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On a New System for MMA Scoring: An Audacious Proposal

After watching the Robbie Lawler-Carlos Condit welterweight brawl at UFC 195 on January 2nd, 2016, I was left with mixed emotions. Yes, it was a great fight, with round 5 coming down as one of the most thrilling in recent memory. The round was a maelstrom of murderous intent as both guys swung for the knockout with literally every punch and kick, elbow and knee. The tide turned several times with heart-wrenching violence, and when it was over, both combatants were completely spent. They could only lean next to each other on the cage, too exhausted to celebrate the end of their riveting encounter.


I am a big fan of the champion Robbie Lawler and was glad he defended his title by split decision. But I had scored the fight 3 rounds to 2 in favor of Condit.


According to Fightmetric.com, Condit seemed to dominate the fight. He out-landed the champion in significant strikes 176 to 92. His significant strike attempts dwarfed those of the champion as well, 495 to 177. Condit’s total strike output was similarly dominant. In average significant strike accuracy, Lawler had a less dramatic edge: 48.7% to 34.7%. He also scored the fight’s only knockdown. The fact that over 99% of the total strikes landed by both fighters were deemed “significant” by Fightmetric reveals exactly how apocalyptic this fight really was.

The decision was, however, quite controversial, with fans and fighters alike erupting over social media about how Condit deserved the nod. UFC commentator Joe Rogan and many others were calling for an “upgrade” in the current scoring system. On this account, I would like to offer a not-so-modest proposal.

After watching the Robbie Lawler-Carlos Condit welterweight brawl at UFC 195 on January 2nd, 2016, I was left with mixed emotions. Yes, it was a great fight, with round 5 coming down as one of the most thrilling in recent memory. The round was a maelstrom of murderous intent as both guys swung for the knockout with literally every punch and kick, elbow and knee. The tide turned several times with heart-wrenching violence, and when it was over, both combatants were completely spent. They could only lean next to each other on the cage, too exhausted to celebrate the end of their riveting encounter.


I am a big fan of the champion Robbie Lawler and was glad he defended his title by split decision. But I had scored the fight 3 rounds to 2 in favor of Condit.

The champion Robbie Lawler, left, after winning by split decision against Carlos Condit, right

According to Fightmetric.com, Condit seemed to dominate the fight. He out-landed the champion in significant strikes 176 to 92. His significant strike attempts dwarfed those of the champion as well, 495 to 177. Condit’s total strike output was similarly dominant. In average significant strike accuracy, Lawler had a less dramatic edge: 48.7% to 34.7%. He also scored the fight’s only knockdown. The fact that over 99% of the total strikes landed by both fighters were deemed “significant” by Fightmetric reveals exactly how apocalyptic this fight really was.

The decision was, however, quite controversial, with fans and fighters alike erupting over social media about how Condit deserved the nod. UFC commentator Joe Rogan and many others were calling for an “upgrade” in the current scoring system. On this account, I would like to offer a not-so-modest proposal.

I will describe my new scoring system briefly in case readers wish to take the idea and bounce their own thoughts off of it. Afterwards, I will attempt to explain every decision that went into constructing this new system.

The New MMA Scoring System: The Four Rules

So, in a nutshell, MMA fight scoring should consist of the following rules:

1. Use the 10 point must system, but rounds can only be scored 10-10 or 10-9 unless the referee deducts points.
2. Make the final round worth double. So a 10-9 score for round 5 becomes 20-18.
3. Employ only 2 human judges.
4. Make the third “judge” a computerized scoring system employing a standard and public algorithm.

Rule 4 above requires that the computerized scoring system award fighters Category Points per round when they exceed their opponent in certain scoring categories. The fighter with the most Category Points for a round gets the 10 and wins the round. This, of course, will all be under the hood, with the computer rendering its decision as seamlessly as its human counterparts.

