|Fans thought Christian Lee got the better of Ok Rae-Yoon in their titular showdown. ONE Championship|
MANILA--In an effort to entice mixed martial arts fighters to go all out all fight long, ONE Championship introduced a so-called "global MMA rule set" mainly inspired by the defunct Pride Fighting Championship.
According to the rule set, the fights will be scored as whole 15-minute or 25-minute matches and not per five-minute round with a specific scoring criteria set.
However, this month alone, the integrity of the rule set has been put in scrutiny as two high-profile fights ended up in controversial decisions.
On Sept. 3, Ham Seo-Hee pulled off a major stunner over Denice Zamboanga in the quarterfinals of the ONE Women's Atomweight Grand Prix by prevailing via split decision, but most of the people who watched it live thought Zamboanga easily manhandled Ham.
[Related Story: Ham Seo-hee stuns Denice Zamboanga to enter ONE GP semis]
Then just this past Friday night, another South Korean, Ok Rae-Yoon, snatched the ONE lightweight title from Singaporean Christian Lee via unanimous decision.
Many spectators also thought it was the other way around.
Despite the recent rulings, Chairman Chatri Sityodtong said that he is keeping the scoring rules as is at least for a foreseeable future.
"The scoring system of ONE is based on the roots of martial arts. When you have a 10-point must system, especially for mixed martial arts, you can have lane prey, and taking your opponent down in the last 10 seconds and you win the round and three rounds later, you win the fight, that's not martial arts to me," Sityodtong said early Saturday during the post-fight press conference.
Defining what he meant when he said "roots of martial arts," he answered, "Martial arts, at the root of it, is: can you defend yourself in a self-defense situation? Everyone learns martial arts for a real fight. For me, our rules are about a real fight. It's not about a game. May the best man or woman win in a real fight. That is our philosophy at ONE."
ONE's MMA scoring rules sets a priority list, in which a near finish is the top priority, the damage inflicted is the second priority, cage generalship is third, earned takedowns or keeping away from them is fourth, and aggression being the least prioritized in scoring a bout.
"It would be like a real street fight. Imagine you're in a street fight, and for 14 minutes, there's dancing and he's just jabbing. And in the last minute, you pick the person up, dump him on his head, ground-and-pound him, and he's barely conscious. Who won the fight, the guy who jabbed for 14 minutes and 'scored points' or the guy in one minute?" Sityodtong bared how he envisioned the rules to be like.
However, he, like many others who saw it, thought Lee won the fight against Ok.
"I thought the judges got it wrong," Sityodtong analyzed the controversial decision. "I definitely thought that Christian won the fight even though it was close."
On how he would address the situation, he said, "I'd like to talk to both of them and see what might transpire."
Sityodtong called for a review of the Zamboanga-Ham fight, but the review committee upheld Ham's split decision win.
Following a fan vote, Ham will now face Natthawan "Stamp Fairtex" Panthong in the semifinals set at ONE: Next Generation on Oct. 29.
However, Zamboanga has been given a chance to possibly re-enter the Grand Prix as she will face Julie Mezabarba in an alternate bout.
ONE has yet to schedule the Zamboanga-Mezabarba fight, although it's possible that it might be set too at ONE: Next Generation.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno