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MMA Needs New Scoring Practices!

Posted by Mark Figula on November 14, 2010 at 1:22 PM
By Mark Figula, The Mouth of MMA Senior Editor

"... and Judge Should-Stay-With-Boxing Scored it 30 - 27... Okamiiiiii!"

Okami's hand is raised and Nate "The Great" hastens out of the cage with a disgusted look on his face.  For those of us who watched the main event at UFC 122, I think we could all agree it was a close fight and arguments could be made for either fighter.  The first round could have been given to Okami or Marquardt, the second was pretty clearly Nate's and the third was likely Okami's.  It seemed to come down to who was given round one.  So, when I heard one of the judges scored the fight 30-27, I was once again reminded of how badly we need MMA specific scoring practices in our sport.  While I don't fundamentally have a problem with the idea of scoring the fight round to round, ten points to the winner and nine to the loser (or maybe 8 if he really got his ass kicked), I do have a problem with how those ten points get awarded.

Although there seem to be some sensible criteria outlined (see How Do MMA Judges Score Fights? by Katrina Belcher), I have yet to find a simply laid out checklist for MMA judges that would - hopefully - mitigate many of these poor scoring decisions.  For that matter, given a simple checklist, wouldn't it be nice to have each judge's scorecard displayed on screen after the fight?!  What is the big secret here?  Could there be any job that need be more transparent in sports then judging?  Every call an umpire makes in baseball, play to play - moment to moment, is out for all eyes to see.  Despite oft-complaining fans, the end result is some of the best refereeing in any sport.

So, after much discussion with a handful of my fighter and fan friends, here is our official Mouth of MMA proposed scoring methodology for mixed martial arts competition.  Further, we believe these scorecards should be displayed after each and every fight:

Example Card

  • Ring Control: Awarded to the fighter in each round who dictated where the fight took place.  THIS IS INCLUSIVE OF TAKEDOWNS.  We see no need to score takedowns separately since they are part and parcel to dictating where the fight takes place.  A fighter holding his opponent against the cage for the majority of a round is another example of ring control.  A fighter continually advancing while striking may or may not be, depending on if his opponent effectively circles around him and displays a desire to work a counter striking game.  Obviously, that leaves room for some more subjective opinions by a judge, but with cards displayed openly after a fight, a judge can explain his decision to give a fighter the point for ring control that round.
  • Striking: Who gets the best of the striking game?  Often there is some argument about "effective" striking versus striking for points.  We have a separate category to handle that aspect, so this is strictly about putting leather (or skin) on your opponent.
  • Grappling: By now, anyone actually getting paid to judge a professional MMA fight should know enough about grappling to differentiate a dominant position from a bad one.  Each round in which ground fighting takes place should be judged based on which fighter displays the greatest overall advantage on the ground.  Putting his opponent into positions which require defending a submission, Spending the majority of the time in a superior position (i.e. taking his opponent's back or gaining mount, etc...).  There's already an entire scoring system in place for grappling only competitions and the same logic applies to that part of an MMA fight. The only significant difference being with the guard position in which the fighter on the bottom could be losing points in an MMA fight for not putting his opponent in jeopardy when that opponent is in his guard and delivering blows.
  • Damage: Quite simply put, which fighter hurt his opponent more.  In the example round above, you see that Fighter A won every category that applied other than this one.  This could easily be possible in a round in which a fighter outworks and outscores his opponent but gets hit with one or two solid, knee buckling shots - maybe even being cut open in the process.  After all, this is a fighting sport and it should be significant who is putting the other fighter closer to not being able to continue.
  • Aggression: In some rounds/fights one fighter is the one pushing the action all the way while the other is far too passive.  The should be an award for aggression each round so the fighters are inspired to push the pace.  In most good fights this will be scored 1 to 1 each round, with each fighter "going for it."  If only it were a perfect world...
Using this scoring criteria we would, at the end of the fight, tally the scores with the winner of each round getting 10 points and the loser getting 9 (or 8 if the judge feels the loser was thoroughly dominated).  Simple enough, simple to display and verify or argue against after each fight is over.

I welcome reader commentary here, as I'd love to see if this can be fine tuned further...


Mark "The Ezequiel" Figula is the biggest wuss to ever enter a cage... the most spindly chickenass dude to ever tap out at NAGA... the boy who was told that the pen is mightier than the sword... and thus he writes. Check out his home page of scribblings at


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1 Comment

Reply SteveFicca
5:02 PM on November 15, 2010 
You know, somethings gotta give. This is a good start... maybe the solution. Who knows? What I think we can all agree on is that there has to be a better way to do this. Some guys have won fights that they had nooooo business winning. Its not fair to any of us the way the system is now

Poker, B!tc#es!

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