Fightweets: Fix the broken scoring system, already

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

Yeah, so, some stuff happened last Saturday night in Las Vegas that you may have heard about.

UFC 167 -- or, more specifically, everything that happened once the final horn sounded on the welterweight title main event between Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks -- was the topic of conversation for days on end like few items in recent memory.

And while all the various melodramas in the fight's aftermath have been well-documented, one thing still gnaws at me a week later: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks, for me, highlighted the absurdity of the way the 10-point must system is utilized. So let me hijack a reader's question to get the ball rolling on this week's Fightweets.

Judging and scoring

@RuckerYeah: So it is judging or scoring that's the problem?

Both. But since about a billion words have been written on judging since Saturday night, let's focus on scoring.

The 10-point must system as it is currently applied in MMA, quite simply, is failing the sport.

Here's the standard line you've heard about the GSP-Hendricks decision over the past week: The judges got it wrong in giving St-Pierre the nod. But the fight was close, and wasn't a robbery.

Great. Now, how many times have we said something similar over the past couple years? We've become so used to the judges getting it wrong that we collectively shrug our shoulders and say "hey, it least it wasn't a Brinks job," pat ourselves on the back for not joining the masses who call a decision a robbery, and then shuffle along on to next month's bad decision.

In a just MMA world, GSP-Hendricks would serve as a catalyst for rethinking how fights are scored. Whether a decision is an outright robbery is irrelevant. The fact that big fights scores so often come up wrong, regardless of the degree of inaccuracy, is what matters.

The 10-point must system works in boxing partially because there's a larger sample size of rounds to go on, but also because it has the built-in mechanism of an automatic point deduction for a knockdown which doesn't end the fight. MMA has no such automatic scoring mechanism to score a near-fight-ending sequence.

So, too often, you end up with fight scoring like the recent Bellator bout between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez, which, like GSP-Hendricks was a 48-47 split decision.

In round two, Alvarez edged Chandler on all three scorecards, basically stealing the round with a strong flurry at the finish. Round 4, Chandler pummeled Alvarez with his ground-and-pound and inflicted the most damage either fighter delivered over the course of a five-round fight. Yet both rounds go into the books 10-9 (While there was nothing as extreme as Chandler-Alvarez round four in GSP-Hendricks, Hendricks won rounds two and four in more dominant fashion than St-Pierre took one and three).

A coin flip of a round, in a coin flip of a fight, goes in the books no different than a blowout round. Why are we okay with this?

The most maddening aspect of this is that out of all the scoring, judging and officiating woes that plague the sport, this is one of the easiest to fix.

A reader, Todd Alexander of Chicago, compiled scoring research on the past 50 UFC cards, dating back to the May 15, 2012 UFC on Fuel event in Fairfax, Virginia, and concluding with UFC 167. Alexander only looked at fights which went the distance, since, depending on the state, scorecards for finished fights are often incomplete. All told, the sample represents 267 fights with three judges for a total of 2,493 scores (252 three-round fights, 15 five-round fights, 831 total rounds).

Points of note:

*A staggering 97.27% of the 2,493 scores were 10-9, and that includes the rare point deduction rounds of 10-8 or 9-9, which otherwise would have been 10-9. Non-deduction 10-8s were scored 2.41 percent of the time and 10-10 the remaining 0.32 percent.

*Only one round (12/8 Dennis Siver vs. Nam Phan) in the previous 50 events were given 10-8 by all three judges. One round out of 831 rounds scored.

*Aside from Ovince St. Preux vs. Gian Villante, which had a 33-second round judged due to an eye-poke stoppage that all three gave 10-10, there were 5 rounds that one judge gave a 10-10.

In case the key point didn't sink in, let me put this in bold: Judges have a wide range of potential scores available to them, but in 97.27 percent of a sample of nearly 2,500 scores, they scored a round 10-9.

So more then 97 percent of MMA rounds are the same? Really?

Start using 10-8 rounds far more frequently. Start using 10-7 the way we use 10-8 now, maybe even more so. Hell, start scoring more 10-10s, something I'm generally not a huge fan of, if we're going to open up the range of scores (Although, technically, if neither fighter wins the round, shouldn't it be 9-9?). These are the rules that are already on the books, so it wouldn't require a massive bureaucratic overhaul to make it happen.

