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Kang vs. Filho Decision Further Supports the Argument for PRIDE-Style Scoring

(Is the 10-point must system suitable for use in MMA?)

After re-watching the Impact FC bout between Denis Kang and Paulo Filho that ended in a split draw – the second notable MMA bout to do so in a month with the other being the WEC 49 bout between Jamie Varner and Kamal Shalorus – I couldn’t help but wonder why MMA continues to rely on a scoring system created and tailored for boxing judging.

When the majority of mixed martial arts organizations adopted the Unified Rules in 2000, along with the governing principles, each organization adopted the system known as the 10-point must system.

Under the guidelines of the 10-point must system, judges score each frame based on their accumulative points tally for the round. The winner of each round receives a score between seven and 10 depending on who won the round. If a round is deemed a tie, both combatants are assessed 10 points each by the judge who perceived the frame to be even. The problem with the system is, when used to score a three-round MMA bout, the likelihood of a fight ending in a draw is exponentially higher than in a 10-round boxing match.

Since being instituted, the criteria has been modified somewhat to suit the differences in the sports. In boxing, a knockdown (which is a rare occurrence) elicits a 10-8 round, whereas in MMA it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the fighter who gets knocked down will lose the round, so there are obvious differences.

Because the system doesn’t take into account overall accumulative scoring, just who won each round, draws can happen even if one fighter dominates the fight.

Lets say one judges score a fight 10-9, 10-9, 8-10, a second judge scores it 10-9, 9-10, 8-10 and a third judge’s tally equals 10-9, 9-10 and 10-8, the fight is scored a draw.

During its tenure as one of the top MMA promotions, PRIDE Fighting Championships was lauded for its distinct adopted judging criteria, as its system, based on tangibles like which fighter was most aggressive, inflicted the most damage and did the most to try to finish the fight, didn’t leave itself open to questionable draws.

Here is the description of the judging criteria that was used by the Japanese organization:

"If the match goes the distance, then the outcome of the bout is determined by the three judges. A decision is made according to the following: the effort made to finish the fight via KO or submission, damage given to the opponent, standing combinations & ground control, aggressiveness and weight (in the case that the weight difference is 10kg/22lbs or more). The above criteria are listed according to priority. The fight is scored in its entirety, and not round by round. After the third round, each judge must decide a winner. Matches cannot end in a draw."

It just makes sense that a fight is judged on a whole, and not round by round. That’s why the sport is becoming the non-fan-friendly takedown-to-snuggle affair that it has become. Why risk being put in a dangerous position by engaging with an opponent when you can just hug out a decision?

If in the example cited above, fighter B was the more aggressive fighter who landed more combinations and worked off of his back when taken down to try and secure submissions, he would be deemed the winner under PRIDE judging.

Judging at its very essence is very subjective since it’s based on the perception of a human being, but by judging a fight on who was more active in trying to end a bout and who inflicted more damage, the chances of human error are diminished. Fights like Machida-Rua 1 and Varner-Shalorus would likely have had entirely differently outcomes if judged using PRIDE criteria.

Lets look at the Kang-Filho fight since it’s still fresh in our minds.

Under the 10-point must system, all three judges unanimously gave Kang round one 10-9 apiece. Two judges gave Filho round two 10-9 and the third gave it to Kang 10-9, meaning Filho took it by majority rule. The judges were split on the third round, with one giving it to Kang 10-9 and one to Filho 10-9, with the third scoring it a 10-10 draw.

If you watch the fight, Kang was the fighter who pressed the action for most of the fight. Although Filho scored points with a trio of takedowns and a guard pass that were mostly negated by takedowns and reversals by Kang, besides a handful of shots from the guard, he failed to show any aggressiveness and did little to finish the bout. At the end of the match, the judges’ scorecards tallied 87-85 in favor of Kang – a fact that wasn’t lost on the Canadian.