My proposal includes 12 Fight Categories (6 Primary Fight Categories, each worth 2 Category Points, and 6 Secondary Fight Categories, each worth 1 Category Point) and 1 Foul Category, worth -1 Category Point. They are:

Primary Fight Categories
1. Most Significant Strikes (+2)
2. Most Knockdowns (+2)
3. Most Submission Attempts (+2)
4. Most Slams (+2)
5. Most Mount Positions Achieved (+2)
6. Most Back-Taking Achieved (+2)
Secondary Fight Categories:
1. Most Strikes (+1)
2. Most Significant Strikes Attempted (+1)
3. Highest Significant Strike Accuracy (+1)
4. Most Takedowns (+1)
5. Longest Time in Dominant Position (+1)
6. Most Takedowns Defended (+1)
Foul Category:
1. Most Unpenalized Deliberate Fouls or Repeated Accidental Fouls (-1)

In case of a tie for any category, no Category Point is awarded or deducted. Any points deducted by a referee will be deducted after the above metric is used to award a round to a particular fighter. Note that a point deduction is not a warning and so will not count as part of the Foul Category above. Note also that Category Points are not to be confused with the points awarded in the 10-point must system. This is why, for the remainder of the post, we will refer to 10-point must points as TPM points.

In the case that a fight ends as a draw, a tie-break system will be employed. This will essentially be using the above algorithm to produce stats for the entire fight, regardless of round. So someone who wins big in two rounds while losing three close ones will likely come out on top if brought to a tie break. Note that the tie-break scoring will adhere to Rule 1 above: the only scores possible before referee deductions are 10-9 or 10-10.

The tie-break system will also subtract one TPM point for every round in which a TPM point was deducted by the referee. So if a fighter achieves a 10-9 advantage in the tie break, but was deducted points in rounds 1 and 2, then that fighter loses the tie break 8-9.

What follows is my rationale for each decision going into this new scoring system:

Rule 1: The Ten Point Must System

I included this since most people are accustomed to it through boxing. As any MMA fan will tell you, MMA inherited much from boxing in terms of terminology and culture. For example, a fighter has “corner men” even though most cages are circular and the corners in the UFC’s octagon are much more obtuse than in a boxing ring. MMA also employs rounds as in boxing (it didn’t always) and continues to have 1-minute breaks between them, just like in boxing, even though MMA rounds are longer than boxing rounds (5 minutes to 3).

Also, the 10-point must system makes sense in that any other system other than a simple round-by-round tally would be harder to add. You win 5 rounds, you get 50 TPM points. Simple. Also, the advantage over a round-by-round approach becomes apparent when TPM points are deducted for fouls. Suppose a fighter wins a fight 3 rounds to 2 but get a point taken away for fouls in two of those rounds? Clearly, we need a system that awards more than one point per round.

The decision to prohibit 10-8 or 10-7 rounds was made simply because MMA fights typically have so few rounds (3 or 5 versus 8, 10, or 12 for most nationally televised boxing matches). Losing a round by a 10-8 margin puts an MMA fighter in a much deeper point-hole than it would a boxer.

In boxing, it is customary for a judge to score a 10-8 round if the referee rules that one fighter suffered an official knockdown, regardless of whether the referee is correct. For example, if a fighter slips to the canvas but the referee incorrectly calls it a knockdown, the judges most likely will score the round 10-8. In MMA, referees are not required to make such decisions, therefore there is no official rubric for judges to follow vis-à-vis 10-8 rounds. As it stands now, an MMA judge relies on subjective criteria to do this. Banning the 10-8 and 10-7 rounds is a way to minimize this.

Also, it is a way to keep out corruption.

In the 2001 boxing fight of the year, Micky Ward defeated Emmanuel Augustus by unanimous decision. Certainly, it was a close, thrilling fight. But according to ESPN, Augustus out-landed Ward 421-320 in overall punches, 386-314 in power punches, and had a 46% to 27% edge in punch accuracy. In hindsight, Augustus deserved the W. Yet Ward got the nod, partially because he scored the fight’s only knockdown in round 9, but also because one of the judges awarded him a very competitive first round by a 10-7 margin.

10-7 margin.

Yeah, something shady was going on there, wouldn’t you say? Watch the round yourself below if you don’t agree.

Rule 2: Double-Weighted Final Rounds

This essentially gives a nod to the fighter who ends best. It’s as if to say that the fighter who wins the final round would most likely emerge victorious if the fight were to go on indefinitely, even if he lost every round up until the final round. A fighter deserves credit for that.

