New judging system tested in California

by Dave Meltzer | source:

The Judging Problem

There are more complaints in mixed martial arts about judging than any other issue. The system is a hand-me-down from boxing’s 10-point must system. But too often in a three-round MMA fight, a fighter can inflict a great amount of punishment in winning a round, but lose the fight because he comes out on the wrong end of two coin-flip-close rounds, despite clearly doing more damage over the course of the bout.

As frustrated as the fans and the promoters are, perhaps nobody is as frustrated as the judges themselves. At times, the person with the most points on your scorecard is not the person you really believed won the fight, a distinction few fans watching comprehend.

There is no scoring system that can overcome bad judges, and it’s much easier to blame incompetent judges, who do exist, and occasional bad scoring, which will continue to exist no matter what system is in place, than to make a change that will lessen but not eliminate the problem.

A Potential Solution tested in California

Since the start of 2011, California has experimented with a half-point scoring system on its amateur shows, both to get feedback from its judges, and also to compile statistics. At the end of the year, when the stats are done, the findings will be presented to people like Marc Ratner, the vice-president for regulatory affairs at the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and the Association of Boxing Commissioners, to see if the system has more merit than the one in place.

How the Half Point Scoring System Works

10-9.5 is for a close round. Examples: rounds one and three in Siver vs. Wiman, and rounds one and two in Jackson vs. Machida – both fights in which the person who ended up losing in the current system would most likely have won with the new system.
10-9 would be the score for a round that is competitive, but, you have no doubt who won.
10-8.5 would be for a round where one fighter dominated, but didn’t do enough for a 10-8. Examples: round two in Wiman vs. Siver, and round three in Machida vs. Jackson.
10-8 would be similar to how it is currently used.
10-7.5 for something more dominant than a normal 10-8 round, but for whatever reason, the fight isn’t stopped.

The new system also includes a fourth judge whose sole job is to award points based on criteria. If the three judges come out to a draw, a winner is determined based on a points system.
Knockdown: Four points
Near Submission: Four Points
Damaging strikes: Two Points
Dominant Position (back, mount or side control): Two Points
Takedown: One Point
Sweep: One Point

Results to Date

So far this year, 155 amateur fights in California have gone to a decision under these new rules. Of those, six, or 4 percent, had different winners based on half-point judging than they would have based on the current system. But there were 17 instances where one judge out of the three had a different winner based on half-points that he would have based on the current system.

“That’s going to occur in a very low percentage,” noted famed referee "Big" John McCarthy. “Maybe in the end, the half-point system will make a difference in 5 percent of the fights, but that’s 5 percent where the fighters are getting the right outcome instead of the wrong outcome.”

The Future

J.T. Steele, President at California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization, considers this year part of a learning process, and wants a full year of statistics to learn advantages and disadvantages. Athletic commissions are usually interested in keeping the status quo. He feels if there is going to be a change, it will be spearheaded by the UFC itself.

“I think it comes down to the UFC,” said Steele. “They have the most valuable MMA sports property in the world. The second they think that the judging is starting to negatively affect their product, and if they believe the scoring system is part of the negative affect on their product, we’ll see changes. For any athletic commission, being graced with the UFC coming to their state is the best thing for the athletic commission, for a city, or a town and for a local economy. If they really think it’s damaging their product, we’ll see changes.”

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tags: UFC   Mark Ratner   John McCarthy   Herb Dean   Nelson “Doc” Hamilton   J.T. Steele   George Dodd   


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Recent Comments »

smac3dot0 site profile image  

7/14/11 9:28 AM by smac3dot0

what? how does a half point change the likelihood of draws. it's the exact same scoring system we have now, they are just changing the unit of measure. the difference is totally make believe.

jqvwxyz site profile image  

7/13/11 4:47 PM by jqvwxyz

Uncle J I agree with you, I don't think half points are the solution at all. I'm just saying it's not correcting only 5% of the bad decisions. And you're right, for all we know, those 5% with a different outcome might have been good decisions that have now been turned into bad decisions.I like that they are recognizing the problem and trying new things, but this system is not the answer. I'd rather see a serious trial of Haulport's full system, it is intriguing. And most importantly: educated, informed judges who truly understand the sport. Guys who watch fights when they aren't judging.

easedel site profile image  

7/13/11 11:51 AM by easedel

The current judging can't get 3 numbers right, now you are involving half numbers? Now the points for actions in the fight are interesting but it still doesn't change the actually problem with the sport, the judges themselves.

