Must 10 Go? | UMMA Magazine / Feature 2010



MMA judging has been under fire for quite some time.

And, given the fact that anyone with a pair of lips has an opinion about what is wrong, it doesn't look as though it will subside in the near future. However, solely blaming the judges for "controversial decisions" is a totally unproductive strategy for improving the scoring.

Judging combat sports, including MMA, is not an exact science! And, while there is nothing wrong with making mistakes, there is certainly something wrong with not trying to correct them.

One of the keys to minimizing questionable decisions is the use of a scoring system with a gradient of options that accurately reflects the action that occurs. In my opinion, Mixed Martial Arts Specific Scoring (MMAS) scoring accomplishes that.


In the March and April issues of this magazine, we published the Mixed Martial Arts Specific Scoring (pronounced MASS) that Nelson 'Doc' Hamilton and Cory Schafer submitted to the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) for their review.

The MMAS scoring system comprises four distinct changes to the 10-Point Must system presently in use. For those who have not read the entire text, a brief summary of the MMAS follows. To thoroughly understand the scoring system, we strongly suggest that the reader consult the full MMAS text posted at


All rounds are scored as follows :
a) 10-10 = Even Round
b) 10-9.5 = Marginal Advantage
c) 10-9.0 = Clear Advantage
d) 10-8.5 = Dominant Advantage
e) 10-8.0 = Overwhelming Advantage

Although scores of 10-7.5 and 10-7 are theoretically possible, they are improbable. A fight so one-sided would ordinarily dictate a referee's stoppage by TKO.


Scores are based on the following criteria, listed in descending order of importance :
1. Damage inflicted
2. Effective striking and/or effective grappling
3. Cage (Octagon) control


When the referee determines that a near submission is in effect, he will signal this to the judges by raising his arm overhead until there is a tap out or until the submission is terminated. When scoring, judges should consider a near submission as effective grappling, and quite possibly, damage inflicted.


For the purpose of resolving draws, in addition to the three judges scoring each bout, there is a designated fourth judge, the table judge. Table judges do not score th bout. Their sole responsibility is to tabulate all technical scores. Technical score totals are used to resolve all draws.


To more clearly illustrate how MMAS scoring works and why it is considered superior to the presently employed TPM system, I have used it to re-score some of the more "controversial decisions" rendered in recent bouts.

Be advised, re-scoring the following fights in no way immplies that the original decisions were incorrect and in no way questions the abilities of the judges who scored the contests. The revisions simply demonstrate the decision possibilities if MMAS was in effect at the time of the original fight.

It is important for the reader to understand that, all rounds originally scored unanimous by the judges scoring the fight are scored the same by me. The only difference is that in utilizing the MMAS to score each round, the numerical values change, illustrating the qualitative difference in the score, and ultimately demonstrating how the outcome of the fight is affected. Where the judges did not score a round unanimously, I have made a judgment-call in determining the winner of that round.

NO. 1 - Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera | UFC 105 | Nov. 14, 2009

For all those who question why a new scoring system is needed, I suggest that you watch this fight. It demonstrates perfectly the obvious failing of the current system; judges are forced to reward fighters equally for clearly unequal effors, actions and results.

Any round that falls between a "marginal advantage in cage control" to anything short of "overwhelming dominance" is rewarded with the exact same score, 10-9. All too often this results in total-bout scoring that does not accurately reflect the true nature of the action.

The official final score was a unanimous 29-28 decision for Couture. Hoever, with the action extremely close in rounds one and three, the decision was razor-thin.

