Home News MMA Rethinking 10-Point Must: Doc Hamilton’s System

Rethinking 10-Point Must: Doc Hamilton’s System

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(David Becker-Associated Press)

The 10-point must system for MMA has been greatly contested as an effective means for scoring a fight for as long as the sport has been around. Most major MMA promotions in the U.S. utilize the 10-point must system, but some promotions like One FC utilize alternative methods to judge a fight. Effective or not, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon. Addressing the criticisms of the current system, MMA judge Nelson “Doc” Hamilton has alternative solutions for improving 10-point must for MMA.

(Nelson "Doc" Hamilton, photo via www.mmafightcouncil.com)
(Nelson “Doc” Hamilton, photo via www.mmafightcouncil.com)

After being weighed by effective striking, grappling, aggressiveness and octagon control, the current UFC’s judging rules state:

  1. When scoring a round:
    1. “a round is to be scored as a 10-10 round when both contestants appear to be fighting evenly and neither contestant shows clear dominance in a round;
    2. a round is to be scored as a 10-9 round when a contestant wins by a close margin, landing the greater number of effective legal strikes, grappling and other maneuvers;
    3. a round is to be scored as a 10-8 round when a contestant overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round.
    4. a round is to be scored as a 10-7 round when a contestant totally dominates by striking or grappling in a round.”
Doc Hamilton’s Scoring System
Photo via ESPN.com
(Photo via ESPN.com)

According to combatsportscommission.com, Doc Hamilton’s primary point of criticism lies in the gap between 10-9 and a 10-10 round. A 10-9 round is awarded to a fighter who shows a dominant edge, but is a close superiority enough to warrant a full point lead? In a competition to obtain a possible 30 points over three rounds, every point can mean the difference between victory and failure. Doc Hamilton believes that 10-9 rounds for closely edged fights do not fairly represent the quality of the performance because of the low number of rounds. He believes it is far more effective for scoring a closely-edged round in boxing because points are accumulated over 6-12 rounds.

Doc Hamilton’s solution to solve the current inadequacies of the 10-point must system is to add the scoring of half points. This way, if there is a very close margin of victory, there is not the same distance between score as a 10-9 round. Hamilton does note that under the suggested system, a 10-9 is the most frequently awarded score, but that requires a more obvious domination than the narrow 10-9.5. On the other side of the spectrum, awarding a 10-8 round victory for a dominant fighter under the current system makes for even more impossible ground to make up for the loser. Awarding a 10-8.5 score awards the winning fighter for an obvious victory through a combination of “damage” and domination, but does not make the contest so overly one-sided that the losing fighter cannot make up for lost ground.

The problem of arbitrarily awarding a 10-9 score because there is no closer alternative would be solved. He argues that allowing the score to be awarded in halves more accurately reflects the “qualitative action” of that round. Perhaps most importantly, awarding a 10-9.5 round allows for the losing fighter to come back to win on points after losing several rounds.

Do you think Doc Hamilton‘s solution is enough to improve the 10-point must system? What other changes could be made to improve the current scoring system?

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Kurt Tellez
Kurt Tellez is a Southern California-based writer and musician. He first developed a passion for writing and literature in high school that carried through to the completion of a B.A. in English from Cal State Fullerton in 2013. Inspired by Joseph Conrad, Emily Dickinson, Alan Moore and Hunter S. Thompson, he has pursued a career in writing through contributions to online magazine publications, blogging, and social media management. His musical studies began at thirteen, and has since played in garage bands, concert bands and jazz bands everywhere from Honolulu to The Matthew Street Beatles Festival in Liverpool. Kurt has followed MMA since becoming an avid listener of the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Inspired by Eddie Bravo's appearances on the show, he became a member of Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu in 2014.