What is the UFC Scoring System and How Does it Work?

How does the scoring system work in a UFC fight? Let's take a closer look at it.

UFC Scoring System
UFC Scoring System

You might have searched for this article after being disappointed by the UFC judges’ decision. Or perhaps you are interested in learning how points are awarded during a UFC fight. In either case, you’ve arrived at this page because you were interested in gaining knowledge regarding UFC judging, the point system, and the criteria that determine who wins by decision.

So, how does the scoring work exactly for the UFC?

The 10-Point Must System determines the winners of UFC bouts. The combatant the judge deems to have won the round receives 10 points, while the loser receives 9 points or fewer.

A fighter can score fewer than 9 points, but this occurs infrequently. A score of 8 or 7 will be assigned to a fighter only if they are thoroughly dominated or knocked down at any point during the round.

If the outcome of the fight is decided by the judges rather than being stopped, the scorecards will show who has accumulated the most points overall to be deemed the victor.

UFC fights are scored by round. The winner of each round receives 10 points, while the loser receives fewer points from 9-7 than they had previously. When the fight ends, the judges total up the scores from each round to arrive at an overall decision for the fight, such as 29-28 for a three-round bout.

How do UFC Judges Score Fight?

At every UFC event, three judges sit in various locations outside of the cage. Their primary responsibility is to score the fight on a round-by-round basis using a 10-point must system borrowed from boxing.

UFC Fights
via UFC /Twitter

As soon as each round was completed, they would decide who the round’s winner was, then write their scores and point totals on the scorecards, which they would give to the official responsible for collecting scorecards After the bout, the officials will tally up all the points awarded by the various judges, then choose a victor. What factors do the UFC judges use when making their decision?

The scoring system used in the UFC is based on three criteria: effective striking and grappling, effective aggressiveness, and octagon control. These categories are weighted in the order listed. If the judges cannot place one competitor above the other based on the current criteria, they should not proceed to the next criterion until they have done so.

It is only at this point that the judge can continue to the next criterion, which is effective aggression. For instance, if both combatants demonstrate an equal output of effective hitting and grappling, the judge can move on to the next criterion which is ring control or octagon control.

Effective Striking and Grappling

The impact of every successfully landed and legal strike determines whether or not a strike is effective.

To put it another way, a fighter must successfully land legal strikes, and their “effectiveness” is measured by the amount of impact such strikes have.

During a fight, the fighter who is successful in landing more legal strikes on his opponent will have an advantage in terms of striking. Hits that have the potential to terminate the fight carry far more weight than strikes that don’t produce significant harm.

For instance, a jab to the face could be considered a connected attack; nevertheless, this does not guarantee that it will be highly effective or have a large impact.

However, a blow that successfully connects and causes the opponent to become disoriented, stagger, or fall to the ground is an extremely impactful and effective attack.

The ability of a fighter to successfully employ wrestling and grappling with attacking his opponent while engaged in a fight is one of the primary criteria used to evaluate grappling. When determining the winner of a round, the referee considers every aspect of the fight, including takedowns that result in effective attacks on an opponent.

The effectiveness of a fighter’s usage of their position on the ground, whether top or bottom, is evaluated based on how well they damage their opponent.

Takedowns, obtaining attacking positions, and attempting to submit the opponent are all examples of successful grappling tactics. Effective grappling is also measured by the impact and effectiveness of grappling techniques.

Effective Aggression

Effective aggression would be a criterion only used by judges if both competitors scored equally on the first criterion. In that scenario, the winner of the round would be determined by the level of aggression shown by the combatants. The level of aggression is judged by the fighters’ eagerness to finish the fight before the round ends.

It is not deemed “effective” to chase the opponent around the cage while taking damage and missing your attacks while trying to fight back against them. When judging a fight, UFC judges consider not only a fighter’s performance but also whether or not they intend to finish the fight.

Fighting Area Control or Octagon Control

Control of the fighting area is the third and final criterion, and it only comes into play if the two combatants are tied about the first and second criteria. It is also considered the least important criterion.

This one is easy: the fighter who prevailed in the round was the one who managed to keep their opponent pinned to the perimeter of the cage or ring by maintaining control of the middle of the arena.

Control of the fighting area is determined by the fighter’s ability to control the tempo of the round and their position within the cage.

If a fight goes the full three or five rounds, as is customary for UFC championship and main event bouts, the total of the fighters’ scores at each round is put together to determine the victor.

UFC Scoring: 10-Point System

To score each round of the fight, the UFC judges employ a 10-point must system derived from the scoring system used in boxing. The 10- point system awards 10 points to the winner, while the person who came in second place receives 9, 8, or even 7 points, depending on how dominant the winner was in the round.

Scorecards Egger Vs Perez
Scorecards Egger Vs Perez via UFC.com

10-10 Round

The Unified Rules of MMA 2019 defined a 10-10 round as “A round is to be scored as a 10-10 Round when both contestants have competed for whatever duration of time in the round, and there is no difference or advantage between either fighter.”