“I feel like I won at least two rounds. I’ll even give up one round but there’s no way,” Kang explained from his hotel room in Sydney Sunday night. “I think I won two rounds. I don’t agree with the judge who gave me all three. If you went by PRIDE rules – by damage and by who was trying to finish the fight, I would have won for sure.”

What’s frustrating Kang says is that they were told by referee Big John McCarthy prior to the show that he would be officiating the bout based on similar criteria to that used in PRIDE.

“I know he isn’t a judge, but Big John met with some of us before the fights for a rules meeting– he only reffed three or four of our fights – and he said, ‘Look guys, tonight it’s all about damage.’ I asked, ‘What about improving position and advancing?’ and he said ‘I don’t care about that. If you’re just advancing your position and not doing anything, I’m standing you up. I want to see damage and aggression,’" Kang explains. "I wish the judges had have seen it that way as well.”

According to the PRIDE and UFC veteran, the promotion has expressed a strong interest, given the somewhat questionable outcome of the bout, in an immediate September rematch in Brazil and although he would love a chance at redemption, since the fight left a bitter taste in his mouth, he says he likely won’t fight Filho in his own backyard.

"They want to do a rematch September 25 in Rio. I’m not doing it in Rio; we’ll do it some place neutral. I’ll do a rematch, just not in Brazil. They still want me on the card, though," he says. "They mentioned either [Murilo] Ninja [Rua] or [Jesse] JT [Taylor] as possible opponents, but we’ll see what happens."

Sources have indicated that the eventual rematch could be for the fledgling promotion’s middleweight title, but the proposition may be premature considering this is only their first event and advance attendance numbers for the show have not been favorable.

One point that has to be made is that the fighters were never informed of the judging criteria for the event and whether or not their bouts would be contested under the Unified Rules. They also never received copies of the official scorecards for their bouts and Kang says he has requested them but has not received them as of the time of writing.

By all accounts, the organization of the promotion was questionable at best and these points further prove that there are big holes Impact needs to fill moving forward if they continue to operate.


Cagepotato Comments

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JoseMonkey- July 26, 2010 at 7:55 am
At the risk of pissing new dad off yet again, I'd like to question whether this is an appropriate use of the verb "assess":

"...both combatants are assessed 10 points each by the judge who perceived the frame to be even"

While "assess" can mean to judge the worth or value (which is close to what's meant here), it doesn't seem correct to use it in this way. You can assess the value of the performance, I suppose, but that's different than how it's used here. When you say they "assess points" you appear to have meant that they award them, which indicates the word choice is probably off since that's not what assess means.

The only case I'm aware of in which you use "assess" in this way -- with both a direct object (here, "10 points") and an indirect object (here, "both combatants") in when using the alternate definition which means to impose a tax or fine. That, too, seems off.

Sorry, guy - feel free to flame me now.

P.S.: I know I probably sound like a douchebag English major when I post stuff like this, but I assure you I am not. (Well, not an English major, anyway.)
fsfortyone- July 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm
its really dumb to add more points to the system... we dont even utilize all 10 points of the must system anyway, and people have enough problems with that, so half points or more points i think complicates it, its the people scoring not the way to score, for every bad call, theres a score on the 10 point must that is JUST to the occasion, if theres a fight the 10 point must could in no way score accurately i have yet to see it
rpn452- July 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm
Fights like Machida-Rua 1 and Varner-Shalorus would likely have had entirely differently outcomes if judged using PRIDE criteria.

They also would have had entirely different outcomes if competent judges were used. Shogun won 49-47 and Varner won 29-27, according to both myself and FightMetric.

I like the 10 point system, but I'd like to see more 10-7, 10-8, and 10-10 scores.
Over77- July 20, 2010 at 8:21 am
ten point must system pisses me off, its so outdated
agentsmith- July 20, 2010 at 7:37 am
The author, like many people, seems to be making the mistake of mashing two separate (but related) issues/debates into one. One issue is judging round-by-round/10-point-must vs "whole fight", the second issue is the actual judging criteria. You could even split the first into two items as well.