Round 1: The entire round was fought in stand-up with neither fighter landing any meaningful strikes. Couture controlled the clinch throughout the round.
Official Score: Couture 10, Vera 9
MMAS Score: A marginal win based on cage control: Couture 10, Vera 9.5.
Round 2: Vera hurt Couture with a knee to the body; Couture clutched his ribs and fell to the ground in obvious pain. Vera took top position but was unable to punish. Vera's damage to Couture from an effective strike dominated the scoring in the round.
Official Score: Vera 10, Couture 9.
MMAS Score: Vera 10, Couture 8.5
Round 3: Couture dominated the clinch, with neither fighter striking effectively; once again, Couture marginally won the round.
Official Score: Couture 10, Vera 9
MMAS Score: Couture 10, Vera 9.5
MMAS Final Score: Vera 29, Couture 28.5

A second scenario arises if Round 2 is scored 10-9 Vera, as the final bout score would be a draw at 29-29. To resolve the draw in the MMAS system, we consult the table judge's score for technical advantage.

In so doing, we find that, although each fighter scored a takedown and was awarded two points, Vera also scored four points for his guard pass to the full mount. Based on a technical merit advantage of six to two, Vera would be declared the winner by technical superiority.

NO. 2 - Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill | UFC 75 | Sept. 8, 2007

The official final score was a split decision in favor of Bisping. Two judges scored 29-28 for Bisping; the third judge scored 30-27 Hamill.

Round 1: Hamill dominated the round by pressing the action and outstriking Bisping, opening cuts under both of his eyes. Hamill had one takedonw but no meaningful ground and pound. Bisping was ineffective in his striking and had no takedowns.
Official Score: Hamill 10, Bisping 9
MMAS Score: Hamill 10, Bisping 8.5
Round 2: Hamill continued to stalk Bisping, forcing him into the role of a counter puncher. Bisping outstruck Hamill 16 to 12 with neither fighter landing any power punches. Hamill scored two takedowns into the guard with minimal ground and pound.
Official Score: Bisping 10, Hamill 9
MMAS Score: Bisping marginally wins the round 10-9.5
Round 3: Bisping is the busier fighter and outstrikes Hamill 14 to 9 with neither fighter landing any power punches. Hamill scored two takedowns; there is no ground and pound.
Official Score and MMAS Score: Bisping clearly wins the round 10-9.
MMAS Final Score: 28.5 for each fighter, a draw.

In the MMAS scoring system, draws are resolved by consulting the table judge's score of technical advantage. Accordingly, Hamill scored eight points for his tour takedowns. Bisping had no takedowns or guard passes. Based on the technical advantage score, Matt Hamill wins a technical superiority decision.

NO. 3 - Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin | UFC 59 | April 15, 2006

This official final score was a split decision win for Ortiz. One judge scored 29-28 for Griffin; the other two scored 29-27 and 30-27 for Ortiz.

Round 1: Ortiz dominated the round by scoring two takedowns and demonstrating an effective ground and pound by cutting Griffin. However, Griffin remained competitive throughout the round.
Official Score: Ortiz 10, Griffin 9
MMAS Score: Ortiz 10, Griffin 8.5
Round 2: The entire round was fought while standing with neither fighter scoring any meaningful strikes. Griffin was the busier fighter.
Official Score: Griffin 10, Ortiz 9
MMAS Score: Based on a marginal advantage in strikes landed, Griffin 10, Ortiz 9.5.
Round 3: This was another very close round. Ortiz scored one takedown but did not score any meaningful ground and pound. Standup was fairly even with a marginal advantage to Ortiz.
Official Score: Ortiz 10, Griffin 9
MMAS Score: Ortiz 10, Griffin 9.5
MMAS Final Score: Ortiz 29.5, Griffin 28

Obviously, if Round 2 were scored 10-9 for Griffin, the resulting final score would be 29-28 for Ortiz.

* Adopt a viable and transparent scoring system specifically designed for MMA;
* State athletic commissions must fulfill their obligation to provide judges with ongoing, mandatory training and testing.

In the next issue, Hamilton will score the folowing bouts using the MMAS scoring system:
* Quinton Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin (UFC 86)
* Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida (Ultimate Fight Night)
* Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Rua (UFC 104)
* Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin (UFC 106)