In animal contests, individuals can either engage in mutual assessment of both their own and their opponent's resource-holding potential (RHP) and adjust their behaviour according to estimated differences, or instead persist in accordance with thresholds determined by assessment of just their own RHP. We examined the predictions of alternative mutual assessment and self-assessment models for decision rules in contest resolution during struggles between males over females in precopula in the amphipod Gammarus pulex. Contest duration was positively related to the weight of the loser but not the weight of the winner. Our results support the hypothesis that males rely on information about their own RHP in determining contest behaviour and do not use information about their opponent. Fighting was energetically costly, and energy reserves were depleted during contests. Contest duration was associated with the physiological state of the loser (but not the winner) at the end of the contest, and to a lesser extent his size, further supporting self-assessment.