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CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster weighs in on controversy over 10-8 rounds in Patrick Cummins vs. Kyle Kingsbury fight

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The head of the CSAC, Andy Foster, spoke with MMAmania.com regarding the unusually high number of 10-8 rounds scored in the UFC on FOX 12 prelim fight between Cummins and Kingsbury.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) has seen its share of head-scratching decisions over and over again, especially in the last few years. Even in a fight where most feel the victor was deserving of the judges' decision, a scorecard will be read that leaves almost everyone speechless. Opposing fighters each getting a 30-27 in their favor would be a good example of how great the disparity between certain judges can be at times.

Fight night can never go without some argument on Twitter among the nauseating amount of "I had it 10-9" or "It's 20-18 after two," tweets that fill up everyone's feed. But, the great and most common divide among many is the 10-8 round. No one is ever in full agreement. As far as those who sit cage side assessing rounds without the distraction of social media, well, their scorecards for those particular rounds usually suggest much of the same.

Which brings us to last Saturday's (July 26, 2014) UFC on FOX 12 prelims in San Jose, California, and the fight between Patrick Cummins and Kyle Kingsbury (results and play-by-play here). This time the schism wasn't about if a 10-8 round should've been scored and wasn't, it was a question of should there have been that many scored?

As the scorecards were read, there were a total of five 10-8s. What was even more shocking than that was Marco Rosales score of 30-24 for Cummins, awarding him 10-8s in all three rounds. That may in fact be the first time that has ever happened in the sport's history. UFC President Dana White was clearly shocked by it, saying, "You will never see that happen again. A person will have to die for a 30-24." Ed Collantes awarded Cummins a 30-25 decision with a 10-8 in the first and third rounds. Mike Bell was on the other end of the spectrum with his 30-27 score for Cummins, awarding him no 10-8 rounds.

As I have learned from taking the ABC certification courses for both refereeing and judging, in order for a fighter to be awarded a 10-8 round, there has to be both a completely dominant round and significant damage for the duration of a round. If there isn't both, then there isn't a 10-8. Of course, as we know, every opinion is subjective, and even with that criteria, many will see it differently.

MMAmania.com caught wind of some rumors prior to UFC on FOX 12 that the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) was considering changing some of the criteria and would be scoring more 10-8 rounds going forward. After the five 10-8 scores in the Cummings unanimous decision over Kingsbury, it seemed plausible to surmise that something had indeed changed.

"I thought that was a bit wacky," CSAC Executive Director Foster told MMAmania.com. "What do you do, you know? When I was watching it, I thought the correct score was 30-26. I certainly felt the second round was a 10-8. I could make an argument and I will not criticize anybody if they would've scored the third round 10-8. I don't think the first round was 10-8. I don't think Marco had the right score with three 10-8s. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen that in mixed martial arts: 30-24. I don't think that was the right score. We talked about it in the back, but again I don't think Bell had the right score with three 10-9s. It just reemphasizes the fact that judges just refuse to score 10-8s even though I've talked and talked about it. I've spent a lot of time with those 10-8s. People need to write the thing down. I think probably the right score was 30-26, but I don't have a problem with Collantes who scored it 30-25."

Since there were five 10-8s scored, Foster was asked if the CSAC is in fact, devising new criteria for the scoring of 10-8 rounds?

"Well, I got the committee together and we talked about this and they don't think that anything needs to be done with the scoring definition," Foster explained. "They think that education is the key, which again, I think that certainly it's good be educated about what 10-8 round is, there is no question about it."

"Look, I went over the definition a week before the FOX fight and then I went over the definition in the locker room before the fight and then I asked John McCarthy to go over the definition. Then I asked Herb (Dean) to go over the definition. So my people were well aware of the definition. The problem is if you look at the definition... We can pine in the sky better definitions all day, but it's a subjective analysis of what judges see and I'm not certain that, like in boxing, where you get a knockdown. I don't think there is an objective indicator: one or two or three or four different things that happen that would assess a 10-8. You can't make a 10-8 round like, 'this' happened it's automatically a 10-8 round. That won't work in mixed martial arts because there are too many variables. Does that make sense?"

It does and it is true.

Due to the stand-up and grappling of MMA fights, there is nothing definitive like a knockdown in boxing or kickboxing that instantly turns a round into a 10-8. The score is solely reliant on each of the judges' assessment of each round. Although, you would think that having a criteria of domination and damage as the two prerequisites, it wouldn't be that difficult to assess a 10-8 round, but it appears to be quite the opposite. From watching Cummins and Kingsbury and from my understanding of the ABC training I received, I sided with judge Bell and did not see a 10-8 round because I did not see the damage done to Kingsbury to warrant it. Sure, he was being dominated in the grappling department, and although he took several good shots and was being out-struck by a large margin, he wasn't bleeding, didn't have either eye swollen shut, and wasn't ever in danger of being finished by strikes. Further more, and more importantly, he was getting back up to his feet after being taken down, improving his position, and was defending himself and was still fighting offensively.

So to me, there wasn't both a dominant round and significant damage there over the duration of any one round, but to others watching that night, as well two of the judges, there were obvious 10-8 rounds, which means there is a huge discrepancy on the opinion of what "domination" and "significant" damage actually are.

"The problem is it's a subjective assessment, but I think that if we continue to educate our judges it will get better," said Foster. "I told my judges in the locker room the other night, 'You are not going to get in trouble if you score a 10-8 round if you think that fighter won by a large margin with domination and damage.'"