First, as others have said above, PRIDE was not without its bullshit decisions and general corruption, so it's probably not the best model to begin with. The 10-point-must system provides a measure of judging accountability (in theory). The scoreless Japanese/PRIDE system allows the judges to simply give one blanket opinion with no quantifiable reasons to back it up... meaning it's ripe not only for fuck-ups but also for corruption (which one might say is exactly how the powers that be in the Japanese MMA world like it). The 10-point-must system is as simple and straightforward as it gets... the winner gets X points, the loser gets X-1 or less. It really doesn't matter if X is 10 or 20 or 69 or whatever, the result is (or at least should be) the same. As to whether 10-8 and 10-10 rounds should be given out more freely, that's a problem with the judges and not the point system itself.

Second, I really don't think "whole fight" judging is the way to go. People already talk about how a guy can "steal" a round by losing for most of it but then doing something significant at the very end that sticks in the judges' minds. It's just human nature that people tend to forget about what happened earlier. Now multiply that effect into 15 minutes, and it gets considerably worse... and even worse again for a 25 minute title fight. The round-by-round judging system is specifically intended to minimize this, and to reward the fighter who was winning for the majority of the fight, which I don't see how anyone could argue with.

Third is the actual judging criteria, which really has nothing to do with the above. Now in this area, perhaps there's something to be learned from the Japs who tend to reward aggression and intent to finish more than positional control and being on top, which in theory would tend to reduce lay-n-praying.

The point is, it's important not to mash all this into one issue. Every time there's a bad decision, people talk shit about the 10-point-must system, when really the problem was just plain shitty judges. There's nothing wrong with the 10-point system itself, the problem is by far mostly the judges and partly the judging criteria.
Kintamachikara- July 20, 2010 at 5:46 am
@ borlefborlef
I agree, there's a real need to use the entire 10 point spread in judging. Pride style judging is even more subject to judging error (entire fight vs 1 round) and can lead to even more shitty decisions. (Does make people try to finish fights though).
Another fella said, just need to train the judges formally - Amen. and train them to use all 10 points. when a dude get dominated for 3 min. of a 5 min. fight score it 10-6.
With more use of the full 10 point spectrum you'll get more variation in the numerical score and with that less chance of a draw when the numbers are averaged.
Judging method needs to be tweaked - major tweaks like formally trained judges, clear scoring criteria (does takedown = knockdown? which one is greater? etc.) and full use of the 10 points that already exist. aggression, trying to finish, etc. would all go in to the scoring criteria...
Marv- July 20, 2010 at 4:02 am
If the fight ends in a draw, then just do a 2 minute overtime period, the judges have to each declare a winner at the end of that. No 10 point system, just a card with fighter "X" name and fighter "Y" name.
halfbreed23- July 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm
Filho won the fight 29-28 on my scorecard.
KrmtDfrog- July 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm
The problem with PRIDE's scoring system is that it's also very open to corruption, as there is less accountability in terms of concrete round-to-round who did what. Not that there's any actual accountability that we can see in current judging, aka 50-45 Edgar, but just sayin
Dick_Gozenya- July 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm
@ Mcwrasslin'

Little do they know you didn't even have to look that shit up, playa. It just came right off the top of your head. Shouldn't it be accuumuulative though?
danomite- July 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm
Nog vs. Ricco anybody? That was fought under pride rules. Shitty judges are to blame for the overwhelming majority of bad decisions. I remember Pride having its fair share of lay 'n pray as well. That's why they handed out the yellow cards if you stalled. If the judging criteria were the answer to lay n pray they wouldn't have needed to deduct from fighter's purses for inactivity.