Take for example, the chaotic end to the Scott LeDoux-Ken Norton fight from 1979. Norton, slick and talented boxer that he was, outboxed LeDoux for most of the fight but took a nasty shellacking in the 10th and final round. In fact, the fight ended with Norton semi-conscious leaning face-first over the ropes. Yet the fight was considered a draw. It should not have been considered a draw. I say this because by ending with such dramatic and unequivocal dominance, LeDoux proved he was the better man that night. Had they gone out for round 11, he most likely would have put Norton away.

Here’s round 10 of their fight:

Here is how Norton looked immediately after the 10th round, slumped over the ropes:


This idea also is a way to help prevent coasting. If a fighter feels he has a commanding lead going into the final round, he might be tempted to stall or adopt less risky tactics since he already has the decision in the bag. This is fighting not to lose rather than fighting to win, and often leads to anti-climactic endings. Fans hate this. Double-weighted rounds would be a great way to convince a fighter not to indulge in this sort of thing.

The inspiration for this idea first came to me when watching Sugar Ray Leonard skirt around Marvin Hagler during round 12 of their disappointing 1987 title fight. Leonard clearly threw the round and, halfway through it, after landing a flurry, danced around Hagler trying to eat up the clock. He should have been penalized for that.

In collegiate and Olympic wrestling, if referee calls you for stalling, your opponent is awarded a point. Leonard was effectively stalling in that 12th round against Hagler, but why wasn’t he penalized for it? A final round worth double the TPM points certainly would have done that, or it would have convinced Leonard that he needed to fight until the end, thereby giving the fans the fight they had paid for and Hagler more opportunity for the knockout he craved.

Rule 3: Employing Only Two Human Judges

The logic behind this is fairly straightforward. Humans can judge the intangibles of a fight better than a computer can. However, since judging intangibles often involves subjective factors such as personal preference and opinion, it is probably best to limit human scoring and have two human judges rather than three.

Intangibles are also not always so subjective but would still be very difficult for computers to evaluate. How does one program for “affective aggression” or “octagon control”? How does a computer factor in how much damage one fighter does to another? A significant strike is a significant strike for a computer, regardless if it bounces harmlessly off of one fighter’s skull and sends the other reeling across the cage. In such an instance, a computer would call the round even despite the obvious superiority of one fighter over the other. In essence, a human can tell if one fighter’s significant strikes are doing more damage than the other’s.

A human can also evaluate if a fighter is dictating the tempo of a fight. In most cases, the aggressor is the one controlling the fight, but not always. Take, for example, the Ronda Rousey-Holly Holm title fight from UFC 193 on November 12, 2015. In that fight, Rousey was clearly the aggressor, but Holm was controlling the fight by making Rousey miss and landing accurate lead lefts and counters. At one point, Holm even ducked under a Rousey punch and sent Rousey crashing into the cage.


The story of a fight can often be told between the strikes, takedowns, and other tangible moments. It takes a human observer to see that.

Rule 4: Making the Computer the Third Judge

The obvious advantage computers have over humans is the ability to process data, calculate, and mostly, to remember. If a fighter dominates the first three quarters of a round in solid if unspectacular fashion and then gets dramatically dominated for the last quarter, will the human judges, in their state of excitement, be able to remember that? Will they be able to keep track of all the blows thrown and landed? Will they keep a running tally in their heads of how many takedowns and submission attempts there were?

Where humans may get lost in the intangibles or, even worse, succumb to bias, the computer is there to remind us of what really happened. But even a computer must interpret the data it gets. Not all strikes are equal, of course, and criteria can be standardized in such a way to impartially evaluate the dominance of both fighters. Just as human judges must adhere to official judging criteria, so should the computer. And this is where the Fight Categories come into play.

Keep in mind that while the standardized algorithms going into each of these categories may not always be simple or easy to remember, they will all remain under the hood, so to speak, when the computer renders its instantaneous decisions after each round.

To see how FightMetric scored the Lawler-Condit fight, click here.

Primary Fight Categories

In all cases, a fighter is awarded two points in a Primary Fight Category if he can achieve unequivocal dominance during in the round for that particular category. This is more than a mere technical edge in striking or demonstrating more talent. Essentially, Primary Fight Categories award fighters who do more to achieve a finish.

