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How Does UFC Scoring Work | What Happens Next

A view of the UFC octagon from the stadium crowd.

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The UFC is pretty young in terms of combat sports. So, as a result, there are some issues which in many people’s eyes are still in question. Including exactly how does the UFC scoring system work?

Each UFC fight is scored using the same 10 points must scoring system as is used in boxing. This dictates that rounds will be scored individually using 10 – 9, and 10 – 8 criteria with the winner receiving 10 points.

The only issue with this is that the 10-point system was originally designed for a completely different sport. So when mixed martial arts came along which as a new combat sport needed to be sanctioned.

The governing bodies in the US got together to discuss how to standardise its rules. At the time there was a real mish-mash of States allowing the sport, while others had it banned.

Some had their own rules which varied from state to state. Meaning what was allowed at one event, could then be off the table at the very next. So with this in mind, both UFC and the governing bodies sought to create a cohesive set of rules which would be used throughout the country.

No small task in a country which is known for certain authorities being very happy to throw their weight around.

How The Nevada State Athletic Commission Shaped the UFC

As the Ultimate Fighting Championships was based out of its headquarters in Las Vegas. They fell under the jurisdiction of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. And so they played a major role in the original rules which were set out in the early 2000s.

An arena full of fans watching some fights in the UFC.
Crowd shot of the UFC octagon.

These rules were in turn adopted by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC). Which applied the 10 points must system to MMA matches in the same way it was applied to the sport of boxing.

Scoring issues as dictated by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Determine how the 10 points must system will be applied during a fight. These rules set out a set of criteria as to how each round is scored. And how the points are allocated for different winning moves.

Dealing With the Association of Boxing Commissions

With the majority of judges coming from the boxing commissions. They are trained on how to score the fight, in much the same manner as they would a boxing match.

  1. The 10-10 Round
  2. What is a 10-8 Round
  3. How to account for a point deduction
  4. What to do with an incomplete round

Of course, the issue arises of how to apply the scoring criteria to a fight wherein one case you have two fighters who remain in the standing positions. And who only use their hands to score points.

How Does UFC Scoring Work | What Happens Next
Association of Boxing Commissions

The glaring difference in MMA is that there is any number of ways to score points. Including strikes using hands or clenched fists, and the use of elbows and knees. Along with kicks and a range of takedowns and submissions.

But the problem we have seen time and time again is inconsistencies in the scoring. As in the history of boxing, there are plenty of well-documented instances that have shown some terrible scoring decisions. Often gifting a win to a fighter who obviously to almost everyone except the judges themselves, had clearly lost.

And the very same now happens in MMA on an all too regular basis. Combatants who appeared to score more in a fight, often end up losing and some think they know why this is.

As the judges who’re main focus is boxing is assigned to score MMA. With many having no background in martial arts, applying their limited knowledge via a set of pre-determined scoring criteria. Very often missing many of the nuances and sometimes blatant to the seasoned eye, points being won and lost.

And this isn’t anything new, but actually, something which has been pointed out time and time again. However, the UFC continues to be regulated by the same governing bodies. There doesn’t seem to be any shift in how they might create a better overall scoring system specifically for MMA.

Joe Rogan On 10 Points Must UFC scoring

If you are a fan of the UFC, then you will, of course, have heard of Joe Rogan. The commentator has been working in promotion for almost 20 years. First, starting out as an interviewer, Joe soon moved on to add colour commentary. Becoming one of the best know and respected personalities in the sport.

How Does UFC Scoring Work | What Happens Next
A traditional boxing scorecard.

And also one of the most vocal when it comes to how it is scored. Taking to social media on numerous occasions to air his displeasure at how the same 10 points must scoring system is still being used to this day.

Seemingly regardless of how many occasions there is yet another incident of poor judging. The sport just seems to trundle forward. Unwilling or unable to make the relevant changes to improve the situation.

And while Rogan plays an important role in the sport. His along with many others’ opinions seem to fall on deaf ears. And in the long run, it won’t be until the situation becomes completely untenable that anything is likely to change.

While we have seen too many decisions going array. It doesn’t seem to have dissuaded the Commissions from their original decision made back in the early years of the sport. So not least, it looks like Joe and others like him will have to simply deal with what they have.

Until those at the very top are willing to take a second look at the reoccurring issue. We may very well be stuck here for the foreseeable future.

A New Way Of Scoring MMA

In reality, what is needed is a complete overhaul of the current scoring system. And while that may not be happening quite yet. It does look as though there is at the very least some movement when it comes to how the current system could be best applied.

Step in the Kansas State Athletic Commission and Adam Roorbach its commissioner. Roorbach wants to introduce a new open scoring system where the scores will be made available in real-time.

So at the end of each round, the current scorecard will be made available for everyone to know where the result currently stands. Believing that this will at the very least give the competitors an idea of whether they are in fact winning or losing.

And while it won’t fix the issue of the scoring itself. It will inform those involved on what they need to do to win the fight. As things stand currently both fighters, their coaches and the fans have no idea who is winning. Or what needs to be done for a fighter to get the victory.

Israel Adesanya the UFC middleweight champion.
Israel Adesanya inside the octagon.

And while it may not be a silver bullet, many have agreed at least it’s a step in the right direction. With Roorbach’s comments;

“I come from outside of the combat sports world,” Roorbach said. “But I’ve been a sports fan my whole life. It always mystifies me why the fighters and fans don’t know what the score is until the end. No one has ever given me a good explanation as to why.”

Adam Roorbach ESPN interview

And it will perhaps take someone like Roorbach who hasn’t been entrenched in the sport for years like so many others. To take an overview of how things are currently done, see where the faults lie and try something new and innovative to drive the sport forward.

In Conclusion

Almost everyone is in agreement that the scoring in MMA needs a complete revamp. But even with the best minds in the sport applying themselves to solving the issue, no long-term solution seems forthcoming.

And while the introduction of the new live scoring system may be positive, it still must first be tested. Before any concrete opinion on whether it is a success or not can be given.

With the majority of fighters, coaches and people of influence in the sport coming forward to show their support. It at least appears to have momentum behind it.

So barring any major problems, at some point in the not-too-distant future. we may very well be looking at a whole new approach to how the current scoring is applied.

Then perhaps once this solves one issue, we can move on to the bigger question of the scoring itself. As the sport continues to mature we will no doubt continue to see developments and improvements.

Like anything else, these will take some time. But providing those involved keep their focus, with an eye on the prize. I do believe the future looks brighter than it has ever been.