When, Where, and Why (pt. 2 of 3)
by Nelson "DOC" Hamilton
Grappling Magazine/ October 2005
This is the second installment of a three-part series exploring the various
circumstances that have contributed to the evolution of the MMA “Unified
Rules” so prevalent in the United States presently. To date we have covered
the rule changes instituted through UFC-7.
As I stated last month, most of the rules have evolved as a direct response
to the old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention.”
As a result of time limits being instituted for all bouts at UFC-7, judges and
scoring now became necessary to determine the winners of each bout going
the distance. At the ‘Ultimate-Ultimate 95’, held on 12/16/95 in Denver,
Colorado, Dan Severn and Tank Abbott met in a semifinal bout. After the 20-
minute time period expired, the decision went to the judges and Severn was
awarded a unanimous victory. This marked the first time in the UFC that the
outcome of a bout was decided by judges.
In its infancy, part of the fascination with the UFC for many fans and martial
artists was the absences of weight classes. Most of us, as fans, still recall
UFC-1 and the memorable confrontation between 216 pound Gerard
Gordeau, and 410 pound sumo wrestler, Telia Tuli. And, who can forget the
classic match at UFC-3 between the 200-pound kenpo stylist Keith Hackney,
and the six-foot eight, 600-pound sumo practitioner, Emmanuel Yarbrough.
However, as the fighters began to cross-train and became multi-disciplined,
it became obvious that it was both unsafe and unfair to permit competition
between equally skilled athletes with gross weight differences. Consequently,
weight divisions were first employed in UFC-12 on 02/07/97. Interestingly,
there were only two divisions, under 200 pounds and over 200 pounds.
On 07/27/97, the UFC finally acknowledged what mankind has known for
centuries; if you punch a hard object, like someone’s head, elbow, or knee,
there is the likelihood that you will injure your hand. After numerous such
injuries, and partially in an attempt to quiet its critics, gloves for all
competitors became mandatory at UFC-14. Head-butts and groin strikes
were also declared illegal techniques.
In an attempt to broaden its fan appeal and provide many smaller, talented
fighters, an opportunity to compete, a lightweight division (under 170
pounds) was added at UFC-16, ‘Battle in the Bayou’, on 03/13/98.
UFC-22 saw the discontinuation of the long favored tournament format. With
the inclusion of time limits for individual bouts, weight classes, and the
employment of judges, it was only a matter of time before rounds and a
scoring system would be employed. In addition to now employing the tenpoint-
must scoring, all preliminary bouts were two rounds and five minutes in
length; all under card bouts were three rounds of five minutes length; and
the championship fight was five rounds of five minutes.
And what a championship bout it was! Frank Shamrock retained his
Middleweight Championship with a “ground and pound” attack, which forced
Tito Ortiz to submit at 4:48 of the fourth round. Still, one of the best fights
On March 26, 1999, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC)
appointed selected members of the martial arts community to a panel for the
expressed purpose of developing a set of rules to regulate MMA in the state.
After many months, a viable set of rules acceptable to the Commission was
produced. However, since CSAC was unable to get MMA competition
approved, the rules were never used in California. Never the less, these
rules, with minor modifications, were the foundations for what have become
known as the “Unified Rules”.
©2005-2008 REFS: Ring Experienced Fight Specialists.