The New System of MMA Scoring
From Old School
Dan Bonnell put up a nice piece last week regarding the issue of judging MMA and some of the shortcomings of the current system that is being used nation and world wide. While we all agree that something (lots of things) should be done about MMA judging, there are many opinions of what actions should be taken. I think that we, as educated fans of the MMA game, all agree that MMA judging lies somewhere between average (on a good day) to horrible (on an average day). Fans don’t actually see all the inadequacies that we, the press, do; I sometimes look at the judges’ cards of fights that end by KO or submission and just how bad certain judges judged the rounds before the fight was finished by the fighters. Some of these judges are far worse than the average fan can imagine. If some of the fights that end before they go to the judges actually went to the judges, the fans would see a lot more absurdities than they currently do.
I see two major areas that our current MMA judging system needs to be improved upon. The first area that needs to be revamped is the judges themselves, while the second thing that needs a complete overhaul is the scoring system.
One of the most obvious things that needs to be addressed in MMA judging is the actual judges; who are they and how did they get where they are? For the most part in this country, MMA judges are locally hired, locally trained (or not trained at all), publicly employed, and, thus, incompetence is bound to enter the picture. NBA refs and MLB baseball umps have years of training, education, and work in the high school sports systems, minor leagues, and colleges before they can move to the bigs. I have an uncle who umped baseball for more than twenty years, including hosting instructional seminars and training workshops. He explained to me how a high quality umpire in baseball generally needs to put in upwards of twenty years before he can work his first MLB game. In MMA, there are people judging Pro fights as high as the UFC level who have no more qualifications than a six hour seminar and a brother-in-law who works for the state!
Somewhere along the line the UFC either lost or never fully controlled the judging and reffing aspect of their own organization. In other Pro sports the organization has their own system of officiating. In Major League Baseball there is an umpires union that the umps belong to. (The same thing is true in the NBA, NHL, and NFL, and these are very powerful unions.) Most umpires toil for years working behind the plate in the Minor Leagues and below before they are able to even get looked at by MLB. Prospective umps are required to take classes and seminars along the way, all the while honing their skills at the high school and college levels. The best of the best from that level may have the opportunity to move on to the Minor Leagues where they will work for several more years. Throughout this whole process, there are systems in place to accurately gauge an umpires’ quality of work; his games are scrutinized and his quality is graded. Only the best umpires arrive at the MLB level, and only after many years of hard work at low pay on the lower levels. The NFL and NBA have similar systems in play at all times for the umpires and refs within their organizations.
I remember once while working cage side I saw a new face on the scene. We introduced ourselves and I asked what his job is here at the fights. “I’m a judge,” is what he told me, and this is his first show. We talked for a while and when I asked him about his MMA background, he told me that he has none. I asked how he became a judge and he answered that he took the course several weeks earlier on a Saturday, and that he knew somebody through his day job that got him the inside track. As I watched him and spoke with him over the course of the night, it was painfully obvious that he had absolutely no skills, knowledge, or experience in the MMA game. He didn’t know why some fights were stopped (didn’t see a fighter tapping on an arm triangle), couldn’t determine who was winning ground battles (had no knowledge of submission), and generally seemed lost all night long. At one point he commented to me that he likes it when one fighter nails a takedown and stays on top the whole round because then he’s pretty sure who won that round! I had to wonder which was more stupid, his lack of skills at this job or his lack of common sense in telling me the things that he told me. (This is a true story; I didn’t make it up for our entertainment.)
The UFC is the biggest organization in the MMA world, much like The NHL is in hockey, the NBA in basketball, and MLB is to baseball. But for some reason, the UFC is the only one of these major organizations that has no say over who referees and judges their own events. If this situation changed, the quality of MMA judging and reffing would improve over night!
The second most problematic area of MMA judging, I believe, lies in the inadequacies of the 10 Point Must System. The 10 Point Must System is the old boxing scoring method where the winner of the round gets ten points, the opponent gets nine points or less. This system, though still somewhat flawed, is most efficiently used in boxing, a sport that allows strikes only with the hands, and championship fights consist of twelve rounds (fifteen rounds in the old days). It is a lot more likely to accurately score a boxing round with the 10 Point Must System than it is to score an MMA round. And in boxing, if you do happen to make a mistake in judgment of a round, you have eleven more rounds to make up for it. In most Mixed Martial Arts fights there are only three rounds, and therefore, if there is a flaw in the judging/scoring system, then it is magnified. (A close round or a misjudged round could result in improperly scoring 1/3 of the fight.)