Alexander noted in an email that in the unified rules, 10-8 scores are for "overwhelmingly dominates" and 10-7 "totally dominates," which seems like two ways of saying the same thing. Alexander suggests changing 10-8 to "clearly controls" and saving "domination" designation for 10-7 scores.

Some propose a half-point scoring system. In that case, maybe Alvarez gets a 10-9.5 score in round two, and maybe Chandler gets a 10-8.5 in round four, in which case you'd end up with a 47.5-47.5 draw, and quite frankly a draw was probably a proper decision in that fight.

I don't care which way you lean on whether to make more liberal use of the current system or whether to use half-points. That seems like a semantic argument. But for the love of God, let's stop calling everything short of one fighter using another as human target practice for five minutes a 10-9 round.

GSP going through the motions?

@kalamity113: Is it me or is GSP going thru the motions like Rashad was earlier this year. He lost the killer instinct. Agree?

Nah, I wouldn't say he's going through the motions. Well, maybe he's gone through the motions with his part in the operation of the big UFC machine -- his workout with Royce Gracie last week seems to be the only time during his recent fight buildups that GSP has seemed to enjoy himself. He certainly appeared to be the only person not entertained by Nick Diaz fight week.

But he's not going through the motions with his fighting. I just think we've set a really high bar for St-Pierre's fight performances. He's been so good, and his fights were so one-sided, for so long, that we had gotten used to GSP's clinical performances.

St-Pierre is in his 30s and he came back from a major knee injury. Look at who he's faced since his return. Carlos Condit, who GSP fought in his return fight, hasn't been finished since Pat Healy submitted him in 2006. And St-Pierre still beat him 49-46, 50-45, 50-45 (though really, the two judges who gave GSP the Condit head-kick round ... ehh, I'm not going to get started again). It isn't like failure to finish Condit is a knock against GSP. Then he pitched a shutout against Diaz.

It wasn't until running into Hendricks that he finally started to look a step slow and a little old. Just like, eight years ago, St-Pierre made Matt Hughes look the same. The only thing you can say against St-Pierre is that time is slowly catching up to him, and it's not like he's the first athlete to run into this problem

2014 fight schedule

(Some guy whose Twitter handle is a dizzying blend of upper and lowercase letters): 54 cards. WTF?

That was my first response, too, when Lorenzo Fertitta said on Thursday the UFC would run 54 events in 2014. And it was the response of most of Twitter. Later, in a video interview with Ariel Helwani, Fertitta said the number would land somewhere in the 40s.

The UFC, for years, has floated the idea that they'll establish their own circuits in other countries. Now that they've got TUF: Canada vs. Australia and TUF: Brazil and TUF: China and TUF: Uranus and so on, it sounds like they're finally putting the wheels in motion.

Let's just hopes the UFC understands that it's going to reach a certain point at which even their most diehard fans can't treat everything as though it's a major event. If these plans pan out, some of these international events will covered here in North America as little different than a weekly Bellator card (Or, more to the point, let's hope my highly intelligent and erudite boss comes to this conclusion).

Welterweight rankings

@Jlloyd100: makes a bit of a mockery of the rankings if it goes from being based on actual results to personal opinion

Jlloyd100 is referring to my decision to rank Hendricks No. 1 over GSP. Um, J, isn't a judges' scorecard an opinion?

Overrated fights?

@Christopher_kit: A great year, but looking back which fight has been the most overrated? I'm thinking Chandler-Alvarez 2

Man ... calling Chandler vs. Alvarez overrated is some tough criticism. We've had an amazing series of fights over the past few months, from Anthony Pettis vs. Ben Henderson to Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson to Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez to Chandler-Alvarez to, yes, GSP vs. Hendricks. And that's not even counting all the early-year stuff we were sure would compete for the Fight of the Year, like Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann and Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice.

I'm not calling any of these fights overrated (I can hear a case being made for Melendez-Sanchez, but it's not Melendez and Sanchez's fault that Joe Rogan screamed "greatest fight ever!!!!!" and set the bar too high). If anything, after all the craziness and negativity of the past week, I think it's actually pretty good to remember that we've been treated to one of the greatest years of in-ring action we've ever had in this sport.

Got a question for a future Fightweets? Go to my Twitter page and leave me a tweet.

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