It is important to take note of the fact that a perfect round is a very unusual occurrence. It is there to score a round that is halted prematurely when, after 5 minutes, both fighters have put in identical levels of strikes, aggression and cage control.

The judges shouldn’t exploit the fact that they cannot choose a winner for a round as a justification to award 10-10 rounds.

As a result of the factors listed above, a round shouldn’t be awarded a draw if there is even a minuscule disparity in the performance of either combatant.

Here are some examples of 10-10 rounds

  • Judge Kon Papaioannou scored the third round of Christos Giagos vs. Mizuto Hirota as a 10-10 round at UFC Fight Night 142 (2018).
  • Finale of TUF 22: Two judges rated the second round between Gabriel Gonzaga and Konstantin Erokhin as a 10-10 round in the McGregor-Faber matchup.
  • In UFC 159 (2013), When Ovince Saint Preux faced Gian Villante, all three judges gave the fight a 10-10 score in at least one of the rounds.

10-9 Round

The Unified Rules of MMA 2019 defined a 10-9 round as “A round is to be scored as a 10-9 Round when a contestant wins by a close margin; where the winning fighter lands the better strikes or utilizes effective grappling during the round.”

The standard score for most rounds. It is awarded to the combatant who has scored the most takedowns, attempted the most submissions, landed the most strikes, used grappling more effectively, scored takedowns, and controlled the pace and area of the fight.

A round should always be scored 10-9 in favor of the more dominant fighter, even if there is only a little difference between the two competitors in terms of which one displays more effectiveness, activity, and offensiveness than the other.

10-8 Round

The Unified Rules of MMA 2019 defined a 10-8 round as “A round is to be scored as a 10-8 Round when a contestant wins the round by a large margin by impact, dominance, and duration of striking or grappling in a round.”

When one of the competitors has dominated a round, it is scored as a 10-8 round. Dominance in this context means that the fighter has thrown major strikes, used grappling effectively, and commanded the speed of the fight. When a fighter throws shots while their opponent isn’t trying to counter or respond, they can be said to dominate the round’s striking exchanges.

When it comes to grappling, dominance can be determined by the grappler’s ability to get into dominant positions and consistently throw shots while attempting to submit to their opponent. If a fighter is seriously harmed due to the pressure their opponent applies, the round should also be considered 10-8.

For a judge to give a fighter a round score of 10-8 based on dominance, the fighter must be on the offensive while the opponent is continuously defending, and the opponent must not counter or react to the fighter’s attacks.

For example, in the third round of their battle, Luke Rockhold came quite close to knocking out Chris Weidman, and as a result, all three judges gave him the round with a score of 10-8.

For a judge to award a score of 10-8 based on impact, the fighter must have demonstrated successful striking or grappling that considerably diminished the opponent’s energy, confidence, talents, and spirit.

10-7 Round

The Unified Rules of MMA 2019 defined a 10-7 round as “A round is to be scored as a 10-7 Round when a contestant is completely dominated by impact, dominance, and duration of striking or grappling in a round.”

The score of 10-7 in a round occurs just once per every few rounds. The explanation is that it is a round in which one fighter utterly dominates another regarding the tempo, dominant positions, takedowns, knockdowns, and strikes that damage another fighter’s capacity to continue fighting.

A 10-7 round like already mentioned is quite rare. The only example in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was given during Forrest Petz’s bout with Sammy Morgan. Forrest Petz was given a 10-7 round.

There has only ever been one round scored 10-7 in the history of the UFC, and that round was won by Forrest Petz when he defeated Sammy Morgan in his first fight for the promotion. Petz won the fight by a score of 30-23, with one of the rounds receiving a score of 10-7. It is the decision with the largest margin of victory in the history of the UFC.

What are the Possible Judge’s Decisions in a UFC Fight?

Following the conclusion of each round, the judges would collect the official scorecards, jot down the points on them, and then hand it over to the official who was in charge of collecting the scorecards. After handing in their scorecards to the official, the judges are not permitted to keep or make any alterations to the cards in their possession. If a decision decides a match, the official will add the points from the three judges’ scorecards to determine the match’s victor.

The following are the probable results of the decision, depending on how each judge scored the fight.

Unanimous Decision

Decisions that are reached by unanimous consent are usually very straightforward. Here, the three judges concluded that one competitor was the unequivocal winner of the fight. It occurs such that all judges have the fighter as the winner on their individual scorecards.

When this occurs, the bout is judged to have been decided by unanimous decision.

In mixed martial arts (MMA), a verdict is said to be unanimous when all three judges agree on a single victor.

Here is an example of a victory for Fighter X that was decided by Unanimous Decision:

  • Judge 1: 30-27 for Fighter X
  • Judge 2: 29-28 for Fighter X
  • Judge 3: 29-28 for Fighter X

Majority Decision

Two judges agree on which competitor won the match, but a third judge declares that the fight was a draw.

A majority decision is one in which all judges agree on the winner but use different scorecards to arrive at their conclusion. Fighter A can receive a score of 29-28 from two judges and 27-27 from the third judge.

In the illustration above, two judges declare that fighter A is the victor, while the third judge declares a draw.

