The MMA Judging System Needs Only Minor Changes To Be Effective

I've been reading a lot about this issue lately and I believe the system is not working well today - however, only a few minor changes can ensure a fair system that the UFC and fans would be happy with.  I thought I'd bring together a number of ideas, not all my own, and build to a logical recommendation.

Let's start with the key issues/complaints:

1) Decisions going the "wrong" way.  When one fighter has clearly won the fight but loses a split or unanimous decision.  Example: win two rounds just barely, then get hammered in the third round, but still win the fight.

2) Draws.  Seems people believe fans will boo a draw outcome.

3) 10-9 is given for the vast majority of rounds.  10-10 is very rare, 10-7 is never seen, and 10-8 is given sometimes, but only for very dominant performances in a round.  10-6 is not a part of the system as far as I know, with an implied assumption that a theoretical 10-6 is so dominant that the fight has to be stopped.

I really don't think there are any other MAJOR problems with the current system, except that it gives rise to outcome (1); and people are concerned that certain tweaks (e.g. use of 10-10) would result in draws that might be unsatisfying to the public.

Potential solutions mentioned (I'll put down the most popularly mentioned ones that I recall) with my comments:

1) Encourage use of 10-10 for close rounds. (I agree.  When the judge honestly thinks it's too close to call, don't go with 10-9 based on nothing more than slightly more Octagon control.  Use 10-10, which is a valid score in the 10 point must system, and is currently occasionally seen)

2) Encourage use of 10-8 for rounds where one fighter is dominant.  (Currently, 10-9 is used to cover a very broad range from borderline even to quite dominant.  10-8 is used only for very dominant rounds e.g. Sonnen-Silva had 1 or 2 of these.  I say, use 10-9 for rounds where one fighter is observably better but not dominant, and 10-8 as soon as you start thinking "dominant" is a fair description)

3) Start using 10-7 for VERY dominant rounds.  (Agree - and clear examples should be given in guidelines to the judges, for what constitutes Dominant (10-8) and Very Dominant (10-7).  These can be written descriptions including things like number of knockdowns, submission attempts, damage/cuts/bruises, as well as an agreed set of example rounds that are agreed instances of the various scores.  Judges should be made to attend a seminar where all this is run through once, and provided with the DVD/materials to review individually as they see fit)

4) Use half-points.  (I disagree.  The 10 point must system already includes options to cover all the required outcomes - you just need the judges to actually use these scores rather than giving almost every round a 10-9 in one direction or the other.  In terms of distribution, the judges should be expecting to give a range of scores, perhaps 20%/40%/30%/10% for 10-10, 10-9, 10-8, and 10-7 - the "expected" distribution should be broadly identified in the training materials but of course no one will be made to match that exactly.  It's just to inform them that it's OK and expected that they would use all four scores in some significant proportion.)

5) Deciding round upon draw after 3 rounds.  (I somewhat agree.  Good fights that are even, we would like to see more of.  But with different athletic commissions all requiring agreement on this, I think it's not that practical.  Worse is if we see boring drawn fights extended by extra rounds.)

6) Overall fight criterion.  (I think this should kick in after three rounds, ONLY TO BREAK TIES.  Each judge has to pick a winner if the total score is tied (and he can pick this even before they collate the scores, you don't have to wait)).  For example if I score it 10-8, 9-10, 9-10, I might choose the 10-8 guy as the winner.  I think if a judge honestly believes the whole fight is a draw, he can still call the whole fight a draw.  The likelyhood of all 3 judges calling a draw after 3 rounds that resulted in a tied score is SO low, that only the "ultimate" Draws will get called as Draws, and nobody would object)


I think if 10 point must is used as it was designed to be used, we will have satisfying and explainable results that reflect what we saw live; draws will be very rare; and judges/judging will not suffer such intense controversy and criticism.

"10-9 Must" (haha) which is how it typically is used today, might be OK for boxing which has a lot more rounds, but for MMA a proper use of the range of available scores is crucial.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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