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A look at different UFC scoring options

A Look At Different Scoring Options – UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Saint Preux

By: Dan Velten

approvedathletics@gmail.com

Before tonight’s column, which is part two on different scoring options, I’d like to mention a new weekly column I will be writing called, Reclaiming the Lapsed UFC Fan. Over the past five years, I have been noticing a trend. There seems to be a declining interest in Mixed Martial Arts, specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship. A lot of fight fans are no longer interested in MMA, and I would like to examine why. As I am sure many of you have also experienced, fewer friends come over for Pay Per View events, even less bother to turn on Fox every weekend, and far fewer buy tickets. In 2010, my living room was filled every PPV Saturday with sometimes 20-25 friends.   Now, it is a struggle to get more than one single buddy to come over. Certainly there are many factors, the primary one being that lives change, but I think there is much more to it than that, because theoretically, I should see or hear about younger fans emerging to take their place, and I just do not.

Over the course of this column, I will investigate different reasons that the fans from five to ten years ago are waning, and why it does not seem like UFC is making many new ones.   Maybe I will discover I am incorrect.  

In a parallel universe back in 2001, the then World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) bought out their main competition World Championship Wrestling. One thing that really interested me after the buy-out was how WWE would capture the WCW audience. Seemingly, WW(F)E could double their audience over night. However, as history has shown us, WW(F)E did not do a very good job of capitalizing on this, and a huge chunk of the professional wrestling audience instead vanished. The same thing seems to be happening in the UFC (although they largely bought out their competition a long time ago). UFC is losing the older fans. Sure, most business markers show an increase in profitability, but I am not convinced that this means there are more fans now than in 2010, and I am not certain that their business can continue to grow unless some changes can be implemented.

My new weekly column, Reclaiming the Lapsed UFC Fan, will examine all of the aspects that have led to the UFC losing fans. Part of the reason I am looking at the different scoring options is because an improved scoring system would make for a better sport, and thus a better environment to keep current fans, and possibly bring back the lapsed ones. So, on with tonight’s column…

My quest to expose the current judging system as timeworn and in need of an overhaul continues tonight in Nashville at UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Saint Preux. I would like to continue writing these columns for at least 10 shows to really get a grasp of whether or not changing the scoring would make a difference.   This is only show two of 10, and last week’s show did not have any robberies due to judging, though some would argue that Little Nog beat Shogun. I do not think Little Nog’s ribs would agree.

Studies like this have been done before, looking back at old fights, but this will be real time scoring.   I will use the same three options as I did at UFC 190 which were my version of the current “10-Point Must” I call “10-Point Open,” “Weighted Rounds,” and “Pride.”

I will only score the main card bouts and only note the scores that go to a decision.

10-Point Must (currently used in MMA) – The round winner receives 10 points and the round loser receives 9 or fewer, supposedly based on the differential of the damage and other advantages.

10-Point Open– This is the same as above, but more of the points will be used, including each fighter potentially receiving 10 points in an even round. It could be determined as follows:

10-10 – No clear round winner

10-9 – Winner barely eked out the round

10-8 – Winner clearly won the round

10-7 – Winner significantly won the round

10-6 – Winner did tremendous damage and dominated the round

10-5 – Winner dominated entire round and nearly finished the fight

Weighted Round Scoring – The first round would be worth 1 point, the second would be worth 2, and the third would be worth 3 points. At the end of the round, the judge simply needs to pick the winner and not worry about the damage differential.

“Pride” Scoring – This would simply be picking the fight as a whole. At the end of the fight, the judge decides who won.

Tonight I’ll give a little bit more explanation of my scorecard.

FLYWEIGHT:   Geane Herrera vs. Ray Borg

OFFICIAL RESULT: 30-27 by unanimous decision, Ray Borg

Open Scoring:

Round 1) 10-8 Borg, he dominated with a lot of submission attempts but did not do enough damage to warrant the 10-7

Round 2) 10-8 Borg, by my own description, if a fighter clearly won the round, he gets the 2-point differential

Round 3) 10-8 Borg, because he clearly won the round

RESULT: 30-24 Borg

Weighted:

Rd 1) Borg, 1 point Rd 2) Borg, 2 points Rd 3) Borg, 3 points

RESULT: 6 – 0 Borg

Pride: Borg (This is by far the best method)

Analysis: This match showcased one of the primary flaws with the “10-Point Must” system. Ray Borg solidly owned every round, with only a small blip in the third, and not a single judge gave Borg a single 10-8 round.   If being on top, throwing punches, going for submissions, taking no damage, and defending excellently only yields you a one-point edge, why bother with the numbers at all? The sport could simply use a round winner system, and use monetary fines instead of taking penalty points. If it cost a fighter five thousand bucks per eye gouge, or low blow, there would without a doubt be fewer. Yes, in the end the right guy won the decision, but it seems obvious that judges are only using punching and kicking damage to levy a round differential.   If the full criteria including aggression, takedowns, and Octagon control were considered fully, the scores would be different and the points would matter.