That being said the 10 point system does need to be tweaked a little. I'd like to see changes like:
- winner of a round is determined by who did the most damage and who tried to finish the fight and that's it. Fuck Octagon control.
- position and takedowns are not to be taken into consideration unless it is to break a tie (example: one guy literally lays in side control for the entire five minutes and neither man throws a punch or attempts a submission then the guy on top wins the round)

Oh, and this isn't judging per se but it will stop some of the lay 'n pray. NO STAND UPS EVER.
Think about it. When guy on top is doing the lay 'n pray it's usually when he's trying to ride out a win but when the guy on the bottom is doing it it's because he is trying to get the ref to stand them up. Sometimes the ref stands them up, sometimes he doesn't but even if he does there is a long period of inactivity that leads to the stand up. If the fighter knows that the ref CANNOT stand them up he will try to get up on his own, or reverse position, or attempt a submission.
fatbellyfrank- July 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm
@ Dick, amen to Unified Stockton Rules, then you dont need fucken judges dude,
Dick_Gozenya- July 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm
I can't believe nobody brought up The Unified Stockton Rules of Combat Sports Judging (tm), homies. It's all about who looks more fucked up and who didn't fight like a bitch.
Mike Russell- July 19, 2010 at 5:04 pm
accumulative |??kyo?my?l?tiv; -?l?tiv|adjective [ attrib. ]gathering or growing by gradual increases : the accumulative effects ofpollution.
Häkkiperuna- July 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm
@ borlefborlef

Only time I've seen a 10-7 that comes to mind is Quarry - Starnes.
And that shit was as justified as _________ ( insert racist joke here.)
Marteeny- July 19, 2010 at 4:58 pm
"It just makes sense that a fight is judged on a whole, and not round by round."

I feel this philosophy is even more flawed than the 10 point must system.

Even in the current system, you always hear how important it is to finish rounds strong to leave an impression on the judges. There is some truth to this. Here's an example:

Fighter A starts the round strong, drops fighter B with a hard shot and almost finishes the fight in the first 30 seconds of the round. Fighter B recovers and clearly outboxes Fighter A and gets a couple takedown in the final 4 minutes. There is a very good chance Fighter B wins this round.

Switch it around, where fighter A outboxes his oppoonent and gets a couple takedowns in the first 4 minutes of the round. At the minute mark, fighter B comes alive and floors fighter A with 30 seconds left, and is close to finishing the job, but comes up just short. There is a very good chance Fighter B wins the round.

In both of these rounds, the same events occurred, but the order in which they occur is very important. This can happen in a single 5 minute round. Imagine how much judges forget after 15 or 25 minutes. The first 3/4's of a fight will become meaningless if there is no stoppage. MMA will become the NBA of combat sports.
Almost North- July 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm
The Pride system was actually based on how Japanese a given fighter was. Failing actual Japanese bloodlines, the decision was then made based on how much time spent in Japan, grasp of the language, and popularity. If those were even sometimes they watched the fight.
Marteeny- July 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm
OK, you deleted my post pointing out how your article was wrong. Then you changed what you wrote in an attempt to correct your mistakes. Fair enough. I might have been a little harsh with the criticism, and for that I apologize.

Psssst. You still have some fixing to do. Look at the following paragraphs.

"Because the system doesn’t take into account overall accumulative scoring, just who won each round, draws can happen even if one fighter dominates the fight.

Lets say one judges score a fight 10-9, 10-9, 8-10, a second judge scores it 10-9, 9-10, 8-10 and a third judge’s tally equals 10-9, 9-10 and 10-8, the fight is scored a draw."

Judge 1 scores it 28-28 (draw)
Judge 2 scores it 27-29 (fighter B wins)
Judge 3 scores it 29-27 (fighter A wins)

First of all, you have judge 2 scoring round 3 as a 8-10 for fighter B. You have Judge 3 scoring round 3 as a 10-8 for fighter A. As bad as judging can be, I have never seen two judges award 10-8's to opposing fighters in the same round. That is never going to happen.

