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True Ten MMA Scoring System: The Results of the Scoring Experiment

Jones defeats Gustafsson in a very close decision

We are getting close to the biggest UFC event ever to take place.  We are less than 2 days away from Ronda Rousey defending her Women's Bantamweight championship against Holly Holm.  The UFC is now a massive company.  It generates millions of dollars, and is popular almost everywhere.  It has expanded across the globe, and has visited many countries and continents.  Yet, the sport of MMA is still using an archaic scoring system taken from boxing.  Unfortunately, this has resulted in bad decisions with the wrong fighters winning or losing.  A change is over due with the scoring, and it needs to be initiated by Dana White and the UFC or it will never happen.  

Thank you to everyone who has been following my experiment.  I have received quite a bit of feedback via email and twitter (@hendosfoodblog), and most of it was actually useful. 

In this ten part series, I tried to find out if there is a better way to score a fight.  My theory was simple.  Using more of the allotted 10 points will lead to fairer decisions.

I started out with multiple options, but eventually settled on the “True Ten” scoring system, which scores using the exact same criteria, except more of the points may be used.  Here are the possibilities:

10-10 = an even round, where a judge could go either way.  Stop!  Use this score.  We needs judges unafraid to be indecisive.  Make a fighter earn the round.

10-9 = the round where not much damage was done, but one fighter eked it out.  Some called this the 10-9.5 round using a half point system.  Needlessly complicated.

10-8 = the current 10-9, where a fighter obviously won a round.  If it’s less than obvious, do not use this score, go back to a 10-9. 

10-7 = A fighter obviously won, and did some decent damage.  We need to see a lot more of these scores. 

10-6 = the current 10-8 where a fighter dominates the round

10-5 = A dominant round and the fight possibly could have been stopped. 

It’s pretty logical.  Use more 10-10s and we will have fewer bad decisions and more draws, which is fine in my book.  Use more 10-8’s (or 7’s or 6’s) and we will have a more realistic scoring differential.


  • More draws which is a positive because we will have automatic rematches with stories to go with them, and fewer split decisions which no one enjoys (and many do not understand).
  • A more realistic point differential; with so many fights ending 30-27 or 29-28, it’s difficult to understand how the fight went with only a few scoring results possible.
  • Penalty points mean less; which is good because refs would not have to fear that they just snatched the fight from a fighter because he grabbed the cage.  As it stands, one penalty point can cost a fighter a match.
  • It takes some of the pressure off the judges, as they can feel free to give a 10-10 round rather than agonizing over who won the round if it’s incredibly close.
  • It’s no longer a two out of three competition.  Since hardly any judges use 10-8s as it stands, it’s basically a best of three rounds fight.  It still would be, but less so, because a fighter has a real chance of coming back in round three to win if he kept it close in the first two.


  • The percentage of outcomes that changed was statistically insignificant.
  • More math; while simple, still could be too complicated for some judges.
  • It’s still pointlessly predicated on the number ten.  I think the “must” part of the current scoring system and my system is faulty.  Why not just give the round winner points?  The easiest way to do this would be to have a five point round potential.  Then a judge just scores a round 5-0, 4-0, 3-0, etc., which simplifies it.  Heck you could even do it with just three or two points, but I like five. 

By the Numbers…

  • 10 different MMA shows
  • 36 total fights scored using True Ten
  • 28 unanimous decisions
  • 4 split decisions
  • 4 “other” decisions: 1 majority decision, 1 split draw, 1 majority draw, 1 two-round match

Those are the stats I collected, but the only statistics that really matter are the next…

Number of differing outcomes using True Ten scoring:  2**

Percentage of differing outcomes using True Ten:  5.5%

** Both of those two differing outcomes resulted in the match being ruled a draw.

Note on scoring…

One thing that I noticed as I scored all these fights, was how the earlier rounds influenced my judging later.  Often I’d found that because the first round was close but I went with Fighter A, I then tended to find a reason to pick Fighter B in the second round.  That way, I could let the third decide it.  Another common decision I was making was that if Fighter A took the first and second pretty obviously, then if the third was close at all, I’d give it to Fighter B, because of, I don’t know, pity.  So what I’m suggesting is a rotation of judges.  No one judge can judge more than one round of a fight.  I’m sure this would be a logistical nightmare, and if studied, probably would not reveal any significant results, but I know that the earlier rounds effected my later round judging, as much as I tried to prevent it, and this is the only way I can think to make judging completely objective.

Also, why are we limiting ourselves to three judges?  Make it five.  Or let the referee have a vote.  I don’t know why we are limiting the polling size so greatly.  Let the Internet be a vote.  That could get whacky!

The results of this study were less than satisfying, because I had predicted that we would see a statistically significant amount of change.  Unfortunately, nearly every outcome using True Ten was the same as the Ten Point Must, so it would seem that this is an unnecessary scoring change for this moment.  However, beyond merely deciding the outcome of a match, the score represents the drama.  It represents a fight.  It needs to be the blind justice in the fighting world, not left up to the whims of the ghost of boxing’s past.  MMA judging needs to tell the story of the fight, and take the viewer on an adventure.  Such as a comeback in other sports is only thrilling because of the large point differential, fighting should be the same.  It should have both highs and lows.  However, most of all, it should be correct.  Do I ask too much of numbers?  Some would say yes.  Others would say that I’ve just gone mad, but damn them all, numbers are accurate!  Trust the numbers.  They do not lie.   They have no emotion.  They don’t care.  They don’t breathe… The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human... sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him...

If you’ve enjoyed these columns and found any value in my urgency to change the system, I’d ask you to continue the conversation.  If you work for a commission or know someone who does, push the issue.  Talk about it with your peers, or with your family at the dinner table during Thanksgiving.  It's that important.  We need to keep this issue alive because the scoring needs to change.  No more relics of boxing.  This is a different sport and needs a different scoring system. 

No Fate, but what we make.  #TrueTen 


Stats (individually by show):

Total Official Decisions:  36 (by show 4,3,3,3,4,4,4,2,6,3)

Unanimous:  28 (by show 4,2,2,3,2,3,3,2,4,3)

Split:  4 (by show 1,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,0)
Other:  4 (by show 0,0,0,0,2,0,0,2,0,0,)

Different Outcomes Using True Ten:  4 (0,0,0,0,0,0,2,2,0,0)

Differing outcomes result in 4 draws