Primary Fight Category 1: Most Significant Strikes (+2)

Obvious choice here. A fighter is awarded 2 Category Points towards his overall round count if he lands more significant strikes than his opponent. However, there is a slight wrinkle. What to do if significant strike counts in a round are very close and many significant strikes landed? For example, one fighter lands 31 significant strikes, and the other 29. Is it right to give the first fighter a 2-point advantage over the other? And who’s to say that if the round went another 5 seconds, the second fighter wouldn’t have evened or surpassed his opponent’s count?

This is why I propose, as part of the computer algorithm, to only award the 2 Category Points if a fighter lands more significant strikes than his opponent plus 5% of the total significant strikes landed from both fighters. In the case above, there were 60 significant strikes landed. 5% of 60 is 3. So neither fighter would be awarded points for this category. A fighter would have to land 32 significant strikes to his opponent’s 28 to get the 2 Category Points.

Why did I choose 5%? Because a two-strike advantage will win the round if fewer than 40 strikes land. Anything more than that, and a 2-punch edge won’t cut it, which, I think, is fair. Further, to be honest, since I am not a mathematician, 5% is an easy number to calculate. I could be persuaded to change this figure by someone who understands MMA and statistics better than I do.

Primary Fight Category 2: Most Knockdowns (+2)

Maybe this was grandfathered in from boxing where a fighter is usually deducted a point if he gets knocked down by a punch. In boxing, a knockdown temporarily takes a fighter out of the fight where he is protected by the rules (no hitting a man while he is down). This is decidedly not the case in MMA wherein a fighter can pounce on a fallen fighter with few restrictions. Therefore, in boxing a knockdown necessarily means something. Not so in MMA. By awarding a fighter 2 Category Points for a knockdown, we are making it mean something in MMA as well.

Why do this? For 2 reasons: because a knockdown is an undeniable display of dominance and because fans love it. A fighter who is bested 20 to 5 in significant strikes in a round but manages to knock his opponent down with one of those 5 strikes deserves to be even with his opponent for that round as far as the Significant Strikes and Knockdown categories are concerned. This should be the case even if the knockdown is a flash knockdown and does little to turn the tide of the round. A fighter who can knock his opponent off his feet deserves credit simply for the thrill he gives a crowd. This is what people pay to see when they watch MMA.

A case in point is the 2011 Nate Diaz-Donald Cerrone fight from UFC 141. Diaz beat Cerrone from pillar to post for 3 rounds, but Cerrone landed multiple leg kicks which put Diaz repeatedly on the seat of his pants. Diaz probably would have won the fight regardless, but Cerrone’s knockdowns should have made the fight a lot closer than it was.


Of course, judging what is and isn’t a knockdown can get a little tricky, and a human being must make that decision before entering it into a computer. In boxing, a referee may mistakenly interpret a slip as a knockdown or vice versa. This can happen in MMA as well. Therefore, we will need to define what a knockdown is and isn’t.

A knockdown should simply be any time a fighter is knocked off his feet because of a strike. In boxing, a knockdown occurs when a fighter’s glove touches the canvas or if he is on his way down and falls into the ropes. But since knockdowns are less meaningful in MMA than in boxing, it makes sense not to adhere to the same definition. I say that a fighter should be given credit (i.e., not be penalized) if he can keep his balance after a blow, even if it means he has to place his hands on the canvas or the cage to do so. Therefore, only a strike which knocks a fighter to the canvas in such a way that he not supported by both feet is a knockdown.

Primary Fight Category 3: Most Submission Attempts (+2)

Just as thrilling as the knockout in MMA is the submission. When one fighter capitulates, there can be no doubt who the winner is. All MMA fans will remember a 180lb Royce Gracie locking in a triangle choke on 260lb Olympic alternate wrestler Dan Severn in 1994. After dominating Gracie the entire fight, Severn was forced to tap. This is the moment that made American wrestlers and other martial artists realize that they needed to learn some ju-jitsu if they wanted to compete in this new sport.

Just as powerful are submissions in which a fighter either passes out cold or screams in agony. Picture Josh Burkman standing over an incapacitated John Fitch after their 2013 World Series of Fighting fight…


or Bellator bantamweight champ Joe Warren screaming as he was knee-barred by Marcos Galvao.


Rarely does a deliberate tap out lead to a controversial ending of a fight.

