The Inconsistencies of Awarding Advantages

Immediate Disclaimer: This is not meant to start any drama between competitors. Clearly both men showed up to fight and put a ton of effort into their matches. The purpose here is not to disparage them, but to point out the flaws of the current refereeing in the sport of BJJ.

Recently, at the IBJJF No Gi Pans, there were a number of complaints regarding the referees making bad calls. This is nothing new. It’s not something we will ever be completely rid of either, but that doesn’t mean that we should not be working to fix the issues.

Many often complain about the fact that advantages exist and that people win solely on advantages. The problem is not necessarily that advantages exist (though many would debate that), the problem is the inconsistent awarding of advantages.

There was one match that came across my Facebook feed that stood out to me in particular. It was between Johnny Zemouli and James Clingerman, both incredibly talented black belts. In the video posted below, there seem to be a number of discrepancies regarding how advantages were scored during this match.

Both men scored 2 points, but Zemouli was awarded 4 advantages while Clingerman was awarded 2. For me, as a spectator, this was incredibly confusing. Here is the breakdown, video is below the breakdown:

  • At :30 Clingerman is awarded 2 takedown points.
  • At around the 1 minute mark, Clingerman is attempting a foot-lock, yet Zemouli is awarded an advantage (likely for moving on top during the scramble).
  • At 1:18, Clingerman attempts another leg lock, yet Zemouli was awarded the advantage.
  • At 1:28 Clingerman is awarded an advantage for, what I’m assuming, was coming on top after his attempted leg lock.
  • At 2:37 Zemouli attempted a calf-slicer from guard, but was awarded no advantage.
  • At 3:07 Zemouli is awarded an advantage for an armlock.
  • At 3:10, Clingerman attempts a guillotine, but is awarded no advantage (it could be that it was not close enough to be counted).
  • At 3:18 Clingerman is awarded an advantage for a guillotine/mount attempt.
  • At 3:23 Zemouli is awarded 2 sweep points
  • At 3:26 Clingerman hits a “near-sweep” (which are controversial as far as advantages are concerned) but was awarded no advantage.
  • At 4:53 Zemouli is awarded an advantage point. I was unsure of what reason it was awarded for, but it could be for a near-pass? Thoughts?
  • At 5:03 Zimouli sits guard without a point of contact but is not penalized for it.
  • 5:31, Clingerman passes guard and Zimouli turtles, yet Clingerman is awarded no advantage for it.
  • 5:37 Clingerman takes Half-back, is not awarded an advantage.
  • 5:50, Zimouli is awarded an advantage for a reason I was unable to understand (but it is not scored by the table).

It’s tough for me to make a final count about who should have won the match. I don’t want to make that sort of call. However, it is clear that there is a major inconsistency in how advantages are awarded from ref to ref in the IBJJF.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the match, and on how we could better manage how advantages are awarded.

Watch below and sound off:




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