The Scorecard that Screwed Max

Can We Please Adjust the “10-9” Scoring system already?

Alright fight fans, aficionados, practitioners, fighters, and yes even you, especially you!, The ACTUAL JUDGES of ALL COMBAT SPORTS: MMA, Boxing, kick-Boxing, can we all agree that all “10-9” rounds are NOT the same?. And if that’s the logical consensus, Then Why do we treat them all the same?  May I propose a “10-9.5” system for a razor-close competitive round, whether it be action-packed, or slow, and methodical but none the less still close?, And then we would have a 10-9 score for more clear, or even semi-dominant rounds? Let me attempt to explain with a recent fight I had the pleasure to watch, with a result I didn’t particularly agree with.

The Most Recent Case in point is Max Holloway VS Alexander Volkanovski for the UFC 145 LB Featherweight Title.  Now yes perhaps even as important as the “scoring system” are the qualifications of a sound MMA judge, Which is a whole other in-depth subject that I promise to visit at a later date.  But back to the 10-9 system, and the unique rounds, it is ill-equipped to cover in such a dynamic competitive world with this many facets we live in.

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 For instance In Holloway VS. Volkanovski we had 2 different stories in 5 different rounds with our objective to collect all that we saw in fight effectiveness, absorb it, and then calculate it to determine a clear just winner, in yes no doubt a close fight. What I saw (perhaps, WE even saw) was in the first two rounds Max Holloway using all four limbs, and timing to near perfection. Max had front kicks, leg kicks, followed by jabs, and quick stiff right hands almost at a sensory type reaction throughout those almost entire rounds, and Volkanovski while game, was clearly just always out of range to land, and in range to be landed on. It was genuinely a clinic on how, and what effective striking in MMA with all of a fighter’s weapons in true synergy can, and should look like. Max showed us all at once the effectiveness of what long-range, mid-range, and short-range strikes landing can be, and not just with volume, but rather with proper distance, and timing. He showed all the different variety of strikes yet in-still with their proper response from an aggressive charging opponent. Max would start with the kicks in long-distance, followed by the jabs, and right hands immediately after, often landing ALL of them in their proper sequence.  In those first two rounds, it was clear Max had CLEARLY won those two rounds, now me, and the Judges had it the same in my proposed system, the now more accurately revamped system with a genuine “10-9” round scored for both the first two rounds, in favor of Holloway. Score Holloway 20 – Volkanovski 18, after the first two rounds.

Now onto rounds three, four, and five. What we saw take shape was Alexander slowly figure out how to mitigate Max’s (up to this point) near-flawless timing, and striking. How Alexander did this was instead of pure aggressiveness, he mixed up the tempo with some feints, and stutter-steps in, and out, and bringing the fight down to his own timing. The results were his strikes were much crisper, and FINALLY landing, yet Max was still landing often on his own as well. Alexander would mix in a few takedowns over the last 3 stanzas (Yet Often very brief with little to no damage done to Holloway after the takedowns, more like instant cage/wall walks leading Holloway right back to his feet. Another topic I would like to address in the future are also the values of takedowns, or perhaps the OVER-VALUE of takedowns in today’s MMA fight-game, that will also take an in-depth analysis in a future article. Anyhow I digress, what most of us saw was yes Alexander Definitely got himself back in the fight, yet every round was extremely competitive, extremely close, and that’s where the “10-9.5” scoring would help out. So if we took the last 3 rounds of nip, and tuck advantages from both fighters, and yes say Alexander earned the three consecutive hard-fought rounds, for those 3 rounds the score would be 30-Volkanovski, to 28.5 Holloway. The first half of the fight was so much clearer on who truly won the rounds, therefore 10-9 is easily seen. The second half however was so competitive you are not so sure, in fact, you could even make a case for a 10-10 round (Which is frowned upon n today’s combat scoring). Yet none the less if we are scoring the true encapsulation of the entire fight I believe it should have been more like this:

1st–  10
2nd– 10
3rd–   9.5
4th–   9.5
5th–   9.5TTL-48.5

1st–  9
2nd– 9
3rd–  10
4th–  10
5th–  10TTL-48

Winner In the New Scoring Max Holloway 48.5-48.

Now hear me out people, the way it went was 48-47 Volkanovski, and that was because we judged all 10-9 rounds the same, does this new “10-9.5 System” “cure” all the potential controversy for all the difficult, or even more Dubious perceptions, and scoring of future contests? Hell No. However, it may at least give us a starting point on how to better judge these ultra-close fights.

Thinking of it now though, the two systems that had the most accuracy in judging the true winners of a fight in my humble opinion were back in the UFC one days, where there was no time limit, and better yet no rounds, one guy won by KO’ or Submission. That was it. Cannot get any clearer than that, yes I realize those days are gone, and safety is paramount, I’m just simply stating there was little doubt in 99% of the fights then, cause you either won or got stopped, Period.

The other system was Pride Fighting Championship’s scoring which was an ingenious way to keep the best of both the UFC early day barbaric system, as well as implementing a safer more modern system of today’s scoring. And how they ingeniously did that was to have the first round be 10 minutes long, and the second (AND FINAL ROUND) be 5 minutes long. Those of you unfamiliar with Pride may ask “wait how can you have two uneven time limit rounds and fairly score the fight??” And that Brilliant answer was, they did not judge the fight by rounds, Instead they judged the fight as a whole.. Meaning if the fight concluded after the two rounds, one 10 minutes, the other 5 minutes, equaling 15 minutes total, the judges would judge it On the ENTIRETY of the fight, on The TRUE SPIRIT of who WON THE FIGHT. Almost akin to a playground fight many of us were in, or witnessed growing up, yes throughout the fight both may have had their moments, BUT WHO WON?, and most of us didn’t need analytics to know who WON, we knew who did. And yes it usually is who is winning at the end, not always, but definitely for the most part, in the playground, and in those magical days of Pride, the Spirit who withstood it all and was still fighting at the end when the bell rang usually got their well deserved “Decision”. It was a brilliant system, and ya know what was even more brilliant about the Pride System? MOST FIGHTS never got through the first 10 minutes!!! There was usually a clear Definitive Stoppage, that left ZERO doubt in whom the victor was!, No calculators, just definitive Victory!!! It was Bliss for us fans who wanted to know who the Baddest Dude on the planet was!, but that everyone still went home safely alive! It was the best of times, in terms of feeling complete as a fan knowing you had a just winner with as little if any politics infiltrating at all. The closest thing to a fair one as possible! Who could ask for more??!!..  And one last thing, Pride also had a “Stalling” Penalty, which was if one of the combatants would not engage, the Ref would pull a yellow card, which would signify that 10% of the stalling fighter’s purse would Go to his opponent!!! That will get you off your ass eh’!!! Haha, and if you got warned again it was 20%!! Man those guys would be scrappin’ from the introductions until the bitter end!!! It was genius!! On second thought what do ya say we just go back to this old Pride way? and scrap all the 10’s and 9’s. 

Joe Tecce
Edge Of Philly MMA/Boxing/Combat Sports

Al Zaffiri
Al Zaffiri

Al is one of the two co-creators of Edge of Philly Sports. Al started radio and podcasting in 2012 and covering sports in 2015. A lifelong Philly sports fan since watching the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers with his grandfathers at age 7. Al always looks at the other side of the hot topics and gives his different outlook on those topics. Web and Graphic Design.