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Monday, November 22, 2010
MMA scoring needs change after UFC 123

By Andrew Plante

First and foremost, let me say that Quinton Jackson won the fight at UFC 123 on Saturday. There’s no question about that in my eyes. Under the current methodology for scoring -- a 10-point must system -- Jackson earned the victory by pushing the pace and controlling the Octagon just enough in both round one and two. Of course, the final frame was owned by Lyoto Machida who convincingly issued a beat down upon Jackson, even acquiring full mount at one point. In the end, Jackson was awarded the split-decision win, where two judges gave him the fight with a score of (29-28).

The win left many fans scratching their heads. Even Jackson at the end of the bout lifted Machida’s hand, assuming the Brazilian had defeated him. Now, I won’t go as far as to say that Machida was the victor, but I do believe that, at a minimum, this bout felt like a draw to me.

The reason I believe that the scoring system must change, is because although Jackson had his hand raised at the end of the bout, his control of round one and round two were nothing close to the damage that Machida achieved in the final round. Unfortunately, the 10-point must doesn’t distinguish between these two types of efforts. How many times have you seen a fighter squeak out two rounds and then get beat down and bloodied up in the final round so badly that they are almost unrecognizable in their post-fight interview?

There have been a few ideas floating around over the last several years that attempt to solve the situation. One that seems to be the best option in my opinion is to keep the basic structure of the 10-point system, but add a half point option. In this system, if a fighter clearly won the round, they would be issued 10 points whereas their opponent would receive 9 points. If the round was tightly contested, or if there was little action with one fighter edging out the other by only a few strikes or a quick takedown at the end of the round, the winner of that round would receive 10 points, and the opponent would receive 9.5.

Applied to the Jackson-Machida fight, the scoring for each round would have looked like this:
Jackson (10, 10, 9) = 29        Machida (9.5, 9.5, 10) = 29

I’m not a big fan of fights going to a draw, but to me, this is a more accurate representation of what seemed to happen in that fight.

At first thought, it makes sense to think that this proposed system would result in more draws. But I believe it will be quite the opposite. If implemented, you can bet that the fighter winning a particular round will do more to ensure their opponent doesn’t earn the extra half-point.

In the end, a system like this would create sustained action for fans and, more importantly, a more precisely defined winner.