After re-watching the Impact FC bout between Denis Kang and Paulo Filho that ended in a split draw – the second notable MMA bout to do so in a month with the other being the WEC 49 bout between Jamie Varner and Kamal Shalorus – I couldn’t help but wonder why MMA continues to rely on a scoring system created and tailored for boxing judging.
When the majority of mixed martial arts organizations adopted the Unified Rules in 2000, along with the governing principles, each organization adopted the system known as the 10-point must system.
Under the guidelines of the 10-point must system, judges score each frame based on their accumulative points tally for the round. The winner of each round receives a score between seven and 10 depending on who won the round. If a round is deemed a tie, both combatants are assessed 10 points each by the judge who perceived the frame to be even. The problem with the system is, when used to score a three-round MMA bout, the likelihood of a fight ending in a draw is exponentially higher than in a 10-round boxing match.
Since being instituted, the criteria has been modified somewhat to suit the differences in the sports. In boxing, a knockdown (which is a rare occurrence) elicits a 10-8 round, whereas in MMA it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the fighter who gets knocked down will lose the round, so there are obvious differences.
Because the system doesn’t take into account overall accumulative scoring, just who won each round, draws can happen even if one fighter dominates the fight.
Lets say one judges score a fight 10-9, 10-9, 8-10, a second judge scores it 10-9, 9-10, 8-10 and a third judge’s tally equals 10-9, 9-10 and 10-8, the fight is scored a draw.
During its tenure as one of the top MMA promotions, PRIDE Fighting Championships was lauded for its distinct adopted judging criteria, as its system, based on tangibles like which fighter was most aggressive, inflicted the most damage and did the most to try to finish the fight, didn’t leave itself open to questionable draws.
Here is the description of the judging criteria that was used by the Japanese organization:
"If the match goes the distance, then the outcome of the bout is determined by the three judges. A decision is made according to the following: the effort made to finish the fight via KO or submission, damage given to the opponent, standing combinations & ground control, aggressiveness and weight (in the case that the weight difference is 10kg/22lbs or more). The above criteria are listed according to priority. The fight is scored in its entirety, and not round by round. After the third round, each judge must decide a winner. Matches cannot end in a draw."
It just makes sense that a fight is judged on a whole, and not round by round. That’s why the sport is becoming the non-fan-friendly takedown-to-snuggle affair that it has become. Why risk being put in a dangerous position by engaging with an opponent when you can just hug out a decision?
If in the example cited above, fighter B was the more aggressive fighter who landed more combinations and worked off of his back when taken down to try and secure submissions, he would be deemed the winner under PRIDE judging.
Judging at its very essence is very subjective since it’s based on the perception of a human being, but by judging a fight on who was more active in trying to end a bout and who inflicted more damage, the chances of human error are diminished. Fights like Machida-Rua 1 and Varner-Shalorus would likely have had entirely differently outcomes if judged using PRIDE criteria.
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