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Does MMA need the half point scoring system?

All the MMA promotions that I am aware of, use the 10 point must scoring system for judging criteria on MMA fights. The 10 point must system was developed for boxing to award credit to the boxer who knocks down his opponent in one round. When a boxer scores a knockdown in any said round, that round is automatically at that moment scored a 10-8. How can the sport of MMA be subjected to the same rules when it’s an entirely different sport, with so many more dimensions than boxing?

Another inherent problem with the 10 point must system is that while judges are told they can give 10-10 scores for very close rounds, they also believe if they do so with any frequency, they won’t be asked back. In other words it’s pretty much frowned upon. There is also a reluctance to give 10-8 rounds unless a fighter is completely dominant in the round.

“Judges think that if they give a 10-8 in a three-round fight that they’ve made it almost impossible for the other fighter to win a decision,” popular MMA referee “Big” John McCarthy has said, and that is for the most part pretty much a true statement, unless the fighter scores a (T)KO which is an obvious win and points mean nothing at that point, or dominates the final round, also given that the first round was close to call.

Nelson "DOC" Hamilton

McCarthy has been trying to get promotions to pick up on the half point system, introduced by veteran official Nelson “Doc” Hamilton,  that may bring a much needed balance to the judging of MMA fights, especially the close ones. Keith Keizer, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, said usage of monitors at the judging stations is worth looking into as well, but he also noted its flaws.

“The reason we have judges in three different positions is to get three different vantage points, if all three judges are watching a monitor, they are all getting the same vantage point – the television camera angle.”

The proposed scoring of the half point system is described as this, if a fighter wins a round that’s difficult to call, it gets scored 10-9.5. When it’s clear that one fighter won the round, it’s 10-9. Sounds fair enough so far, right?

If a fighter dominates the round, that would be a 10-8.5 or lower based on judges discretion. This is where the half point systems starts getting a little tricky and would then cause controversy.

Hamilton:“To a man, every judge I’ve spoken with favors this system,”.

Keizer: “The problem is you will start getting arguments about a 10-9 vs. a 10-8.5. Do we then go to quarter-points, or go like gymnastics with tenths of a point,”.

Like Keizer, I agree and at this point in my research, I remain on the fence about the half point system, but I am in full agreement that the current scoring system needs to change and be catered to MMA bouts more effectively. The UFC judging of recent bouts have come under heavy fire from fans and officials alike, due to seemingly unjust outcomes of such fights as; Machida VS Shogun, Ortiz VS Griffin, Nate Diaz VS Gray Maynard, and Rampage VS Griffin, just to name a few of the outcomes that were most argued about when it came to the scoring.

I have decided I wanted to give this half point system a little test run to see how it fares against one of these outcomes, and I will use the most controversial of decisions, Machida’s unanimous decision win over “Shogun” Rua.

I will do a brief play by play as well as show the judges scoring of that event and then my scoring using the half point system and we will see if this experiment changes the outcome at all.

Round 1
Shogun lands a left hook. Machida gains the Thai clinch, where he lands several knees to the body. Shogun charges forward and clinches with his toe against the fence. They separate and Machida unloads on Ruas body with a left kick. Machida lands a hard knee to the body and Shogun dives in for a takedown. Machida defends and then slips away from a Rua head-kick attempt. Shogun lands a hard leg kick and Machida answers with a kick to the body. Very close round.

Jordan Breen scores the round 10-9 Machida
Brian Knapp scores the round 10-9 Rua
Mike Fridley scores the round 10-9 Rua
Half Point Score: 10-9.5 Rua (Very close to call but I think Rua showed slightly more initiative)

Round 2
Shogun again attacks the legs of Machida. Machida lands a straight right that backs Rua up to the fence. Machida steps forward and cracks Rua with a left kick to the ribs. Shogun tries to attack and Machida evades. Rua cuts off his path and delivers a hard kick to the body. Both sides of Machida’s body are very red. Shogun lands an unintentional knee to the groin from the clinch. After the recovery time, Rua attacks the legs with kicks and knees to close the round. Another very close round.