(This does happen, though. In June 2007, lightweight Rob Emerson tapped out after Gray Maynard slammed him to the canvas in their UFC Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale bout. But Gray knocked himself out with the slam and was unconscious when the tap occurred. The fight was ruled a no contest.)

MMA fans crave the submission as much as they do a knockout, and a fighter who attempts submissions deserves credit for that. Of course, there are dozens of different kinds of submissions, and the data entry people must be familiar with all of them. Further, the attempt has to be a credible attempt. Often fighters will grab their opponent’s head while being taken down, and to the uninitiated, this may seem like a submission attempt, but if the angle isn’t right or if there is only one arm around the neck, then it really isn’t one. Fighters will also attempt knee bars or heel hooks without securing enough of their opponent’s extremities to offer a real submission threat. These are also not real submission attempts.

For a move to qualify as a submission attempt, it must be fully executed, held in place for at least 3 seconds and must force an opponent to defend against the submission.

Primary Fight Category 4: Most Slams (+2)

Ask any MMA fan about the greatest MMA slam of all time, and they will probably tell you about how at Pride Critical Countdown 2004 in June of that year, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson lifted Ricardo Arona up over his head while in Arona’s guard and powerbombed him into unconsciousness. In fact, Arona’s head bounced off the canvas with such violence that it met Rampage’s as it was still coming down. It was, in effect, the brute force refutation against crafty Brazilian ju-jitsu. Arona had been attempting a fancy triangle choke, for all the good it did him. Truly, a chilling, unforgettable moment.

Where credit for the knockdown is grandfathered in from boxing, credit for the slam is grandfathered in from professional wrestling. Fans love to see combatants literally toss each other into the air, and the slam is closest thing combat sports have to that. Quite often it’s an instant fight-ender. And if not, then the fighter deserves credit for trying to end matters with a dramatic splat.

Primary Fight Category 5: Most Mount Positions Achieved (+2)

Another undeniably dominant position in MMA is called the mount. This is when a fighter has an opponent on his back and literally sits on his chest or abdomen. The mount is especially dangerous for the bottom competitor because he can’t easily use his legs for defense, he can’t threaten any submissions, and he can’t strike with any power. Further, the man on top is ideally situated to rain powerful blows down on his opponent’s head and neck. And if the bottom fighter tries to turn away from the punishment, he opens himself up to a variety of chokes. To achieve the mount is to achieve dominance, and quite often violence or submission attempts follow.

Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva famously used the mount to break down and defeat Russian heavyweight great Fedor Emelianenko in their February 2011 Strikeforce fight.


As with submission attempts, a fighter must maintain the mount position for at least 3 seconds to gain credit in this category.

Primary Fight Category 6: Most Back Taking Achieved (+2)

Just as dangerous as the mount is when a fighter takes the back of his opponent. This occurs when a fighter gets behind his opponent and holds him in place by wrapping his arms and legs around him in various ways. Of course, the fighter taking the back can land blows almost at will if his hands are free. He can also threaten a number of submissions, the most common of which would be the rear naked choke. If a fighter’s back is taken, he is automatically placed in a defensive position and must maintain wrist control in order to prevent strikes or submissions. To take someone’s back is an unequivocal achievement of dominance in MMA, and it can very easily lead to fight-ending submissions.

Here Josh Koschek finishes off Anthony Johnson with a rear naked choke in their November 2009 UFC fight.


As with submission attempts and mount positions, a fighter must keep the back of his opponent for at least 3 seconds to gain credit in this category.

Secondary Fight Categories

A fighter is awarded a Category Point in a Secondary Fight Category if he can demonstrate some kind of superiority in the round. In general, superiority differs from dominance in that, unlike dominance, it usually does not threaten to end the fight. Judging superiority often takes into consideration more aesthetic concerns such as skill or heart. With all else being equal, the fighter with the most photogenic game will get the edge in the Secondary Fight Categories.

Secondary Fight Category 1: Most Strikes (+1)

Obvious call here. A fighter should get credit for strikes landed, regardless of whether they are significant. So, in this case, a flicking jab or leg kick counts just as much as a haymaker. This essentially rewards the busier fighter, the one most willing to fight and not bore the audience. It’s only worth 1 Category Point, of course, since landing more strikes does not necessarily translate into dominance. But it still should count for something.