"I want my judges to feel comfortable scoring the 10-8 if they see it. What I don't want to have happen is the 10-8 just doesn't exist in the scoring, there is only one way to score a round, 10-9, that's all there is. We went for many years of that being the only criteria. Judges wouldn't score 10-8s to save their life. Now I'm trying to encourage 10-8s to be used, but I'm trying to encourage them to be used when they are appropriate to be used and certainly round two was a 10-8, maybe round three, we could make an argument there. I don't think round one was a 10-8 round. You are talking about a score that is probably correct at 30-26, or 30-25 at worse. Not 30-27 or 30-24 which is what two of my judges came up with. You kind of have a little bit of the old guard still, with the refusal to score any 10-8 and then you went a little 10-8 happy with one judge."

Foster spoke very highly of the credibility of Rosales, Collantes and Bell and said that it's not the judges who are at fault. The real culprit? "It's a math problem," he said.

"We're trying to use a boxing system that has 4, 6, 8s, 10s and 12s for an MMA system that uses 3s and 5s. So you've got an even number system working on an odd number with a hell of a lot less rounds. What we've got are rounds that are weighted significantly more and worth significantly more. Really, at the end of the day, when you look at just the sheer data on a piece of paper and you want to be honest about it, this is a numbers issue."

"Look, I couldn't have put better people in those seats. I didn't have anybody scoring that didn't have vast martial arts experience and vast judging experience. Plus everybody I had has had ABC courses. So it's not like I had people that had no idea what was going on in those seats. Those people are martial arts first and foremost and then secondly, most of them are in multiple jurisdictions. At least as far as those fights are concerned my judges aren't the problem. I think it just boils down to that lack of an objective indicator and the fact that we are using a subjective system to assess 10-8 rounds and I don't think that you can fix that. There is not one thing in MMA that can signify a 10-8 round."

Foster, who has now been in charge of the CSAC since November of 2012, mentioned that "it is exceedingly rare when all three judges agree on a 10-8 round. He brought up a prior statistical analysis where out of 831 total rounds only one time did three judges agree on a 10-8. He offered a suggestion as to how it may be possible for judges to try and signify a 10-8 round if they key in certain referee commands during the fight.

"I'll give you an idea that someone should be looking for, for a 10-8. Now this is certainly not definitive, but this is an idea. If a guy is getting beaten up really badly... You've seen those fights. Often times, not every time, but often times you will see a referee start to get concerned or get a little bit closer and you will start hearing things like 'fight back, improve your position.' These are things the referee is saying, and surely it's not a definitive thing for a judge, but if a judge hears those things it will click in your mind, 'you know what, this fight is kind of one sided at this point in time.' Unless that fighter comes back and does something: improve their position or whatever. That should at least factor in to the judge if they heard the referee say these things. This fight was pretty one sided. That's one of probably 2,000 examples I can give of what might constitutes a 10-8 round, or at least some criteria that might go along with a 10-8 round."

To elaborate further on White's comments suggesting someone would be dead if there were another 30-24, they were obviously sarcastic, but they are also spot on, in regards to the ridiculousness of three 10-8s being scored in one fight. When that happens, health should be a major concern for the fighter on the losing side, and the referee who is in charge should come into question, because the fight most likely should've been stopped. Big John McCarthy, one of the best in the business, was in charge on Saturday and not once did he come close to halting the action. That says a lot. Had it been as bad as Rosales score card suggested, McCarthy would've likely stopped it, but in actuality, he didn't even give a warning for Kingsbury to improve position or fight back at any time during the fight.

Foster further explained the contrast between boxing and MMA in regards to the scoring of a 10-8 and he brought an excellent point on how due to the knockdown, what he refers to as an "objective indicator" instantly let's the judges know it's a 10-8 round.

"In boxing, which we have a boxing scoring system. Let's not beat around the bush," Foster stated. "Some ABC members say 'No it's not a boxing scoring system.' Well, it's the scoring system that's used in boxing, so let's call it a boxing system. A guy gets knocked down in boxing, the referee is the person that assesses that knockdown, and almost always, under very rare circumstances, it hardly ever happens, you will not get a 10-8 round without a knockdown. I think that is the key right there, is the assessed knockdown. The referee is the guy that makes that assessment. So you have one person ultimately deciding whether this round is a 10-8. A guy can get splattered, knocked on his butt. If a referee calls it a slip, than it's a 10-9 round, most likely in boxing. However, if the referee calls it, it's a 10-8 round. That objective knockdown indicator creates a situation where judges in boxing-when they score a 10-8-almost about 97 percent, something like that, high 90s percentage wise, agree on that round."

In MMA a lot is factored in on just assessing a round, let alone if it was a 10-8 or not. It is always going to boil down to subjectivity. Foster said "this is still a new sport" and he is confident that with continued education, all the judges will get on the same page.

"You hear education over and over," Foster said. "We have to continue to educate our people because we are using a subjective system and I do think it will get better, but we just keep working at it and we have to work through it. One final thing that I would point that: ESPN is a great example in boxing to watch this on Friday Night Fights when they show the judges. Fights do look different from where you sit. I would just point that out that fights do look different from where you are sitting at. I'm not justifying. I'm not trying to justify, it's just a non-related statement. One person's 10-8 may not be another person's 10-8, it depends on where they are sitting at. I do think that if one judge scores a 10-8, that judge should've saw a round by large margin by domination, damage and effective aggression. If you score a 10-8, I think you've got to give a 10-8 when it's warranted. If the guy is beat up by a large margin. You and I have seen those rounds. We know what they look like."

We have seen them, but is becoming more and more clear that none of us will ever agree.