How does MMA scoring work? What is the UFC Scoring System? Find out

LockerRoom Team
13 July 2022

Have you ever wondered how MMA Scoring works or what the UFC Scoring system is?

MMA scoring in most promotions including the UFC is based on the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.

The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) seek to provide a consistent set of rules governing professional MMA competition across the jurisdictions of various athletic commissions and other regulatory bodies.

Various athletic commissions proposed and agreed on the framework of the Unified Rules of MMA in the 2000s, and it was unanimously adopted by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) on July 30, 2009.

MMA Scoring Criteria or the MMA Scoring System under the Unified Rules of MMA is a 10-point system. Here is what is covered in the article.

  • How does the UFC scoring work?
  • What is the priority for scoring?
  • What is effective Grappling or effective striking in MMA Scoring?
  • What is effective aggressiveness in the scoring system?
  • Fighting Area control in MMA
  • Round Scoring System in MMA: 10-10 Round
  • 10-9 Round in MMA
  • 10-8 Round in MMA
  • 10-7 Round in MMA

How does the UFC scoring work?

The UFC Scoring system is the 10-point system defined under the Unified Rules. Three MMA judges will evaluate and score all bouts. The 10-Point Must System will be used to score all bouts. Except for an even round, which is scored at nine points, the 10-Point Must Scoring System requires that the winner receive 10 points and the loser receive nine points or less (10-10).

What is the priority for scoring?

The first priority of round assessments will be effective striking/grappling. Effective Aggressiveness is a "Plan B" option that should only be considered if the judge sees no advantage in the Effective Striking/Grappling realm. Cage/Ring Control ("Plan C") should be used only when ALL other criteria are met by both competitors. This will be a very rare occurrence.

What is effective Grappling or effective striking in MMA Scoring?

Legal blows that have an immediate or cumulative impact and have the potential to contribute to the match's conclusion, with the IMMEDIATE impact weighing more heavily than the cumulative impact.

Successful takedowns, submission attempts, reversals, and the attainment of advantageous positions have the potential to contribute to the end of the match, with the IMMEDIATE impact weighing more heavily than the cumulative impact.

It should be noted that a successful takedown is more than just a change of position; it is the establishment of an attack as a result of the use of the takedown. Top and bottom position fighters are evaluated based on the impactful/effective outcome of their actions rather than their position.

This criterion will be the deciding factor in the vast majority of scoring decisions. The next two criteria should only be used as a backup when Effective Striking/Grappling is 100 percent equal for the round.

What is effective aggressiveness in the scoring system?

Aggressively attempting to end the fight. The key word is effective. Chasing after an opponent with no effective result or impact should not be considered by the judges. Effective Aggressiveness is only to be evaluated if both competitors' Effective Striking/Grappling is equal.

Fighting Area control in MMA

Fighting area control is determined by determining who dictates the match's pace, place, and position. Fighting Area Control will only be assessed if both competitors' Effective Striking/Grappling and Effective Aggressiveness is equal. This will only be evaluated on rare occasions.

Round Scoring System in MMA: 10-10 Round

A 10 - 10 round in MMA is when both fighters have competed for whatever length of time in the previous round. There is no difference or advantage between either fighter in this round. Such a round in MMA should be extremely rare and should never be used as an excuse by a judge. The differences in the round cannot be assessed.

10-9 Round in MMA

In MMA, a 10 - 9 Round occurs when one combatant wins by a narrow margin. In MMA, the most common score a judge assigns during the night is a 10 - 9 round.

If the judge sees a fighter land the better strikes or uses effective grappling during the round, even if by just one technique, the judge shall award the winning fighter a score of 10 while awarding the losing fighter a score of 9 or less.

It is critical that judges understand that a score of 9 is not an automatic numerical score given to the round's losing fighter. The judge must take into account: Was the fighter on the offensive during the round? Did the losing fighter compete with the intention of winning the fight, or simply surviving their opponent's offensive actions? A score of 10 - 9 can indicate an extremely close round or one with marginal dominance and/or impact.

10-8 Round in MMA

A 10 – 8 Round in MMA is where one fighter wins the round by a large margin. A 10 - 8 round is not the most common score a judge will give in MMA, but understanding and effectively using the score of 10 - 8 is critical to the evolution of the sport and the fairness to the fighters.

A score of 10 - 8 does not necessitate a fighter dominating their opponent for the entire 5 minutes of a round. When the judge observes verifiable actions on the part of either fighter, the judge assigns a score of 10 to 8.  Judges MUST ALWAYS award a score of 10 - 8 when one fighter has dominated the action of the round, had a duration of dominance and also impacted their opponent with either effective strikes or effective grappling maneuvers that have diminished their opponent's abilities.

Judges must CONSIDER awarding a score of 10 - 8 when a fighter dominates the round despite not scoring significantly against the opponent. MMA is primarily an offensive sport. Defensive maneuvers receive no credit.

Using smart, tactically sound defensive maneuvers allows the fighter to remain competitive and stay in the fight. The dominance of a round can be seen in striking when the losing fighter continues to defend with no counters or reaction when openings present themselves.

Fighters who take DOMINANT POSITIONS in the fight and use those positions to attempt fight ending submissions or attacks demonstrate dominance in the grappling phase. If a fighter has little to no offensive output during a 5-minute round, the judge should consider awarding the losing fighter 8 points rather than 9.

When a fighter IMPACTS their opponent significantly in a round, even if they do not dominate the action, judges must CONSIDER awarding a score of 10 - 8. Striking or grappling effectiveness depletes a fighter's energy, confidence, abilities, and spirit. All of this is a direct result of the negative impact.

When a fighter is injured by a strike, demonstrating a lack of control or ability, these can be defining moments in the fight. If a judge observes that a fighter was significantly injured during the round, the judge should CONSIDER a score of 10 - 8.

10-7 Round in MMA

In MMA, a 10 - 7 Round occurs when a fighter completely dominates their opponent in Effective Striking and/or Grappling and a stoppage is warranted." A 10 - 7 round in MMA is a rare score given by judges. It takes both overwhelming DOMINANCE of a round and significant IMPACT that, at times, causes the judge to consider stopping the fight.

Judges should look for multiple IMPACTFUL blows or knockdowns that diminish the fighter, as well as grappling maneuvers that put the fighter in dominant positions with an impact that visibly diminishes the fighter's ability to compete.

Apart from these, the fighters could be deducted points based on the decision of the referee if a foul is committed during the fight.

This is what you need to know about MMA scoring and how UFC bouts are scored. What are your thoughts on the system? Let us know in the comments below.


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