The +5% edge that applies to the Significant Strike Category should apply here as well.

Secondary Fight Category 2: Most Significant Strikes Attempted (+1)

This category tallies all significant strikes that were attempted and did not land. And why should we reward fighters for not landing? Essentially because we want to encourage fighters to bring the heat. This is one of the things fans pay to see. Remember what ‘ABC’ stood for in Glengarry Glenn Ross? ‘Always Be Closing.’


Well, in MMA and other combat sports, fighters should always be finishing. There’s a reason why fans loved to watch boxers like Arturo Gatti and Michael Katsidis fight. The same goes for all-action MMA brawlers like Diego Sanchez and Leonard Garcia. These guys fight with passion and they always bring it, even when they come up short. When all other factors are equal, the guys who always try to finish should always have an edge over the guys who don’t.

The +5% edge that applies to the Significant Strike Category should apply here as well.

Secondary Fight Category 3: Highest Significant Strike Accuracy (+1)

This category, quite simply, rewards skill over output. Often a fighter will exceed another in kicks and punches, but still be dominated because his opponent makes better use of the strikes he does throw. This category rewards a fighter for effective defense as well, either through blocking or evading strikes. Such displays of skill are also pleasing to watch. Take, for example, Anderson Silva with his hands down easily slipping bombs thrown by Forrest Griffin in their 2009 UFC 101 light-heavyweight encounter.


The audience ate it up both times. Knowing when to strike and how to avoid being struck is an integral part of the fight game and is a clear sign of superiority.

The +5% edge that applies to the Significant Strike Category should apply here as well.

Secondary Fight Category 4: Most Takedowns (+1)

The same logic applying to knockdowns should apply to takedowns as well. Takedowns are most often a show of superiority and they get a crowd excited. However, a takedown itself does not necessarily benefit the fighter on top. Former NCAA All-American wrestler Cain Velasquez takes most of his opponents down. But when he took down Fabricio Verdum in their June 2015 UFC heavyweight title fight, he was immediately guillotined and forced to tap out (see bottom right, below). Sometimes fighters, especially those adept at Ju-Jitsu, want to be taken down. It’s part of their plan. This is why a takedown is worth only 1 Category Point as opposed to 2.

Takedowns work well for Cain Velasquez, except when they don't.
Take downs work well for Cain Velasquez, except when they don’t.

As with submission attempts, mount positions, and back-taking, a fighter must take his opponent down and keep him down for at least 3 seconds to gain credit in this category.

One caveat should apply, however. If the cage gets in the way of a clean takedown, then the takedown did not occur, even if the defensive fighter has a knee on the canvas.

Please note that reversals, such as when a fighter on bottom scrambles until he is on top, should also count as takedowns.

We should also note that knocking an opponent down with a strike and then achieving top position on the grounded opponent should count only as a knockdown, not a takedown. A takedown facilitated by blows which knock a fighter off his feet is not a takedown. In other words, a fighter should not simultaneously increase his count in both the Knockdown and Takedown categories. Every time a fighter hits the canvas, the data entry people should select one and go with it.

Secondary Fight Category 5: Longest Time in Dominant Position (+1)

This category goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, only it rewards a fighter who makes the most of his takedowns, regardless if he secures more of them in a round. Controlling an opponent from top position for most of a round with only 1 takedown should count the same as taking him down three times and keeping him there for all of 26 seconds. Unlike the previous category, however, this category should also apply if a fighter gains the top position as the result of a knockdown.

MMA rounds last 5 minutes, or 300 seconds. That is a lot of seconds, more than the typical number of strikes that can land in a high-action round. Do we really want to award the Category Point to a fighter who achieves top control for 131 seconds versus his opponent who keeps it for 129? This is why a +10% rule should apply for this category. To earn the Category Point, a fighter’s top position time must surpass his opponent’s plus 10% of the time the fight stays on the ground with either fighter in dominant position. So, if a fight spends 100 seconds on the ground in a round, then controlling the action for 55 of those seconds would not be enough for a Category Point, but 56 would.