Uncle Justice site profile image  

7/13/11 11:42 AM by Uncle Justice

How can you say the 5% this will affect will magically gravitate toward the controversial fight? That's complete speculation. The stats show this made a difference in 5% of the fights -- which could be any -- and certainly doesn't mean that will translate to fixing even 5% of controversial decisions. Any way anyone spins it, a 5% success rate is just that. It produced a difference in 5 out of 100 fights, and we don't even know the premise of the fight or if the change was even helpful or not. It was just a different decision. I'd like to see them trial using the Ten Point as it's written. If it's even, 10-10. If it's a close margin, 10-9. If it's a clear and obvious margin, 10-8. If it's total domination with damage, 10-7. But the idea of trialing the actual system in place as it's suggested to be used is too far outside the box.

jqvwxyz site profile image  

7/13/11 11:24 AM by jqvwxyz

Although I partially agree with you Uncle Justice, that this might not help at all, there is some things here you aren't quite getting:"BJM's numbers are even worse. At 5% success rate, we'd be switching to an entirely new and more complicated system for a 5% success rate. That means there would be have to be 20 controversial fights for the system to supposedly correct 1."You are reading and understanding this part wrong. They aren't saying it corrects 5% of BAD decisions. They are saying it corrects 5% of ALL decisions. So, if there was ONE controversial fight out of 20 total fights (which sounds about right), it would correct that ONE controversial decision.In the end, I'd rather they educate, and encourage judges to be more liberal with 10-10 and 10-8 rounds. You dont need half points when only a couple of the 10 total points are used, just use the other points. Another main problem with the judging is the criteria, or lack of it. We need a more clear idea of exactly what is being judged. I think I remember an interview with Mr. Kizer, where he was asked if he could clarify what is being judged. He smugly responded "no". I take it that means he doesn't even know, let alone the judges. How can a sport have correct scoring when no one is given very clear, direct criteria?

Morgz site profile image  

7/13/11 10:07 AM by Morgz


Chiron site profile image  

7/13/11 12:50 AM by Chiron

Amen. Glad to see some other fans realizing this. We should all start writing/calling the AC's and bigger orgs and see if they'll ever wake up. The guy that runs MFC seems to have his head on straight. Maybe he'd listen and do what he can.

Chiron site profile image  

7/13/11 12:48 AM by Chiron

They need to either go with the idea BJ suggested (and utilized in the Art of War) and call all decisions draws or they need to have more clearly defined scoring criteria, weighted toward what is supposed to matter most in this combative sport, and score fights as a whole. Polishing the turd that is the 10-point must system isn't going to improve things much.

Chiron site profile image  

7/13/11 12:46 AM by Chiron

I hope this fixes things but I dont see why it would. If anything it just seems like a slightly more bastardized version of whats already being done. MMA deserves its own system that's not based on what is done in boxing. If anything, this might be a slight improvement but it doesn't fix the biggest problems with MMA scoring. It doesn't fix the overemphasis on takedowns and control over damage and going for the finish. It doesn't fix the obscurity in the scoring. It doesn't fix the irrationality of scoring rounds individually instead of the fight as a whole. More draws in close fights would actually be better than all the controversial decisions lately. You may not think so but it is for a couple reasons. First of all, if fighters know the judges are going to call a close fight a draw unless they really do something to prove they should be the one getting the nod, then we'll see more of them trying to do more and less coasting trying to get by on points. Plus, right now the judges (and the fans) just pretend they know who won but the scoring system is so obscure (and its arguable what matters more in a fight) that it's largely just a matter of opinion. It's stupid to give a fight where one fighter "arguably" edged it out according to the juges on the same level as a fight where one fighter clearly finished the other. Pretending one guy won may seem like a good idea on the surface, but it's better to admit it was too close and call it a draw than to pretend one fighter won when its arguable depending on how you want to look at it. This is going to make about as much difference as having monitors. Both are slight improvements that dont fix the biggest problems in the sport. Wait and see.

Haulport site profile image  

7/12/11 11:24 PM by Haulport is going to cause more bad split decisions...