In the wild world of mixed martial arts, there are few things more debated than the scoring system adopted by the UFC and the rest of the MMA pool.
While a vicious knockout or a crafty submission hardly leave any room for debate, a close decision is unlikely to earn the approval of all fans in the stands and those watching at home.
Mixed martial arts is a sport of many facets (the hint lies is in the word “mixed”). Therefore, fans and observers might find different ways to interpret a fight. Some would score it in favor of the fighter who landed more strikers, while others would give the nod to his opponent who completed more takedowns.
So how are UFC fights scored? And what are the possible outcomes at the end of every round?
Let’s find out.
UFC Decision Scoring
When a UFC bout goes the distance with neither fighter able to finish his opponent, we revert to the judges to select a winner.
The three Octagon-side judges will render their scorecards at the end of the fight. They will select a winner via a unanimous, majority or split decision. But on some occasions, the outcome would result in a draw, either because the judges view it as such (unanimous or majority), or can’t agree on a winner (split).
UFC Scoring System
According the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, each UFC round is scored separately with the winner gaining 10 points and the loser 9 or less (8 or even 7).
If the fight goes until the final bell, each of the three judges will hand his scorecard after culminating the scores of each round.
But what are the factors that determine the winner of each bout?
How to Score a UFC Fight
According to the Unified Rules of MMA, the judges score every round based on the three following factors as placed in the order below.
- Effective striking and grappling
- Effective aggression
- Ring/Cage control
UFC Scoring Criteria
As we explained above, the most important criteria in scoring a UFC fight is effective striking and grappling. This includes significant strikes, takedowns, reverses, submission attempts and position advancements. These elements should all be counted, but it’s up to the judge to make the calculation he sees fitting.
But if the judges can’t separate the two fighters based on effective striking and grappling, they will revert to the second criteria and reward the competitor who displayed more effective aggression, AKA, the fighter who chased off his opponent and showed more willingness and determination in his attempts to finish the fight.
Finally, if the two fighters are equal in terms of effective striking, grappling and aggression, the judges would turn to Octagon control and give the nod to the fighter who cemented his authority at the center of the cage and pushed his opponent to the fences.
After considering all the above, the judge will score a round. So what are the possible outcomes?
UFC Scoring 10-10 Round
On extremely rare occasions, judges would score a UFC round 10-10 if they fail to pick a winner. However, the judges are encouraged to pick a winner even by the slightest of margins.
As we explained above, the rulebook mentions three criteria that should be sufficient to tip the scale in favor of one fighter or another. But if they all can’t do the trick, scoring the round 10-10 would be the undesirable, yet inevitable solution.
UFC Scoring 10-9 Round
A 10-9 round is the most common score in most UFC fights. This simple score offers a clear winner and loser, even when the gap is relatively small.
UFC Scoring 10-8 Round
A 10-8 round suggests a dominant round in favor of one fighter at the expense of his opponent. This score is often seen at the end of a beatdown or when a competitor spends the vast majority of the round controlling his opponent either on the ground of in striking positions.
UFC Scoring 10-7 Round
The scarcely-seen 10-7 round is a rare gem in the UFC and mixed martial arts in general. It usually occurs when a fighter demolishes his opponent and knocks him down on multiple occasions. This score might suggest that the fight could (or perhaps, should) have been stopped by the referee.
Can the UFC Overturn a Decision?
The simple answer is no. The UFC cannot overturn a decision, not even when the fans call for the heads of incompetent judges following a “robbery”.
Decisions can only be overturned by the committee in case foul play was discovered after the bout, with failed drug tests being the most common example. If the infringement is committed by the winner, the fight will likely be ruled as a no-contest.