HEAVYWEIGHT: Jared Rosholt vs. Tim Johnson

OFFICIAL RESULT: All three judges score it 29-28 for Jared Rosholt

Open Scoring:

Round 1) 10-9 Rosholt for the take down and ground and pound but not a lot of damage.

Round 2) 10-8 Rosholt for the near submission finish. Johnson must have some flexible shoulders, or no longer have a rotator cuff.

Round 3) 10-9 Johnson for the barrage at the end, but it didn’t look like Rosholt was close to going down

RESULT: 29-27 Rosholt

Weighted:

Rd 1) Rosholt, 1 point Rd 2) Rosholt, 2 points Rd 3) Johnson

RESULT: 3 – 3 Draw

Pride: Draw

Analysis: As surprising as it was that this fight went the distance; the official score was not.   The only real significant damage came at the end of the third, which is why the “Weighted” rounds seem to make sense.   At the end of the fight, who would you have rather been? Sure, Rosholt controlled more of the action, but there was little that amounted to much, and he got his head dinged pretty hard in the final thirty seconds. One could make a case for either. Draws would not be so frowned upon if they were more frequent.

LIGHTWEIGHT: Beneil Dariush vs. Michael Johnson

OFFICIAL RESULT: 29-28 Dariush, 29-28 Johnson, and 29-28 Dariush

Open Scoring:

Round 1) 10-9 Johnson because he connected a few times, but not much

Round 2) 10-10 Both guys super fast just getting out of the way of any significant damage and too close to call, but I’ll bet the judges give that round to Johnson

Round 3) 10-10 again too close to call

RESULT: 30-29 Johnson

Weighted:

Rd 1) Johnson, 1 point Rd 2) Dariush, 2 points Rd 3) Johnson, 3 points

RESULT: 4-2 Johnson

Pride: Johnson or Draw

Analysis:

This fight should be a draw. Why did we have to pick a winner here? These too were clearly evenly matched, and neither man gained any significant dominance over the other. I was impressed by the speed of Dariush and I guess the judges scored his jabs because he was landing it a lot. The crowd is booing the decision, but again, this highlights the imperfections of the system. All three rounds could have gone either way, so why not just make those “either way” rounds even?

FINAL THOUGHTS: One of the shortcomings I am already realizing with my experiment, is that because the fighters do not know they are being scored in these different methods, it is not impacting how they fight.   I also need to clarify some of the wording of my “Open” scoring criteria.   For example, I gave Borg 3 rounds of 10-8, and really, the last round should have been a 10-9 because the differential was not the same as the first two rounds, but given my wording, it had to be a 10-8. The purpose of the “Open” method was to use more of the 10 points, but even in me, the traditional “10-Point Must” system is so engrained I find it difficult to dip to the lower numbers. Before the next column, I will work on the phrasing of my “Open” point criteria.

Other Show Notes:

Matt Brown was interviewed backstage and he said he is looking forward to fighting Kelvin Gastelum and understands why Carlos Condit got the nod ahead of him for the title shot, but looks forward to getting a chance to fight the winner. He believes he should be next in line after he beats Gastelum, which I believe will be the case.

Matt Hughes was also at the show and looked to be a lot lighter than his competition weight.

Robbie Lawler was supposedly here but I never saw him.

Clint Hester was in the front row.

Ray Borg’s face was pretty messed up and Geane Herrera’s was not. There needs to be more points scored for damage from the bottom.

The upper bowl was completely empty. The Bridgestone Arena was at maybe 60% capacity.

All the Tennessee guys were way over, especially Scott Holtzman who is from Knoxville, the new home of Kane. I assume that is the reason he got such a big pop.

Smilin’ Sam had a smiley face cut into the hair on the back of his head. I think the stoppage was a little early, but I don’t think the result would have changed.

The Reebok uniforms look like pajamas, but at least I do not have to see guys wearing those ridiculous Bony Acai hats holding a can of Monster anymore. The new uniforms are seriously awful. My guess is Reebok did not focus group test the new look because I have not heard one person say they like them. I am a big fan of getting rid of the NASCAR style shorts, and banners as I thought it was distracting, but then let us also get rid of the ads along the cage side and the mat. I also think we should limit the sponsorship of god as he seems to only sponsor the winners, which makes the sport feel fixed.

If you have any comments about the article or anything in general, please feel free to contact me at approvedathletics@gmail.com