On many occasions I have expressed my hatred for the ten-point must system in MMA. I believe the ten-point must system is an overly simplistic method of scoring fights, and one that often results in the worse fighter after three rounds being correctly labeled the “winner.”
At UFC 163, Phil Davis edged out a 29-28 decision over Lyoto Machida on all three scorecards. This was a shock to me – I thought that Machida would win for sure as the fight took place in Rio de Janeiro. I suppose the good news about the decision is perhaps the judges aren’t as biased towards the Brazilian fighters as I thought.
In my humble opinion, when the fight is looked at in its entirety, Machida was the better performer. He landed a greater quantity of significant strikes and his strikes were more effective. While most of Davis’s strikes were to the body and legs, a good portion of Machida’s strikes were clean shots to the head. Sure, Davis landed two takedowns, but did very little with either of them.
As encouraging as it is to see the judges score a competitive fight against the Brazilian, it’s equally discouraging to think of their presumed rationale. I don’t know this for sure, but I would bet that two of the judges scored the first two rounds for Davis simply because of the takedowns he landed late in each round. In the first round in particular, Davis’s takedown led to no offense on the ground at all. As far as I’m concerned, the act of landing a takedown matters much less than what a fighter does after the takedown.
What’s even more discouraging is that one judge scored round three for Davis (and round one for Machida). Why?!? What did Davis do to deserve that round? I had assumed when Bruce Buffer announced the decision that all three judges scored the first two rounds for Davis. According to Fight Metric, Davis landed a grand total of five significant strikes in that round, compared to ten for Machida.
It’s clear that MMA judges are still bad, but perhaps we can at least look at the system they’re using. The current system effectively makes each round its own contest – whoever wins two out of three, or three out of five, wins the fight. I prefer the idea of simply scoring the fight as an entirety, but there are issues with that method as well – not least of which is the idea that we could allow these judges to properly evaluate 15 or 25 minutes of fighting in one chunk.
With that in mind, here is my proposal. Fights can still be scored round-by-round, but each fighter should receive a score between 0 and 10 based on how much offense he generates in the round. For a fight like Davis vs. Machida, the rounds could be scored something like 3-3 in the first, 3-3 in the second, and 3-1 Machida in the third. Neither fighter produced a lot of offense in any round, but Machida was clearly better in the final five minutes.
This allows for a lot more nuance in the way rounds are scored. Right now, there’s no practical difference between a fighter winning a very close round and a fighter clearly winning a round. It’s scored 10-9 either way. With my proposal, the very close round could be scored 5-4 while the clear round could be scored 7-3.
This way, it’s possible for a fighter to lose the first two rounds but still win a decision with a monster performance in the third round. This should both make the third round more exciting and be an incentive for the fighter who won the first two rounds to NOT coast to the finish.
My idea is still rough around the edges, but I don’t see any problems with it that don’t currently exist in the ten-point must system. Scoring rounds on a 0-10 scale for each fighter is much more conducive to the nuances of MMA than simply scoring it 10-9 regardless of how close the round actually was.