"Effective striking, grappling, and octagon control." It sounds so authoritative when Mike Goldberg says this during each broadcast. But when you peruse the actual source material you realize it's not that simple. For example, did you know that effective striking is quantified by counting the total strikes? That means a jab from Jake Shields is as valuable as a left hook from Mark Hunt. Did you know that effective defense is supposed to be scored?
I think the 10-point-must system is salvageable, but it desperately needs clarity. I think that there are principles upon which we can nearly all agree when we examine the ideal scoring criteria. I’ll try to present them in a clear way while arguing both their merits, and countering the more obvious objections that are inevitable with any such amendments.
Although the acquisition of capable and qualified judges is always a concern; there are structural deficiencies in the current scoring criteria that contribute to the atmosphere of confusion. Take a moment to review the current judging parameters directly from UFC.com.
The Damage System
10-10 = Even round. Each fighter’s damage inflicted is roughly equal. If you think a round could have gone either way – it’s a 10-10. (In other words there’s no such thing as a round that could have gone either way.)
10-9 = Clear winner. The winning fighter clearly inflicted more damage on the opponent than vice-versa.
10-8 = Blowout. The winning fighter inflicted major damage on his opponent while absorbing almost none in return. The fight was close to being stopped for an extended period.
These scores are no less subjective than the current system, but in my opinion, they more concisely reflect the general sentiment of spectators and participants.
Radical Concept #1
Scoring defense is unequivocably insane. There is no other major sport that does it. Imagine basketball players earning points for rebounds. Imagine a baseball team earning a point for a strikeout. I’m not saying that defense has no value, I’m saying that defense is it’s own reward because it negates your opponent’s offense.
Radical Concept #2
Effective offense is damage. Honest questions: What good is the mount if you didn’t get any big shots off, or finish the rear naked choke? What good is it if you’re walking forward while you get lit up? What good is a takedown if you get upkicked? What good is it if you land 10 jabs before getting dropped?
It doesn’t matter who landed more strikes from what position, all that matters is who’s strikes had the most effect. That’s subjective I know, but so is any system that doesn’t involve strike tallies or takedown points. And we certainly don’t want to encourage "little baby leg kicks" with tallies, do we?
Radical Concept #3
What about submissions? Scoring systems are about incentives for desired technique, fighting is no different. We all want to see more knockouts and more submissions. But if you want the average judge to make a call about whether the 17th guillotine attempt of the night was "close", you’re crazy. By rewarding damage, you incentivize ground strikes over ground control, which creates more openings for submissions.
10-7’s are not used. Partially due to the impenetrable fog that is the current system, it is too difficult to differentiate between a 10-8 and a 10-7. A good rule of thumb is this: if you think you deserve more than a 10-8, you probably should have finished the fight. Therefore, I have not included a 10-7 in my criteria.
"Whose face looks worse?" That is a terrible metric for damage because we all know some people show wear more easily than others. Damage is basically whatever is perceived to hurt or incapacitate most: leg kicks, strikes to the head, body shots and even foot stomps.
"Damage" is a politically incorrect word. Fighting is brutal, regardless of the sporting context. It is unavoidable. Educated fans are fascinated by creativity, skill, and athleticism; nevertheless, let’s never lie to ourselves (or the public) about the blunt objectives of unarmed combat.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate any feedback!