Even if the unthinkable happened and the scoring went as you said, it contradicts the paragraph above it. With the scores you listed, both fighters "accumulative" (still isn't a word) scoring from all three judges totals to 84, which pretty much means it should have been a draw. Can't wait for the next revision. BTW, I am currently out of work. Do you guys need an editor?
Jim Harbaugh Scramble- July 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm
I'd love it if went back to the old ways of finish this motherfucker if you want to win. Obviously that is not going to happen.

I think the yellow card system is the step that needs to be taken. First yellow card you lose 10% of your purse. 2nd yellow card you lose a point. 3rd yellow card you are DQ'd.

Make this guys fight. No one wants to see three rounds of Fitch laying on someone.

Also, automatic bonuses for a finish would help.
Aokiplata- July 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm
I like Pride's rules, the only problem is that they're completely subjective and it's very easy for a biased judge to just pick the fighter he likes. Obviously that's not any different than the current system, a biased judge could just score it 10-9 for their man every round. It would be better to have a more objective scoring system like in BJJ tournaments, where positions, submission attempts, sweeps, etc all get you a predetermined amount of points. I'm not sure how to handle the boxing aspect, maybe have a fight metric thing that counts knockdowns, blows landed, etc and you get a predetermined amount of points for each of those feats as well.
iDestroy- July 19, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Your just mad that CP stole the idea you had for your rant on Sherdog.

LAS- July 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm
This article is total shit. You act as if Pride's scoring system never produced controversial or bad decisions (news flash: Pride judges had their share of fuckups). Also, you are buying into the whole "the sport is turning boring" argument, apparently entirely on the basis of recent fights by GSP and Anderson Silva. Unless you can provide some kind of evidence that fights are going to decision more frequently, this is a classic case of anecdotal reasoning and the overvaluing of recent history over a broader picture.

It's too bad that Denis Kang got the shaft against Paulo Filho, but really, who gives a shit? In the case of a fight that does matter, it's not clear to me that Cecil Peoples or Doc Hamilton would have known how to score that bout if forced to score it hollistically. If anything, they're likely to forget what happened in the early rounds, thus overvaluing a fight's latter moments.

This is the kind of rant I expect to read from some 15 year-old on Sherdog; surely CP can do better than this.
KarmaAteMyCat- July 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm
ROFL Bring Pedro rizzo to the UFC for beating Ken Shamrock? ROFL please shut up.
MediumRare- July 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm
@ borlefborlef

You speak truth. The whole problem could be handled if they used all 10 points and then totalled those points for the whole fight - not just giving it to the winner of the most number of rounds.

They better fucking fix this shit. The judging sux dog shit right now.
borlefborlef- July 19, 2010 at 2:09 pm
I think a better way for people to realize just how ridiculous the 10-point system is, is to explain that it's really not a 10 point system, its like a 3-POINT SYSTEM.
It's pretty rare to see a 10-8 round, and off the top of my head I can't remember seeing a 10-7 round, though it has obviously happened. In order to score a round 10-8 an opponent must be knocked down at least once, and absolutely brutalized on the feet. Otherwise, you can get blasted on your feet all round, not land a single-punch, and you will most often get out with a 10-9 round. Essentially the lowest score you will ever see is a 7, and that is very rare, and the highest is obviously a 10. So why not just make the lowest score a 0 and the highest a 3? I think fans would really see how un-precise the scoring is if instead of 10-9, 9-10, 10-10, fights went 3-2,2-3,3-3. If you are going to have 10 damn points, use all 10 damn points. Don't start at 7. We need to have more exact, better scoring methods, period. How can Shane Carwin only win that 1st round over Brock 10-8? He absolutely demolished Brock on the feet, held him down and blasted him with dozens and dozens of shots. If you are going to have a 10-point system, that was like 10-2. Well thats my 2 cents, something needs to change, system doesn't make sense.