Monday, September 3, 2012

Scoring Breakdown: Kayron Gracie vs Ian McPherson

Ian McPherson has some of the best hair in BJJ
A fellow referee recently asked for my opinion in scoring a tricky match.  This match turned out to be full of hard-to-call situations.  I'm glad to be watching it on video, because I'm sure I would have messed up some of the calls without the benefit of rewind.

The difficulty in scoring this match comes from the way certain points are earned.  Sport BJJ has two distinct categories of points:
  • Positions:  (Knee On Belly, Back Control, and Mount)  These points are given simply for holding a position correctly.  There is no requirement for how you get there, as long as you end up in the right spot.  When the position has been held for three seconds, points are awarded.
  • Actions:  (Sweep, Takedown, Guard Pass)  Points are scored based on how a technique was performed.  The criteria include the starting position of each competitor, the final position, and the path between the beginning and the end.  An action only scores points if the entire sequence is correct and the final position is held for three seconds.
Actions are responsible for many more arguments than positions.  Scoring sequences happen fast and can be very subjective.  Additionally, concepts such as "continuous motion", which seem well-defined, leave too much room for interpretation.

This match, between Kayron Gracie and Ian McPherson, is a prime example of why the rules for takedowns and sweeps need refinement.  Ian is in the blue gi, and Kayron is in white.

0:00 - Out of the gate Ian pulls guard and snatches a single leg.  He uses it to take Kayron down, but since Kayron doesn't fall directly to his back the position must be stabilized for three seconds to score.  Before Ian can get the points, Kayron quickly turtles and Ian moves for the back.  After a brief scramble, Ian ends up on top.

The critical point in this scramble is at 0:11 seconds.  In my opinion, this is the end of the takedown sequence because Ian left the top position by briefly falling to his back with no hooks in.  The sequence ends before Ian can hold the top for three seconds, so he only scores an advantage.

This situation could justifiably be scored as a sweep for Ian depending on the referee.  If the ref considered the scramble to be a continuous motion until 0:15 seconds, then Ian could have still earned two points.

Unfortunately for Ian, the referee agrees with me and withholds the points.

2:40 - Kayron hits a sweep, but Ian counters with a toehold and ends up on top.  Advantage Kayron.

2:52 - Ian goes for a toehold but falls down.  A scramble ensues and Ian gets a takedown after both competitors get to their feet.

This is another difficult call.  The result could either be an advantage for Kayron or two points for Ian.  The key moment is at 2:54 when Ian falls to his butt and Kayron attempts to come on top.  If Kayron initiated an advantage-worthy sweep, Ian cannot score points for the counter.  From the IBJJF rule book:
Athletes who, in defending a sweep, return their opponent back-down or sideways on the ground shall not be awarded the takedown-related two points or advantage point.
If Kayron pushed Ian away, but didn't do enough for an advantage, Ian would rightfully earn two points.  It's a close call either way, and I keep going back and forth on my decision.  This time the ref decides in Ian's favor and awards takedown points.

3:45 - Kayron turtles to prevent a guard pass, giving up an advantage to Ian.

4:00 - This is the third controversial sequence in the match.

Kayron grips Ian's lapel under the leg and uses it to stand up and sweep.  He is unable to hold Ian down, but clearly earns an advantage.  Ian fights to his knees, stands up, and then puts Kayron back down.

The important question is where the original sweep sequence ended.  If Ian was defending the original sweep, he wasn't eligible for points.  However, if the sweep sequence was over, he would score the takedown.

I think the sequence ends as soon as Ian gets to his knees.  From this position, Kayron was no longer able to score, which should have triggered an advantage.  Then when they went to their feet, a new sequence would have started, which would allow Ian to score the takedown.

Once again, this situation could be argued the other way.  Kayron held on to the same grip for the entire time, which could indicate that the sweep had not ended.  Also, there is arguably continuous motion from the initial sweep attempt until the takedown at the end.

The referee sides with Kayron again and scores it as a single sequence, denying points for Ian.

4:52 - Kayron comes close to a sweep and snags an advantage.

6:05 - Kayron sweeps directly to mount.  The ref adds unnecessary controversy to this match by awarding points without waiting for the position to stabilize.  Even though he is fast with the points, the referee's decision ultimately doesn't affect the outcome because Kayron holds the position.

7:00 - Ian gets a sweep from deep half-guard. The sweep turns into a takedown from the knees, but because it's one continuous motion, Ian is awarded two points.

7:30 - Kayron might be reaping the knee, but the referee ignores it.  Ian dives for a toehold, and gives up two points by allowing Kayron to come on top after a scramble.  Toeholds and footlocks are extremely risky when you're playing the points game, because if you fail and end up on the bottom, you've given up free points.

8:30 - Ian starts a sweep and Kayron runs off the mat.  When a sweep goes out of bounds, two results are possible depending on how the referee sees the situation:
  • If the competitors go out of bounds naturally, an advantage is given to the sweep initiator.
  • If the defending competitor deliberately flees the mat to avoid a sweep, the attacker gets two points and the defender is given a penalty
It looks like Kayron purposely ran out of bounds here.  He even turns his back to Ian as he sprints off the mat.  I would have given Ian two points, but the referee is reluctant to call the penalty and Ian only picks up the advantage.

In the end, Kayron wins.  Ian could have ended up with anywhere between two and eight points depending on how each situation was scored.  My problem is that each of these point totals could be completely justified by a competent referee.  When matches swing so wildly based solely on a referee's discretion, it indicates a problem.   

Subjectivity and room for argument are bad for a sport, especially one still in its infancy.  The IBJJF must take the initiative to clarify the rules and help them mature.  BJJ is a constantly evolving art.  Just as we refine and evolve our technique, so too should we refine our rules.