MMA Scoring: Half-Points Are Not the Answer

Posted: June 17, 2011 in MMA
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


A shameless, pointless Futurama reference

In preparing a much longer post on a critique of mixed-martial arts (“MMA”) judging and the rules that govern it, I decided to break out a section from that post. It’s long enough on it’s own to justify it’s own post.

There’s been a lot of discussion on creating a half-point system scoring system. MMA scoring is currently governed by the 10-point must system from boxing. The winner of the round gets a score of 10, and the loser gets either a 9, 8, or 7, depending on the level of domination. In a round that is considered even, both fighters are deemed “winners,” so the score can be 10-10. A 10-10 round is highly disfavored, with the New Jersey Mixed Martial Arts Unified Rules of Conduct expressly referring to it as “rare.”

The proposal on the table to replace that system is to allow fractional scores. Thus, rounds can be scored as 10-9.5, 10-9, 10-8.5, etc. This won’t will solve anything.

Changing Baseline, Same Result


These go to eleven.

If judges are permitted to award half-points, they’ll adjust the way they score rounds, and the decisions will go much the same way. For example, in the fight between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto “the Dragon” Machida, the scores were 10-9, 10-9, 9-10 in favor of Rampage. The first two rounds were lackluster, but the third round had a single punch that caught Rampage and hurt him. Rampage recovered in about the time you’d expect, which is why no one gave Machida a 10-8 round.

What if we had half-points? The argument goes that Rampage would have earned only a draw with a 10-9.5, 10-9.5, 9-10 score card. However, if half-points were allowed, and only a single shot resulted in Rampage getting hurt, who’s to say that the judges wouldn’t have scored it 10-9.5, 10-9.5, 9.5-10, giving Machida round 3 by only a half-point, and Rampage the win by a half-point? An equally likely occurrence would be to give Rampage a 10-9 round in one of those two earlier rounds based on his clearly more aggressive style, also resulting in a half-point win for Rampage.

That’s my … well, “point.” If we go to a half-point scale, the result will usually be the same with the difference in scores being .5 instead of 1. All you’ll change is the baseline for scoring, so as a result, all you’ll change is the difference between the scores. You won’t see any more 10-8 or 10-7 rounds because 10-9 will be redefined as the butt-kicking 10-8 used to be. This argument breaks down when you have rounds scored 10-8 and 10-7, but that doesn’t happen nearly as often, and it’s certainly a rare event for a fighter to lose a decision after having been awarded one of those lopsided scores in one of the rounds. Edgar-Maynard 2 is the only fight I can name where a .5 system could have realistically changed the outcome, but so would my suggestion.

What Instead?

A more sensible rule is to not be so discouraged to score rounds 10-10. My understanding is that it’s frowned upon, and the fact that subsection (b) of the NJ Rules refers to it as “rare” suggests that’s true. If Rampage-Machida had been scored even for either round 1 or 2, we would have gotten a draw. There’s a very strong argument that both of those rounds were even, but the judges felt pressure not to score them as such. Allowing them to score even rounds as actually even would give the expected result without changing the way judges view the other scores. Under that system, Rampage might have actually lost. This would satisfy those that said, “Yeah, he probably won the first two rounds, but really lost round 3; not enough for a 10-8, but enough to say he lost the fight on the whole.”

Actually scoring a round that’s even with an even 10-10 score more accurately describes the fight. While it might result in more draws, it’s at least a real and appropriate change rather than an illusory one.

Great. Now when I finish that long post, I can lazily insert all of this information using a single link to this article.


The internet was created to show pictures of cats.

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on Twitter @Rampage4Real
Follow Lyoto “the Dragon” Machida on Twitter @lyotomachidafw

  1. […] but the UFC doesn’t do it (outside of TUF) and should start. Combined with my belief that the athletic commissions shouldn’t discourage rounds from being scored 10-10 when they’re actually even rounds, I think that would improve the […]

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