Is the problem a bad scoring system or bad judges?

UFC 247 may go down as the moment MMA collectively determined to do something to improve judging. Or maybe it will be yet another time we all stamped our digital feet and nothing changed. At the close of the event, Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz expressed extreme frustration, and declared the 10 Point Must system fundamentally broken.

However, Steven Marrocco for MMA Fighting looked at a past attempt to correct the10 Point Must system, and there are some indications that it's not the 10 point system, it's poor judges.

Jeff Mullen, former head of the Tennessee AC, and now working for Nevada, was the head of an Association of Boxing Commissions committee on the last major attempt to change the 10 Point Must system - the MMAS (Mixed Martial Arts Specific) system developed by Corey Schafer, that added half points to the traditional scoring method. Starting in 2010 five commissions tried the half-point system, and ultimately rejected it.

"It's a better system if every fight is, you've got Sal D'Amato, Derek Cleary, Chris Lee, and Mike Bell judging your fight," said Mullen. "People that are having trouble applying the 10-point must system are going to have a lot more trouble applying the half-point system. If you've got folks that have trouble driving a Volkswagen Bug, you're not going to put them in a Porsche."

"I think right now the 10-point must system is the best system for MMA. Now, I'm not saying there couldn't be a better system, but I haven't seen a better one. If they do come up with a better system that's more complex, it's going to take years for the officiating pool to catch up."

California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts president JT Steele tested the MMAS system in 350 bouts, and also ultimately stuck with the 10 Point Must. Just 4% of the bouts ended up with a different score than they would have under the 10 Point Must system.

"I think the biggest issue is the competency of officials," said Steele. "It varies tremendously. Some people have, based off the number of events that they have in their states, they have very little time cageside. You might go to a state like California, and these officials have thousands of rounds cageside, compared to somebody that might only get a few touches a year."

"We have athletic commissions that have jurisdiction in each state. They each do things a little differently. If we're going to move forward with a scoring system, a lot of times it requires statutory changes in states. That's a big task. Could it be done? Yes, but there would really need to be a movement behind it.

"Quite frankly, it would really need to be spearheaded by the UFC. That's probably the only place where there would be enough clout and enough leverage to say, 'We believe in this and we want it,' and they would be able to get it. If the UFC's not behind it, I don't think there's enough leverage to make it happen."

Further attempts at scoring improvements are underway.

Kansas Athletic Commission Adam Roorbach is allowing events to use Open Scoring - judge's scores are announced after each round. Are there potential issues Open Scoring? Yes. Judges may get booed by the crowd when their score is announced influencing them in subsequent rounds, judges may be influenced by the other judges' scores, and fighters may not elect to fight on in the case of an accidental foul if they know they are ahead. But Roorbach should be applauded for trying to improve a process that is too frequently not working, with sometimes massive amounts of money at stake.

Open Scoring will debut at Invicta Phoenix Series 3, on Friday, March 6, 2020 at Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS.

And if the problem is poor judges, most pointedly in huge fights, then another solution is determining the best judges in the sport, and drawing only from that pool for major title bouts.

if they scored every minute ofthe fight on a 10 pt must, it would be more accurate

but using that system would be more  complicated

1 Like

Should be completely overhauled. No ten point must. And damage should be the #1 criteria

That is a very, very bad idea.


Both tbh.


I prefer Pride's scoring system. 10 point must system just doesn't translate well for MMA. There's not enough rounds in an MMA fight for it to really do a result justice. If a judge messes up on one round, it can cost a fighter the entire fight. If that happens in boxing, there's typically enough rounds to balance out the average providing the judges aren't stoned stupid. 


Both. It's a subjective system, it will always suck.

Turbo54 -

Should be completely overhauled. No ten point must. And damage should be the #1 critera.


Guys like BJ never show damage. Guys like fedor bleed if you sneeze on them.

It's the judges, and the criteria.

10 point system is irrelevant. It's the score by round, or not that people can argue.

Osbot -
Turbo54 -

Should be completely overhauled. No ten point must. And damage should be the #1 critera.


Guys like BJ never show damage. Guys like fedor bleed if you sneeze on them.

Really so you are saying damage doesn't matter in a fight.smh .if you punch me 12 times and give me a black eye and fat lip and I punch you 3 times and break your nose and give you 14 stiches above your eye do you think you won?

Yeah, they need well trained PAID judges. The system needs an overhaul too and I think it can be very simple. This is what I would propose:


Each round is judged in 3 different categories. Each category is then judged similarly to the 10 point must system with the "better" fighter getting the 10 or both if it is warranted draw worthy. Here are the categories:

1. Effective offense 

2. Effective defense

3. Overall fight performance


Effective Offense: Based on cage control, successful striking, threatening submission attempts, progressive grappling and all other indicators of offensive progression. Like in the 10 point must system, an 8 may be awarded where a fighter shows high levels of inactivity in this category.

