Following the UFC 167 main event, GSP vs. Hendricks, I was shocked when Bruce Buffer began to announce scores from the judges…that only happens in split decisions. I was outraged when GSP was declared the winner, because in my opinion, Hendricks clearly won rounds 1, 2, and 4, while round 5 was extremely close. The only round where I felt that GSP clearly won was the third.
I was not alone in my belief that the scoring of this fight was horrendous. UFC President Dana White blasted the Nevada State Athletic Commission and feels that it is the Governor’s responsibility to step in and make some changes. UFC Commentator Joe Rogan ripped the 10-point must scoring system in a Fox Sports podcast at the end of September. I could continue to cite other instances where terrible scoring of an MMA fight left fans and promoters alike calling for a new scoring format, but instead I will skip all of that and just propose a new method.
The proposed scoring system would call for each judge to award 41 points per round. 10 points would be awarded in each of the four categories that are judged when scoring an MMA bout: Effective Striking, Grappling, Aggression, and Octagon Control. The distribution of the 10 points in each category would be split among the two fighters based on how they comparatively performed in that skill set. One point would be awarded to the fighter that the judge feels is the “winner” of that round. This also creates a built in set of checks and balances, because the category scoring should either be neutral or align with the “winner” of the round.
In a round where the striking is back and forth, with both fighters landing blows, a 5-5 split in the striking category would be warranted. In round 2 of the GSP vs Hendricks fight, I would have given Hendricks a 6-4 edge in striking. He was landing better shots, and the uppercut that buckled GSP’s knees led to a frenzy of Hendrix punches (and if Mario Yamasaki hadn’t stopped the fight to make Hendricks to replace his mouth piece while granting GSP some critical recovery time, Hendricks may have finished the fight…but that is a different subject). With grappling, aggression, and octagon control all being fairly equal, the two point swing in the striking category would have led to a 22-19 overall score in favor of Hendricks.
Here is my full scoring breakdown for the GSP vs. Hendricks fight:
Round 1: 21-20 Hendricks
Striking: 5-5 Fairly even, slight edge to Hendricks due to clinch strikes.
Grappling: 5-5 Each man got a takedown, although neither man is held down for long. Hendricks stuffed GSP’s second takedown attempt.
Aggression: 5-5 Both men move forward at times and back up to avoid opponent strikes at other times. Even
Octagon Control: 5-5 Both men appear to spend their fair share of time in the center of the octagon and switching whose back is against the cage during their clinches. Even
Winner: Hendricks by virtue of clinch strikes and stuffing GSP’s second takedown attempt.
Round 2: 22-19 Hendricks
Striking: 6-4 Hendricks, a brutal uppercut rocked GSP and left him noodle-legged for a moment, and Hendricks followed it up with a flurry of punches.
Grappling: 5-5 The only takedown “attempt” in the round was when Hendricks used a double leg to push GSP up against the fence and then knee him in the thighs repeatedly.
Aggression: 5-5 Same reasoning as round 1.
Octagon Control: 5-5 Same reasoning as round 1.
Winner: Hendricks by virtue of striking.
Round 3: 21-20 GSP
Striking: 6-4 GSP, GSP was busier with his striking and landed more shots.
Grappling: 6-4 Hendricks, Hendricks landed the only takedown of the round.
Aggression: 5-5 GSP was more aggressive with striking, Hendricks managed the only takedown.
Octagon Control: 5-5 GSP better on feet, Hendricks took it to the ground briefly.
Winner: GSP by virtue of striking.
Round 4: 21-20 Hendricks
Striking: 5-5 GSP managed more standing strikes, Hendricks managed more strikes on the ground.
Grappling: 5-5 The only “takedown” was when Hendricks fell on top of GSP after GSP slipped.
Aggression: 5-5 Same as round 1.
Octagon Control: 5-5 Same as round 3.
Winner: Hendricks by virtue of ground strikes.
Round 5: 21-20 Hendricks
Striking:5-5 a lot of clinch fighting in this round, Hendricks has slight advantage.
Grappling: 5-5 GSP scores one takedown out of three attempts.
Aggression: 5-5 Same as round 1.
Octagon Control: 5-5 Hendricks had advantage standing, GSP had advantage on the ground.
Winner: Hendricks by virtue of slightly better strikes and defending more takedowns than he allowed.
As I scored the fight, Hendricks should have won 105-100. Even if you gave rounds 1 and 5 to GSP, the final score would have been 103-102 in favor of Hendricks.
Under the 10-point must system, we have seen a dominant round in favor of a fighter coupled with narrowly losing the other two rounds end up as a 28-28 draw, but as rare as 10-8 rounds are, a 28-29 loss is more common. As fans, we look at the fight as a whole and see that the fighter with the dominant round “won” the fight, but according to the score cards we are wrong. Under a 41-point format, winning a round decisively means that you can narrowly lose two rounds and still win the fight. 22-19, 20-21, 20-21 adds up to a 62-61 win. Although I do like GSP, a prime example of this kind of fight was at UFC 58, GSP vs. BJ Penn. In one round, you see BJ beat Georges up pretty badly, but in the other two rounds GSP lays on top of BJ without doing anything significant.
Overall, I agree with Dana White and his statement “Never leave it in the hands of the judges.” When you don’t control your own destiny by finishing a fight, you leave things up to interpretation, and no scoring system will be perfect when subjective opinions are involved. All I can say with certainty is that the 10-point must system has to go. A new method is needed, and the 41 point system could be the answer.