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Ryan Bader vs. Phil Davis, and the case for scoring more 10-10 rounds

Despite Bader and Davis ending up in a stalemate, the judges still felt the need to score 10-9 rounds each time out. Why?

Photo by Esther Lin

As part of the UFC on FOX 14 main card, Ryan Bader and Phil Davis battled to an absolute stalemate for three rounds. They were dead even on a pretty uneventful bout, and Bader ended up taking a split decision victory. While the winning fighter on such a close bout certainly isn't really as controversial as let's say the recent Cathal Pendred vs. Sean Spencer travesty, it does raise some scoring issues.

They were inseparable for three rounds with no clear winner on each stanza. At least one round on that fight deserves a 10-10 score, but why did the judges feel compelled to score award a 10-9 score each time out?

Let's take a look at the numbers just to emphasize how close this is.

According to the official UFC statistics, Round 2 saw Bader land just 6 'significant' strikes compared to Davis' 7. No takedown was credited to either fighter but Davis able to land 12 more strikes that Fight Metric didn't count as 'significant' -- or strikes thrown from range. Neither man really landed anything flush, while Davis wasn't able to do anything from the few seconds of top control he had. They scored the round 10-9 for Davis.

Round 3 had both men picking up the pace slightly. Davis out-landed Bader 19 to 15 in 'significant' strikes, and had an advantage of just 1 strike that wasn't thrown from range. Bader had one takedown where he wasn't able to pass, attempt a submission, land strikes, or spend much time on top. Judges still scored it 10-9 Bader.

The most telling round though, was the first. After 5 minutes of action, the stats had Bader landing with a grand total of just 5 strikes, to Davis' 9. We're not even talking 'significant' strikes here, that's really their total output for the round. Take into consideration that both men threw the same volume of strikes, neither man landed with anything clean, and there were zero takedowns involved. When it comes to fighting, this is pretty much as even as it can possibly get, yet every judge still felt the need to make a guess in order to award someone a 10-9.

They battled to a stalemate but Judge Mark Collett still scored it for 10-9 Davis, while Mans Nilsson and Andy Roberts scored it 10-9 the other way, awarding Bader with the split decision.

The rules allow scores ranging from 10-6 up to 10-10, and yet they feel like they have to stay at 10-9 regardless of how even, or how brutally one-sided a round is. People complain about the effectiveness of the 10-point must system in MMA, but most judges aren't even willing or educated enough to implement it properly.

With 10-8's and 10-10's being harder to find than an honest politician, they might as well start scoring 1 point per round to make it easier to add.

Why are they so hesitant on handing out other scores? Is it the fear of having 'anti climactic' results or draws that affect future matchmaking? Either way, judges aren't promoters and they shouldn't really worry about title implications or ticket sales. Like Bader vs. Davis, sometimes bouts really are that even, and it deserves to be scored that way.

This isn't the '10-9 must system', and judges should start using the other scores available at their disposal.

Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena

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