UFC Scoring: Get The Goods On The 10-Point Must System & More

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How is the UFC scoring measured in fights?

If a UFC fight doesn’t end with a knock-out, choke out, or tap out, the outcome is decided by the judge’s scorecards. Unless, of course, it’s stopped by Doctor stoppage. But how UFC fights are scored once they go to a decision can seem mysterious.

In this article, we’ll explain how judges score UFC fights. And we’ll look at everything related to the 10-point must system you need to know.

How Is Scoring Done in UFC?

UFC fights are scored following ten-point scoring criteria.  Three judges watch the fights and individually score each round. Judges award 10 points to the winner of a round, while the losing fighter will receive 9 or less dependent on how lopsided the performance. The more decisive the win, the fewer points are awarded to the losing fighter.

What’s a 10-10 round?

This is an extremely rare occurrence and is used when neither fighter deserves to win. This 10-10 score indicates that the round has been extremely boring, with almost no engagements and very few strikes exchanged between the fighters. 

What’s a 10-9 round?

This is a very common result in a bout and occurs when one fighter edges out his opponent by a narrow difference. This is the most common score in a UFC round and even octagon control can make the difference.

What’s a 10-8 round?

Indicates that there is clear winner of the round. This doesn’t mean the other fighter has been totally destroyed, but it definitely shows that one fighter had a clear edge.

A fighter who hurts his opponent in a round can often expect the judges to score it as a 10-8 round in his favor. 

What’s a 10-7 round?

This happens when a much stronger fighter totally dominates their opponent. This is a very rare score in UFC and only occurs when a fighter is totally outclassed. The dominant fighter will typically have spent the round in a dominant position, with the opponent barely able to survive the round.

A 10-7 round could also occur due to a foul resulting in a point deduction. Regardless, professional fighters rarely find themselves so unevenly matched that the judges score a 10 – 7 round.

How often do fights need to go to the score cards?

According to FightMatrix.com, the heavier the weight class of the fighters, the less the need for judges to decide fights. Heavy weight fights typically end in either a knock out or a submission. As we move down in weight classes, larger fighters have the brute strength to cause knockouts and technical knockouts

Heavyweight fights end in a knockout just under 50% and a submission just over 22% of the time. Only 26% of fights go to decision.

Judges determine the outcome of 47% of Welterweight fights, with 32% ending in knockout and 19% ending in submission. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the judge’s scorecards determine the outcome of under 57% of flyweight fights, under 20% of fights ending in submission, and 23% ending in knockout. 

What are Possible Judges’ Decisions in a UFC Fight?

As the name suggests, a Unanimous decision means all judges have come to the same conclusion at the end of the fight and all agree on the same winner. You can see some examples of the most decisive unanimous decisions in UFC below:

Majority Decision

A majority decision is defined by two of the three judges scoring one fighter as the winner while the third judge determines it as a draw.

A classic example of this outcome would be the second Diaz vs McGregor fight, which took place at UFC 202. The fight concluded with Diaz raining punches on McGregor, but the Irishman’s strong performance in the earlier rounds resulted in two judges scoring it for McGregor. The third judge scored it as a draw for Diaz’s strong showing at the end.

Split Decision

If two of the three judges score a win for the same fighter while the third judge scores it for the opponent, it is called a Split Decision.

A famous example of a split decision would be the championship fight between Lawler vs Condit fight at UFC 195. Both fighters gave an impressive performance, but ultimately, the victory went to Robbie Lawler.

Technical Decision

These are very uncommon in the UFC and occur when one of the combatants is injured by an accidental illegal strike and is unable to keep fighting. In these rare situations, the judges may call the fight a technical decision and determine the winner based on points up until that moment.

This can lead to controversy, as was the case in a bout between Martin Buday and Chris Barnett at UFC Vegas 51. After an illegal (and accidental) elbow strike by Buday, Barnett could not continue, and the scorecards awarded the fight to Buday.

Technical Draw

Similar to a technical decision, a technical draw occurs when a fight is forced to end prematurely due to an accidental illegal strike rendering one fighter unable to continue.

The difference between a technical decision and a technical draw, though, is that in the technical draw, neither fighter is judged to be ahead on the score cards, and so judges call it a draw.

Unanimous Draw

What happens when all judges score a fight as a draw? This is called a unanimous draw and has only ever happened once in UFC history.

A unanimous draw is when all judges score the fight as a draw. As you can imagine, this is extremely rare and has only happened once in UFC history in a fight between Chris Gutierrez and Cody Durden in 2020.

Majority Draw

Imagine a fight where two judges score it as a draw and the third judge scores it as a win for one of the fighters.

What do we call that?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we call that a majority draw. A classic example of this is the Figueiredo vs Moreno title fight at UFC 256.

The scorecards of the fight read 48-46, 47-47, 47-47. It’s worth noting that a draw in a title fight results in the current champion maintaining his belt.

Split Draw

UFC Fight Night Island 4 in October 2020 is a rare example of a split draw in UFC.

Australian fighter Joshua Culibao faced off with Canadian Charles Jourdain went the distance in the fight, and ultimately the three-man judging panel scored it 30-27 Jourdain, 29-28 Culibao, 28-28 draw.

And that is the living definition of a Split Draw: a fight where two judges score the fight to opposite fighters while the third judge scores it as a draw.

As you can see in all of these examples, the total points of each fighter aren’t the same. However, they are still considered draws based on the rounds, not the points.

How do UFC fighters earn points?

As judges watch the fight, they carefully score fighters each round. Points win rounds, rounds win fights. Points alone don’t necessarily win fights. And when a fight is seen as a draw, the amount of accumulated points has no impact on swaying the fight to either fighter. 

As we have shared at the beginning of our article, UFC judges use a 10 -point scoring system. But how do fighters earn points?

The basis of points in UFC comes down to:

  • Striking (including elbows, knees, punches, kicks),
  • Grappling (including successful takedowns and wrestling),
  • Aggression (essentially pressure on the opponent),
  • And control of the octagon (control time of the ring, dictating where the fight will take place in the ring).

Judges are particularly focused on the quality and success of effective strikes rather than the quantity and volume of strikes – particularly if they are no impact.

While legal strikes and legal blows can help a fighter earn points, illegal strikes and other illegal actions can result in a point deduction or even a disqualification. Eye gouging and throat strikes are examples of this. 

Who are UFC Judges?

Let’s start by saying who UFC Judges are not. Judges are not paid employees of UFC. They are appointed by Athletic Commissions and work independently of UFC.

This serves to protect the integrity of the fight and ensure that fights are judged based solely on the performance of fighters and not on the possible agenda of the UFC to promote popular fighters.

The career pathway to becoming a judge at a UFC fight is not a highly publicized one. But some of the steps include having a background in MMA, successfully completing refereeing and judging courses, and earning a judging license.

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) gives info about the process of becoming a qualified MMA judge on their website here. But don’t expect it to be a quick and easy path.

UFC Scoring In Conclusion

UFC has strict guidelines to determine the winners of a fight. Whether a three-round fight with two-minute rounds or a five-round fight with five-minute rounds, judges ensure the results are fair and accurate.

In this article, we’ve covered the fundamentals you need to know to enjoy and understand the scoring of UFC fights for those occasions when a fight doesn’t end in a knockout, tap out, or choke out. 

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