Effective Defense: Based on successful evasion of strikes through parries, head movement, footwork and all other progressive strike evasion. Also based on successful defensive grappling, including but not limited to; submission defense, sweeps, defensive clinches, takedown defense and all other progressive defensive grappling. Also based on effective counter striking. Like in the 10 point must system, an 8 may be awarded where a fighter shows high levels of inactivity in this category.

Overall Fight Performance: Based on the overall outcome of the first two categories with respect to damage sustained and damage inflicted. With respect to danger of submitting or danger of being submitted. With respect to controlling the fight or being controlled in the fight. With respect to deliberate actions to engage or disengage. With respect to fouls and fair play.


Round 1 Breakdown. 

Fighter A vs B

Fighter A stays on the outside and uses counter striking, footwork and takedown defense as a strategy. They land more strikes and stay on the outside but also use a little more flair and wildly miss at times. They get taken down but don't stay down.

Fighter B uses grappling and boxing as their strategy. They get 2 takedowns and hold their opponent down for 1:30s total with some successful strikes and one submission attempt. They connect less strikes but open a cut and cause visible facial damage. Fighter B has no visible damage.

Scoring the round

                                          A.         B.

Effective Offense.           9.         10.

Effective Defense.          10.         9.

Overall Performance.      9.         10.

Round Total.                    28.        29


EO goes to Fighter B for their more damaging (effective) offense through striking/subs/grappling.

ED goes to Fighter A for being hit less through footwork and parries, escaping submissions and recovering the standing position.

OP goes to Fighter B for more effective offense, cage control and causing more threatening scenarios through progressive offense (using more tools basically)


I know it's a FRAT but if I can think of this in 10 mins. Surely a commission can think up something awesome in a relatively short period of time. 


Feel free to critique this. What's good, what's bad, what to add, what to remove, etc. We need a damn base model and this is the place to start goddamnit. 


This is my idea and I stand by it: 

A fighter is awarded 0 to 3 points per round. The fighter who loses the round gets zero points. In a very close round, the winning fighter is awarded 1 point. For a dominant round where there's no question who won the round but there wasn't a near fight ending sequence or massive cumulative damage, the fighter who wins the round is awarded 2 points. For a thoroughly dominant round with significant damage and and possible near finish, the fighter who wins the round is awarded 3 points. Additionally, at the referees discretion a fighter committing a significant foul will award a bonus point to his opponent (ie, a point deduction, but under this new system it's entirely possible a fighter doesn't have any points to be deducted.)

If you need to ask, you are dumb.

Both. Zuffa has control of the judges like Floyd and Canelo have. They can now control outcomes of the fights and make sure their stars win in decisions.

The scoring system is not applicable to MMA.

It's an extreme 50/50. First the 10 pt must system is completely ineffective in MMA. I forget who it was but he wrote a great piece that was featured on here about a .5 system. ie. 8.5, 9.0, 9.5,10. A judge is so uncomfortable giving a 10-10 or 10-8 rd. They'd have to be extremes for a judge to vote that way. I think they'd be far more comfortable giving a 10-9.5 or a 10-8.5. And relook at what they're judging and what is important. That's another CRUCIAL factor. 
   And judges themselves are equally to blame. As much as the UFC invests in USADA they need to invest in sending real judges to train these guys, another step (but far less likely because of politics) is get retired fighters in as judges who know what they're looking at. 
   Most importantly is accountability. Whoever the judge was that Joe and Dom caught staring at the floor should be fired immediately. Again politics. But there needs to be some sort of reprimand when you're staring at the floor and judging something where to people quite literally are taking months/years off their lives. The UFC doesn't want to upset commissions, but someone (maybe a strong petition from the UG?) Needs to let these commissions (starting with that blatant disregard in TX) accountable. 
   Anyone good at setting ups petition, or something like that?

So let me get this straight. There is a problem with the scoring system... AGREED, and there is a problem with the judges... AGREED. But instead of fixing bopth problems...WHICH WOULD BE THE LOGICAL CHOICE, they say they are stuck because they will not get better judges and a better system will only make the judges worse.


Athletic commissions suck!

Chael put out a great video on this exact subject just recently, must watch:

Obviously judging has been an issue for years. Ive always thought that Most (not all, but most cases) instances where fighters are "screscrewen a decision, its usually with split decision moreso than the unanimous decisions. That being said, if the judges look at the cards after the determined fight length (3 or 5 rounds) and if it's a split decision then all previous rounds are dismissed and they have 1 more winner take all round. That way young into that round each fighter knows this is it and they have a chance NOT to leave it in judges hands and have the opportunity to finish it. 


I'm no expert and although I dont have judging or competing experience, I've been an invested fight fan since ufc 1 many years ago.  I'm sure there are holes within this that can be tightened up but I believe that this could help sort out shitty decisions.  Would love to know others thoughts regarding this. 

Both but the days of using boxing judges should be over.

There are retired fighters coaches and even fans who know and understand fighting better than some judges.


I can't beleive that in 2020 we are still using boxing judges in a closed commission.

MMA has evolved that even informed fans can go through training just as a ref is trained.