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Scouring the scoring: Should Round 1 of Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor 3 be a 10-8?

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Did Round 1 of Poirier vs. McGregor 3 deserve a 10-9 or 10-8 score?

The main event of UFC 264 came to a close at the 5:00 mark of the first round after a broken leg left Conor McGregor unable to continue. The official result of the fight was a Dustin Poirier win via TKO due to doctor stoppage. Because the first round was complete, the judges handed in their scorecards for the 5:00 of action that took place.

The judges scored the round in favor of Poirier with Derek Cleary and Junichiro Kamijo scoring the round 10-8 for Poirier and Sal D’Amato giving the round a 10-9 score in favor of Poirier.

For background on this series and details on the review process, GO HERE.

I watched the first round of the fight at full speed and frame-by-frame and I scored the round 10-9 for Poirier, but that score comes with an asterisk and depends on the information the judges were given before the scores were recorded and if they used the judges monitors or the view from cageside.

There’s no doubt that Poirier had the more effective striking in the first round. With that we do not need to look at another scoring criteria past that. Yes, McGregor threatened a submission, and he executed that guillotine choke well enough that it went on the official scoring as a submission attempt, but Poirier didn’t seem to be close to tapping and McGregor had the technique locked in for no more than 12 seconds. With that, I don’t think the grappling was more important than the striking in the first stanza.

The bulk of McGregor’s effective striking took place on the feet and most of those strikes were leg strikes. Those strikes were not particularly damaging immediately or cumulatively.

Poirier landed powerful punches while the two were standing. Those strikes brought McGregor into a clinch which led to McGregor pulling guard into the above mentioned guillotine choke. Once Poirier freed his head from the hold, he landed hard strikes on the ground. The most effective of those blows came when Poirier postured up. With that position, Poirier had room to land effective and damaging elbows and punches. McGregor was not ineffective as he landed a few elbows and some upkicks, but Poirier was clearly the more effective and damaging striker in the round. That gives Poirier a 10-9.

Here are the criteria for 10-8 in striking:

A 10 – 8 Round in MMA is where one fighter wins the round by a large margin. A 10 – 8 round in MMA is not the most common score a judge will render, but it is absolutely essential to the evolution of the sport and the fairness to the fighters that judges understand and effectively utilize the score of 10 – 8. A score of 10 – 8 does not require a fighter to dominate their opponent for 5 minutes of a round. The score of 10 – 8 is utilized by the judge when the judge sees verifiable actions on the part of either fighter. Judges shall ALWAYS give a score of 10 – 8 when the judge has established that one fighter has dominated the action of the round, had duration of the domination and also impacted their opponent with either effective strikes or effective grappling maneuvers that have diminished the abilities of their opponent. Judges must CONSIDER giving the score of 10 – 8 when a fighter shows dominance in the round even though no impactful scoring against the opponent was achieved…. . If a fighter has little to no offensive output during a 5 minute round, it should be normal for the judge to consider awarding the losing fighter 8 points instead of 9. Judges must CONSIDER giving the score of 10 – 8 when a fighter IMPACTS their opponent significantly in a round even though they do not dominate the action. Effectiveness in striking or grappling which leads to a diminishing of a fighter’s energy, confidence, abilities and spirit. All of these come as a direct result of negative impact. When a fighter is hurt with strikes, showing a lack of control or ability, these can be defining moments in the fight. If a judge sees that a fighter has been significantly damaged in the round the judge should CONSIDER the score of 10 – 8.

I will break this down step-by-step.

Poirier did not dominate the entire round, but he did not have to do so to get a 10-8 score.

Did Poirier dominate most of the round? It was extremely close, but it appears from timing that he dominated about half the round.

Did Poirier impact his opponent with effective strikes? Yes, he did. His ground-and -pound was effective.

Did McGregor have offensive output? Yes, he did. His kicks were strong, and he attacked from the bottom position.

Did Poirier diminish McGregor’s energy, confidence, abilities and spirit? I don’t think so, at least not until the leg injury. When Poirier stood up and referee Herb Dean instructed McGregor to stand with 14 seconds left, McGregor got right to his feet without hesitation and immediately landed a leg kick. That shows me his energy, confidence, abilities and spirit remained intact. He then threw several more strikes before he stepped back and his leg broke. McGregor’s butt hit the canvas with seven seconds left. After the leg injury his energy, confidence, abilities and spirit were diminished, but that was more to do with the injury than anything else.

Here is where things get weird and I have reached out to the NSAC to see if I can get a comment on this. If Dean did not tell the judges that there was no knockdown and that McGregor hitting the mat was because of injury, the judges might have considered that a knockdown. If that was the case, then a 10-8 becomes more feasible. Another thing to consider is if the judges used their monitors when Poirier was hitting McGregor on the ground. If they did not, the judges might not have seen just how effective the strikes from Poirier were or were not.

Per a 2011 ESPN story on monitors for judges in Nevada, “The screens will be attached to a moveable arm next to each judges’ seat. If a judge doesn’t feel comfortable using the technology, each has the option to simply push it aside. All the costs associated with the technology will fall on the UFC.”

If given full information that there was no knockdown and I had full view of Poirier’s ground striking and his striking after the leg injury I would score the round 10-9. If my view was blocked and I thought a knockdown had occurred, I would lean to a 10-8 score.

I don’t want to offer a copout, but I really think the scoring comes down to if the judges saw a knockdown in the last seconds from a strike or not. Hopefully the NSAC will offer some clarity on that matter.