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More Than Meets the Eye
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Is three rounds enough to determine the true winner of a non-title fight?

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Is three rounds enough to determine the true winner of a non-title fight?

Yes. The drawbacks of having fights last longer far outweigh the positives here, which is to say that a pivotal grant of the promotional appeal of, say, your typical UFC card is that they promote 5-6 fights on their broadcast - providing more breathing room after the main event. Extending the duration of the fight devolves MMA's current system into the Boxing imbroglio where there are few guaranteed fights to be aired and only 2-3 promoted overall. Which even at that also has negative connotations solely because not all fights are evenly matched or competitive on paper. If Zuffa is given a 3-hour window of broadcasting time, and the duration of each fight was 25 minutes, between actual fights, entrances, pre-fight videos, etc., fight cards would need to be cut down as a result - meaning less talent to your disposal - and *possibly* less fights showcased. It makes even less sense nowadays because they are a plethora of young burgeoning fighters making their way up the ranks that don't need to compete in five round fights.

Would it make things more exciting if every fight went five rounds implemented under Unified rules? More often than not it won't namely because it's widespread to see lesser experienced fighters fall to exhaustion, fatigue, etc., as the fight progresses - and quite possibly less engaging knowing that a 25 minute fight entails a more tempered pace. Even in three round fights you often see fighters fade midway through and if it's any consolation, 15 minutes of fighting in a ring/cage should be more than enough time to objectively decide a winner. This isn't long division: in a 15 minute fight more often than not, in any capacity, you have the ability to favor one fighter over another given the judging criteria.

The UFC's profit margin also goes down exponentially considering the casual fan isn't likely to fork away 50 bucks only to watch three fights give or take. Additionally, it would also cut their footprint in half considering the total number of fights on a card would go down by virtue of fight duration. Which also presents the question, if all non-title fights became 25 minutes in length, what would be the novelty in having 25 minute title fights? Would they become seven rounders?

Another detriment is fighter longevity, in that fighting an extended period of time and taking more and more punishment to the dome and elsewhere doesn't benefit anyone in the long run - and also increases the likelihood of injury. More punishment equates to more injuries and is taxing to your future as a professional fighter, which is precisely why five round fights should be saved for title bouts by default.

By the same token, an interesting exception would be five round fights specifically for main events. The platitudes of having every fight contested in 25 minute tilts under Unified rules would be averted considering the main event is far removed from every other fight on the card and treated with novelty. The current system is perfectly kosher without the imagination of extending time, insofar as having an exception for the main event that places a little more stock in the value of a fight card.
 

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The North Remembers
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Is three rounds enough to determine the true winner of a non-title fight?
Yes!! Absolutely. Three rounds is very much so enough time to determine a winner. In fact, we might not even need that 15 minutes. It only took James Irvin eight seconds to KTFO Houston Alexander. If it only takes eight seconds to prove your ability over another fighter, then that is all we need. In MMA, every punch is calculated. Guys cannot afford to go in and just be all willy-nilly. If they throw a punch, it is with intent and purpose. And if that punch is successful, it did what it was supposed to do. There is no such thing as a "lucky punch". If James Irvin could end that fight in eight seconds, then that's all we need to see. He doesn't need to punch Alexander in the face for 15 minutes for us to see he has superior striking ability.

And there is proof of 15 minute fights that just drag on, and prove that they are not needed. Brock Lesnar defeated Heath Herring via a decision. For 15 minutes, Lesnar made Herring his bitch. He destroyed him. Lesnar did what he wanted to do with Herring. Herring was completely controlled by Lesnar. If that fight went 2 minutes, we would have walked away with the same sense of accomplishment for Lesnar. He didn't need 15 minutes to prove himself to Herring. Herring pretty much had no chance to win this fight, and it didn't matter how many minutes Herring had.

I understand there are some fights where 15 minutes just doesn't seem like that much time. Like your split-decision fights. For example, your Sam Stout vs Spencer Fisher, Nate Marquadt vs Thales Leites, and Diego Sanchez vs Clay Guida. Yeah, these fights were tough to decide. They were very close, and even. And could have gone either way. But these fights are the exception to the rule, not the standard. Split decision fights are not very common in the UFC. Most fights are finished or unanimous decision. You cannot change the rules to accommodate the minority of the fights. If the time constraints is working for the majority of the fights, there is nothing wrong. The system is doing its intended use.

Even the very talented fights can find the time limit to be enough time. Wanderlei Silva and Rampage Jackson only needed 3 minutes and some odd seconds to find the victor. Two of the most prolific strikers in MMA history. If the ultra-talented fighters can find a decisive victor in under 15 minutes, the system is doing its role.

To conclude, MMA's time limit system for their fights is perfectly fine, and there is no need to make changes to please the small minority of fights where there is a conflict.
 
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