then it is called a majority decision win. If two judges prefer one fighter and the remaining judge favors the other, then it’s going be classified as a split decision. In rare cases, all of the judges agree that the fight is even and we have a unanimous draw. Most of the time there will be variance such as two of them calling a draw while the other chooses a winner, in which case it’s a majority draw. A split draw is also possible.


There is a long list of illegal moves inside the octagon. MMA fighters are barred from grabbing the fence which usually happens when they are trying to support themselves while pinned at the sides. The referee will try to remove their hands. They cannot hold one their opponent’s gloves or shorts for leverage or other purposes. They must not resort to head butts which can result in a bloody mess and dangerous injuries. Those who do so repeatedly with be warned or suffer point deductions. In close matches, this can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

A famous boxing match ended up with the desperate move of ear biting. This is more common than one would think, though perhaps not nearly as bloody. It is a definite foul that has no place in MMA or BJJ. So are spitting and hair pulling. Fighters must get leverage using valid movements. Although poking a finger into the eyes could work in an alley self-defense situation, it is not allowed inside the octagon. The fingers cannot be placed inside any orifice for that matter. Neither can then be used to deepen any of the opponent’s cuts.

The groin is considered as a highly sensitive area. It is for this reason that hitting below the belt is banned in boxing. Fighters are constantly told to keep their punches up. Obviously, the situation is different with MMA as striking the lower half of the body regularly occurs, especially with the kicks. The groin area is still off-limits, though. Fighters cannot make strikes to the spine either. This would be extremely dangerous and could lead to paralysis. Indeed, they should not hit the back of the head. The ears are as far as they can go. The throat should not be struck or grabbed.

In the case when the opponent is grounded, a fighter is barred from abusive strikes such as kicking the head or using the knees. Neither can there be any stomping. If one wishes to capitalize on the situation, then ground and pound is a suitable option. Grappling techniques may also be used as necessary. Moves like the pile driver are not allowed. Opponents cannot be spiked into the canvas on the head or neck due to the high risk of injury. Small joint manipulation is considered a foul. This includes the twisting or bending of the toes and fingers. Only arm locks, leg locks, and wrist locks are legal.

Referees will also give a warning is a fighter exhibits any unsportsmanlike conduct that results in an injury to the opponent. There should also be respect for the bell. Attacks during the break are prohibited. There should also be a cessation while one of them is under the care of the referee as in checking cuts or assessing an injury. Note that hyper aggression is not the only thing to avoid. Timidity is also considered as a foul. Fighters who avoid contact, fake an injury, or drop their mouthpiece repeatedly can be slapped with a point deduction.

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