Jordan Breen scores the round 10-9 Machida
Brian Knapp scores the round 10-9 Machida
Mike Fridley scores the round 10-9 Rua
Half Point Score: 10-9.5 Machida (Super close round but I give the edge to Machida)

Round 3
Shogun lands a snapping kick to the body. Machida goes to the midsection with a kick. Machida draws Shogun in and unloads with a right hand. Rua drops levels for a takedown and Machida stops it. Shogun lands two hard low kicks and follows with a hard kick to the ribs. Rua really putting a hurting on Machida’s legs. Machida and Shogun exchange and Shogun gets the better of it with a hard-counter right. Machida landed a knee to the gut to start the trade, but was hurt by Rua’s right.

Jordan Breen scores the round 10-9 Rua
Brian Knapp scores the round 10-9 Machida
Mike Fridley scores the round 10-9 Rua
Half Point Score: 10-9.5 Rua (slow action to start the round from both, but ended in a flurry with Rua gaining a slight upper hand, and Machida is clearly frustrated with Rua’s leg kicks)

Round 4
Rua lands a kick to the leg and then the body. Machida slips and Shogun sprints in to score a takedown, but Machida jumps up and secures underhooks, to avoid a takedown. Machida steps forward and is crushed with a vicious knee to the body. Machida may have been hurt by that knee and avoids Rua for the last minute of the round.

Jordan Breen scores the round 10-9 Rua
Brian Knapp scores the round 10-9 Rua
Mike Fridley scores the round 10-9 Rua
Half Point Score: 10-9 Rua (Being that Rua pushed the pace this round, and Machida avoided engaging in the last minute I give the round to Rua)

Round 5
Both fighters land simultaneously as Shogun connects with a kick to the body and Machida scores with a straight-right hand. Machida sneaks in a right on the chin and a knee to the body. Rua clinches with no action, so Herb Dean separates them. Rua lands a standing elbow and a right hand. Rua stays on the attack, but starts to miss as Machida evades the onslaught. Rua counters a fast punching attack by Machida with a knee to the body.

Jordan Breen scores the round 10-9 Rua (48-47 Rua)
Brian Knapp scores the round 10-9 Rua (48-47 Rua)
Mike Fridley scores the round 10-9 Rua (50-45 Rua)
Half Point Score: 10-9 Rua (All 5 rounds neither fighter really dominated a single round, however the aggressor overall was Rua)

All three judges score the fight 48-47 for Lyoto Machida, who takes the unanimous decision. The crowd boos, they clearly think Shogun pulled off the upset.

Final Half Point Score: 49.5 – 47  *Winner: Shogun Rua

Although I have Rua winning the fight, as most believe he should have, I don’t feel this outcome is a direct result of the half point system. I feel this particular fight’s outcome, the way I have it here, could have very well been the same if scored better on the current system.

However, I now feel that the half point system could be much more useful than the current judging system when scoring fights with 10-8 rounds. I feel that a 8.5 would probably be better deserving in most occasions when an 8 is given, making fights much more fair in terms of a fighter having a chance at coming back in points to possibly win a fight, via decision.

Hamilton, who is in favor of the half point system, was one of the three judges who controversially scored that fight 48-47 in favor of Machida. Hamilton makes this statement after the event, “There was a round in that fight [Round 4] where my line of sight while they were standing was blocked,” Hamilton also says: “Because of the angle where most of the round was fought, I couldn’t see the punches and whether they were landing. If the fight had been on the ground, I could look at the big screens, but this was a fight where the blows were coming one at a time and you don’t want to look away and miss an important blow.”

After Hamilton got a chance to review the fight again on tape, he noted that viewers saw Round 4 from a completely different perspective than he did. Hamilton claims, based on what he couldn’t see from his cageside view at the event, he now believes Rua won the round. He also added that the live commentary may have swayed viewers into thinking Rua won decisively, but I fail to see what that has to do with the scores or the judging.

The current point system does need to change, and I believe the half point system is a great answer, but in its current stage needs refinements to be a viable solution to define the outcomes of close bouts. I am positive with some serious push from athletic commissions and top promoters, the powers that be would be able to outline and perfect a new scoring system catered to MMA fights.

What say you reader – do you think MMA needs the half point scoring system? Comment below and be heard.


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