There’s a fundamental problem with the sport of mixed martial arts, and that is, if one fighter is not KO’ed, submitted, or injured, a winner must be determined in a different way.  The current UFC standard, and the standard used by every MMA organization as well as every boxing organization in the world, is to have a three judge panel “score” the fight and choose the eventual victor.

In a perfect world, fights would continue until one fighter has declared himself a winner without help. In a perfect world a soccer game would end with one team scoring more goals than the other rather than going to shootout. And in a perfect world no game of chess would end in a stalemate as the skill of one player has to greater than another.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, shocking, I know. So, we are forced to come up with another way, and that other way since the dawn of sanctioned combat sports has been through judging. The UFC uses the “10 Point Must Scoring System” which means…

10 points must be awarded to the winner of the round and 9 points or less must be awarded to the loser, except for a rare even round, which is scored (10-10). –

This is to be judged based on striking, grappling, octagon control, aggressiveness and defense. All of which are generic, unscientific terms which can be interpreted in a variety of ways by each individual judge.

Because of this scoring system, it’s often the case one judge scores a round, or an entire fight, differently than the other two judges. The three judge system is a check and balance, much like we have in our government with the three branches. But, in the case of the UFC, three is not enough.

So here’s where the fix comes in.

If the UFC simply adds a single extra judge to each fight and eliminates the lowest score per round for each fighter, the rulings would become much more accurate.

When a single judge sees a round differently than the other two, it can have a major impact on the eventual outcome of the fight. Using a fourth judge would eliminate outliers. If one judge sees the round differently than the other three, that score would be dropped and would’t have as radical an effect.

For example. A round is scored 10-9, 10-9, 10-9, 9-10 by the four judges. The 9 is dropped for Fighter A and one of the three 9’s are dropped for Fighter B resulting in a 30-28 round in favor of Fighter A.

Adding the fourth judge would also eliminate a problem with the system used by the UFC. The current rules state the winner of the fight will be the fighter who is ahead on the most number of scorecards. Meaning, at least two judges declared the fighter the victor. However, if two cards read 29-28 in favor of fighter A, and the other 30-27 in favor of fighter B it’s hard to reasonably declare either fighter the winner. Fighter A scored 85 points (29+29+27) but won two scorecards while Fighter B scored 86 points (30+28+28) but only won a single scorecard.

Using four judges and eliminating one score would mean the final tally would come down to total points rather than total score cards. A fighter could score a total of 30 points per round which would mean 90 would be the highest possible total in a three round fight. It would make for a few more draws, but one could argue a draw is better than a faulty decision.

To make the system even better, and reduce draws, judges should be encouraged to score more rounds 10-8 or even 10-7. The rules currently allow for 10-7 rounds, but it is incredibly rare unless points are deducted due to fouls.

The final change would be to promote drawn rounds and score them 9-9 rather than 10-10 as the rules currently indicate. 10 should be reserved only for round winners. Many rounds in the UFC are “feel-out” rounds where neither fighter truly imposes his will upon the other, however those rounds are scored equally to the rounds in which he does. Calling for more drawn rounds will differentiate winning rounds further and help award the win to the correct fighter more often.

There’s truly no way to perfect the judging system in a sport that combines so many disciplines and skills, but there are ways to improve it. Adding a fourth judge, eliminating the low score, and promoting 10-8 and below as well as 9-9 rounds would go a long way in fixing the judging problem the UFC currently faces.

Nonetheless, as fighters and the UFC always say, “Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.”

But if we have to, can we at least use a system that scores the fights fairly? Following these few changes would do it, and do it well.


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