When this occurs, the outcome of that conflict is referred to as a majority decision, and the winner is fighting A

Split Decision

It is considered a split decision when two judges agree that one fighter won the bout while the third judge believes that the other fighter was the victor. This results in the fight being decided by a judge’s ruling divided down the middle.

Technical Decision

It occurs when a headbutt causes a battle to be interrupted before it can continue. If the bout has gone on for longer than the allotted number of rounds, the judges’ scorecards can be utilized to determine the victor, as described above.

The scenario in which one of the combatants cannot continue due to an accidental unlawful shot is extremely unusual. The two competitors are separated while the referee calls for the judges.

When is UFC Fight Declared a Draw?

UFC Scoring KO
via UFC/Twitter

A tie is possible in mixed martial arts bouts, albeit extremely unlikely. There are several types of the draw.

Split Draw

This occurs when one judge claims that Fighter A has won, another judge declares that Fighter B has won, and the final judge determines that it is a draw.

A surprising split decision was reached in the battle for the Flyweight category between Brandon Moreno and Askar Askarov.

The following is an illustration of a Split Draw:

  • Judge 1: 30-27 for Fighter X
  • Judge 2: 29-28 for Fighter Y
  • Judge 3: 29-29 Draw

Majority Draw

When one judge announces a winner, but the other two pronounce it as a draw, this situation is referred to as a majority draw.

The first bout between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson resulted in a draw by majority decision, which allowed Woodley to keep his title.

One illustration of a majority draw is as follows:

  • Judge 1: 30-27 for Fighter X
  • Judge 2: 29-29 Draw
  • Judge 3: 29-29 Draw

Unanimous Draw

Like a unanimous decision, a fight is considered to have ended in a draw when all three judges give it the same score.

The following is an illustration of a Unanimous Draw:

  • Judge 1: 29-29 Draw
  • Judge 2: 29-29 Draw
  • Judge 3: 29-29 Draw

When do Judges Deduct Points?

UFC competitors who commit infractions during a contest risk losing either one or two points. The referee will typically issue a verbal warning to a fighter who scores an unlawful blow or commits a foul while struggling with the other competitor. Bear in mind, however, that the only circumstance under which they can get away with a warning is if the foul did not result in a significant injury. Eye pokes, groin strikes, grasping the fence, or hitting a grounded opponent with a knee to the head are some of the most common illegal moves in modern mixed martial arts.

If they commit the same foul a second time, the referee will likely halt play and dock them a point for their trouble. When that round is over, the judges will first decide who won, and then they will dock one point from the competitor who broke the rules. For instance, if a fighter won a round with a score of 10–9 but committed fouls, the final result would be 9–9 since points would be deducted for the infractions.

On paper, referees have the right to take two points in a round, but this privilege is seldom exercised in practice. For example, Darko Stosic has docked two points at the UFC on ESPN 5 event for landing multiple kicks to the crotch.

Problems with the scoring system used in the UFC

Critics and supporters of mixed martial arts (MMA) have been pointing out the problems in the scoring system used by the UFC for years. The following is a list of the most egregious problems with the scoring system used in the UFC.

It was intended for use in boxing.

Boxing was the sport that inspired the creation of the UFC scoring system, often known as the 10-point must scoring system. Boxing, a sport with fewer dimensions than mixed martial arts, lends itself well to implementing this strategy.

Boxing makes it much simpler to score a fight and keep score and keep track of which boxer is winning. The round is awarded, and a score of 10 is given to the competitor who achieves the most knockdowns or lands the most blows.

Because it involves more dimensions, MMA is more difficult to score using these metrics. The employment of this technique for mixed martial arts (MMA) is made more difficult not only by strikes but also by takedowns, attempts at submission, and dominance of the octagon.

The jury members

The issue is not so much with the UFC’s scoring system but the judges who use it. Even though mixed martial arts (MMA) has been around for almost 30 years, the sport is still marred by judges who lack proper training.

The state where the fight will occur will often designate boxing judges with experience working MMA events to serve as judges at UFC bouts. They score mixed martial arts fights the same way they score boxing contests, which has resulted in several wrong rulings.

Inaccuracies in the scoring are accentuated.

In addition to being designed for use in boxing, the 10-point scoring system was also developed in fights involving additional rounds.

In boxing, the judge could interrupt a round unexpectedly or do so mistakenly. When it comes to a boxing battle, which can go anywhere from ten to twelve rounds, this makes much less of a difference.

Errors in scoring have a greater impact in mixed martial arts fights because there are only three to five rounds. A single mistake in the scoring can completely alter the result of a match, not only preventing a fight from being won but also preventing the recipient from receiving a win bonus.

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It is said that no publicly stated guide specifies how the judges should award points on their scorecards during every UFC event. In general, it is quite possible to determine which fighter is more dominant; nevertheless, this is not the case in determining the points and the score.

The judges likely observe the fight according to their standards of professionalism. These judges have received training to identify which combatant is taking control of the bout and which ones are not doing so. Because they have received adequate training, the judges can effectively examine and score the fights after each round.

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