Another flaw that is inherently built into the 10 Point Must System is that almost all rounds are judged 10-9, regardless of the dominance or closeness of the round. (Remember, the winner of the round MUST receive 10 points, the opponent MUST receive 9 or less. Tied rounds are not allowed in most states.) We’ve all seen many fights in which two of the three rounds are razor thin and could go in favor of either fighter, while the third round is dominated by one fighter. The problem here is when Fighter “A” is given the nod in both of the two close rounds (on two of the three judges’ cards) and then Fighter “B” dominates the third round on all three judges’ cards, but is only given 10-9 scores. Fighter “B” clearly inflicted more damage in the fight, but because of the 10 Point Must System, Fighter “B” loses the fight via a split decision.
Still another flaw that is common in the 10 Point Must System is that the judges, even the good ones, sometimes get so used to scoring 10-9, 10-9, 9-10, 9-10, that they forget to implement a 10-8 when it is warranted. There are many times that I have questioned judges after a decision like the example above, and a judge will say “yeah, I guess I should have called that third round a 10-8 but I just get so used to writing down the 10-9 I forget”. This happens more than you think. I’ve actually seen several situations where a ref will take a point away from a fighter for an infraction during a round, thus insuring that a 10-9 is not even mathematically possible, and judges (who are so frigging accustomed to writing 10-9, 10-9, 10-9) scored that round 10-9.
I remember clearly that this situation happened on a fight card at Mohegan Sun Casino, Connecticut. Fighter “A” dominated Fighter “B”, clearly winning the round 10-9, but Fighter “B” was also penalized a point deduction during the round for repeatedly grabbing the cage. Fighter “A” has to win this round at least 10-8, maybe even 10-7, depending on how severely each judge thinks the round was dominated by Fighter “A”. Two of the three judges scored that round 10-9 for Fighter “A”. The third judge scored it properly at 10-8. When I questioned one of the judges who messed up, he rebuffed my question saying that it really doesn’t matter, because Fighter “A” ended up winning that fight anyhow! This level of incompetence in very rarely addressed in MMA, yet in other Pro sports would be dealt with in an appropriate manner. Repeated mistakes like this one, if the game were Major League baseball, would result in the dismissal of an umpire or referee.
If we eliminate the 10-9, 10-9, 9-10, 9-10 pattern that Judges get so used to using, we will have taken a big step in the right direction. The Ten Point Must System is outdated and antiquated and must go. May I present to you the New Old School 10 Point MMA Scoring System?!
Here’s how it works:
- 10-10 for a tie round. Scoring a round as a tie will now be legal, as opposed to mandatory 10-9 for real close rounds that exists with the current system.
- 10-9 for a close round, like the rounds that are now close and scored 10-9.
- 10-8 score when one fighter dominates a round soundly. There needs to be a difference between a really close round that could go either way (or called a tie) and must be given to one fighter and a round that is dominated by one fighter, and right now those two scenarios are largely scored the same; not any more with the new and improved system.
(Please note, That the 10-10, 10-9, 10-8 scores that I have described in the new system are all currently scored the same, 10-9, in the old 10 Point Must System.)
- 10-7 score for a dominant round that one fighter is close to finishing his opponent.
- 10-6 for a complete domination of the round, one that we would currently call a 10-8.
- 10-5 could be used for that very rare round that is possible and could have been stopped once or twice by the ref but for some reason wasn’t.
This new scoring system will ensure that the two major problems with the current 10 Point Must System vanish immediately. First, the mundane and routine habit of judges scoring 10-9, 10-9, 9-10 will no longer suffice; judges will actually have to think and process more information before writing down their score after each round. Second, the situation where two razor thin rounds offsetting one dominant round will probably no longer be an issue.
Check it out:
The Ten Point Must System- Rounds one and two are wicked close, and with the old system the judges are obligated to score those two rounds 10-9 each; they do so and Fighter “A” wins both those rounds on two of the three judges’ cards, while Fighter “B” wins it on the third judges’ card. Round three is totally dominated by Fighter “B”, and all three judges see it that way, 10-9. Fighter “A” wins this fight via Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
The New Old School 10 Point MMA Scoring System- Rounds one and two are wicked close (possibly even a 10-10 tie), but still two of the judges call it 10-9 for Fighter “A”, the third judge calls them 10-9 for Fighter “B”. Fighter “B” totally dominates the third round as before, but unlike the old system, he receives scores from the three judges of 10-7, 10-7, 10-7.
Here’s how they stack up:
Judge 1 (10-9, 10-9, 7-10) for Fighter “B”: 28-27
Judge 2 (10-9, 10-10, 7-10) for Fighter “B” 29-27
Judge 3 (10-9, 10-9, 10-7) for Fighter “B” 30-25
Fighter “B” wins a unanimous decision, which is much more indicative of how the fight really went down.
I think a system like the one I have described would eliminate some of the flaws in our current MMA scoring system. What do you think?
These are just a few thoughts on The New Old School 10 Point MMA Scoring System!
From Old School