How Does UFC Scoring Work?


Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is considered one of the most popular sports in modern sports competition history. The UFC has been able to promote the sport globally. Therefore, a significant number of fans follow the event to its every single detail, including how judges score fights in the UFC.

How Does UFC Scoring Work?

Judges in the UFC score fights based on several criteria such as strikes landed, submission attempts, octagon control, knockdowns and aggression. The fighter with the most points after a fight wins. A fighter can also win instantly with a knockout or a submission of their opponent.

Keep reading to cover some of the basics on how judges score fights, as well as how much a takedown is worth, what the score of “10-8” and “10-7” means, followed by how fights usually end in the UFC. 

How Do You Score Points In UFC?

The UFC scoring system is based on the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. The fighter who won the round will receive 10 points on their scorecard, while the losing fighter receives less than 10 points. However, if both fighters were even, they may both be scored as a draw and given ten points. 

At the end of every round, a judge will look at several factors according to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts to score points in a UFC fight. These factors include:

  • Strikes
  • Submission attempts
  • Octagon control
  • Knockdowns
  • Aggression

During a UFC bout, at least one fighter must receive 10 points in a round. However, this way of scoring is different if the fighter was called foul by the referee, which in this case, a point will be taken away from their scorecard.

As for the losing fighter of the round, the judges will typically give the score of a nine on the scorecard. That is why in most UFC fights, the scorecard will go on a 10-9. If the winning fighter happens to dominate in a particular round, then the scorecard might be 10-8. For a draw, the scorecard will be 10-10.

UFC fights typically last three rounds for non-main card fights, or five rounds for main card fights. Throughout the fight, three judges will be present and would monitor the fighters’ progression as well as scoring them on each round.

How Much Is a Takedown Worth In UFC?

Supposedly, when a fighter initiates a successful takedown, that fighter receives 1 point. 

However, there isn’t any written rule about how many points a fighter receives for performing a takedown, or even other techniques. At the end of the day, the scoring is based on the judges’ opinion on how well the fighters performed in each of the criteria.

A successful takedown might not even grant a point. If both fighters exchange successful takedowns, then judges would likely have to look into another aspect of each fighter’s wrestling abilities to score a point, such as wrestling defense. Say fighter A gets one takedown, but fighter B ends up getting more takedowns at the end of the round. Fighter B will gain the point.

Spectators have an assumption that the judges assess the criteria by the end of each round. So when the round ends, the judges would quickly vote which fighter they think is more dominant. Once the judge agrees that, let’s say, fighter A is more dominant, then the judge gives the point of 10, while the less dominant fighter receives less.

Another assumption is that the criteria are “ticked” for points in the scorecard near the round. For example, fighter A gets a “tick” or a point for having a more dominant wrestling game as well as wrestling defense. In the judge’s assessment, fighter B receives fewer “ticks” than fighter A and loses the round.

At the end of the day, the scoring is based on the judges’ opinion on how well the fighters performed in each of the criteria mentioned above. If they did well, let’s say that the fighter is likely given a point in their striking that round. The other fighter had a solid wrestling defense? Give that fighter a point.

What Is a 10–8 Round?

According to the Unified Rules of MMA, a judge must consider awarding a 10-8 based on impact or dominance. 

When a round ends in a 10-8, that means a fighter has demonstrated significant domination against his opponent in the round. This would include domination in striking and wrestling/ground.

For the judges to award a score of 10-8 to the fighter on that round based on domination, the judges must observe the fighter’s aggression and supremacy against the opponent. It does not matter if it is striking or grappling. The opponent, however, must be on the defending, with limited to no counterattacks, aggression, or reactions.

For the judges to award a score of 10-8 to a fighter on that round based on impact, the fighter must demonstrate striking or grappling skills that essentially demoralizes, exhaust, or overwhelms his opponent.

What Is a 10–7 Round?

Throughout UFC history, there has only been one 10-7 round. The fight was Sammy Morgan’s UFC debut against Forrest Petz. After the fight, at least one judge scored the bout 30-23 for Petz, which scores 10-7 on one of the rounds. Needless to say, it was most likely the most embarrassing fight of his career.

Based on the Unified Rules of MMA, judges can only score 10 – 7 rounds when a fighter completely overpowers their opponent in every area, including domination and impact in striking and grappling. Additionally, the fight is close to being stopped in this scoring.

How Do Most Fights End In UFC?

How fights end in UFC has fluctuated over time. Let’s begin by looking into fights pre-2009. Based on the data of this time, the UFC recorded a total of 546 fights inside the octagon since the promotion’s creation.  

Here are the results of the 546 fights held by UFC by 2009:

  • 225 fights via knockout: approximately 60 percent
  • 138 via submission: approximately 25 percent
  • 141 via unanimous decision: approximately 26 percent
  • 31 via split decision: approximately 6 percent

Additionally, the UFC data of this time recorded at least three via majority decision, three via disqualification (DQ), as well as three draws and two no-contests.

The reason that we are initially looking at UFC data that dates back to 2009 is that, by the end of that year, the knockout rate slowly declined. More fights were ending in decisions rather than knockouts, likely because components were fighting smarter and the number of fights occurring in each weight class.

More recently, the data drastically changed. Below are the statistics for how fights end in the UFC throughout 2020:

  • Unanimous decision: Approximately 49 percent
  • Knockout/technical knockout: Approximately 31 percent
  • Submission approximately: 19 percent

To add, the larger the weight class, the higher the knockout rates are. Out of all the knockouts, the heavyweight division will usually hold approximately 60 percent to 80 percent of the total knockouts done in a year. 

Conclusion

There is supposedly no publicly written guide on how the judges give points on their scorecard during each UFC event. There is a general sense of observing which fighter is more dominant; however, there is not actually one in terms of deciding the points and the score.

Most likely, the judges observe the fight at their own professional discretion. Obviously, these judges are trained to see which fighter is dominating the fight and which ones are not. Through the judges’ proper training, they can efficiently observe and score the fights at the end of every round.

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