Secondary Fight Category 6: Most Takedowns Defended (+1)

Nothing is more demoralizing to a fighter, especially one with a wrestling background, than having his takedown attempts continually stuffed. Fighter A wants to take the fight to the ground. Fighter A exerts tremendous energy trying the accomplish this. But Fighter B stays on his feet until Fighter A either gives up on the takedown or the referee separates them. This is a form of superiority. It undeniably thwarts the will of a fighter while wearing him down. If a fighter can get credit for taking his man down, he should also, in essence, lose credit if he tries and fails to take his man down.

Note that takedowns which last less than 3 seconds should not count in either case.

Foul Category: Most Unpenalized Deliberate Fouls or Repeated Accidental Fouls (-1)

Often a fighter will bend the rules in order to obtain an advantage. Sometimes this makes a difference in a fight’s outcome, and sometimes it does not. Sometimes it is spotted by the referee, and sometimes not. The purpose of this category is to penalize a fighter for attempting to use illegal conduct to change the outcome of the fight, which, of course, he shouldn’t do.

In this case, ‘illegal conduct’ should be defined as deliberate or accidental fouls that are not penalized by the referee but cause the referee to either issue a warning or temporarily halt the fight in order to let the fouled fighter recover.

So, a fighter will not be penalized if he simply grabs onto the cage to keep from falling and gets his hand slapped away by the referee. A fighter will be penalized however if he pokes his opponent in the eye or strikes him to the groin, forcing the referee to give his opponent time to recover.

Remember the grueling encounter between UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira from April 2014. This was a one-sided and bloody, yet competitive and action-packed encounter which ended in a unanimous decision for Jones. But Jones accidentally poked Teixeira in the eye multiple times and was never penalized for it. Could this have made a difference in the fight’s outcome? Unlikely, but still possible.

Therefore, by using this system, the computer would have deducted a Category Point from Jones’ overall round count, thereby making it harder for him to win the rounds in which the eye pokes occurred.

Using the Computer

At the end of each round, the computer will do the following:

1. Tally the appropriate counts and times and make the necessary calculations
2. Award the right number of Category Points to each fighter
3. Determine who has the most Category Points.
4. Subtract 1 point per round per fighter in which the referee deducted a point.

At the end of each fight, the computer’s score will be tallied with the scores from the human judges to determine a winner. And, in the case of a draw, according to the rules of this new system, the tie-breaking decision will come from a macro-application of the above algorithm onto the fight as a whole.

An easy way to envision the difference here would be to look at the World Series as if each game were a round and there were only 5 games. If you win games 1, 3, and 5 by a score of 1-0, but lose games 2 and 4 by a score of 5-0, you still win the series, despite the fact that the opposing team outscored you by 7 runs in aggregate. The tie breaker count would essentially add up all the Category Points across the rounds to determine a winner in the same way you can add up all the runs scored in a World Series across games.

The Power of the Audit

The advantage of this system, particularly of using a computer as a third judge, is our ability to audit. Where the human judgments are final, the computer’s can not be. This is because fights can be replayed, data re-entered, and Category Points re-tallied. Therefore, computer decisions can be audited and potentially reversed.

Data entry personnel can and will make mistakes. They will misjudge takedowns and knockdowns and significant strikes. They will not see a strike land. They will not realize that a submission attempt is being made. They will get it wrong at some point. Count on it. This means that the computer may not always be correct, since it is only as good as the data humans feed it. In fights that go the distance, this won’t matter as long as the human judges, the masters of the intangibles, agree. However, when they don’t, and the computer is used to render a split decision, the losing fighter will always have the right to audit, in which case all data will be re-entered with the help of the video recording, and the round counts re-tallied by the computer.

Final Thoughts on the New Scoring System

Not Perfect, but perhaps better than what he have now. We need to introduce an element of statistical rigor into the business of fight scoring. While not enough by itself to offset human bias or error, it should make the difference if the intangibles are hard enough to grasp that the human judges disagree.

And as for how this new system would have scored the Lawler-Condit fight?

60-55 in favor of Condit. But, oddly enough, if the scoring were forced to go to tie break, the computer would have scored it a 10-10 draw, due mainly to Lawler’s takedown in round 2 and his subsequent top control. So perhaps there are some intangibles the computer can grasp after all?


Note that all calculations were done in Excel 2016. The Total Columns (Q and R are simple row sums, except for row 12 (Significant Strike Accuracy), which is a row average. Here are the algorithms for the Total Rows (21-23, and 27):