10 Point Must System: Explained

10 Point Must System

Whenever you tune into a fight, the commentators do a quick breakdown of the upcoming fights. After breaking down the fight card, they explain that the fights are judged by the 10 point must system.

We’ve all heard about the 10 point must system details, but not everything it entails. Here is a full explanation of the 10 point must scoring system

This post will detail everything from how it was created, what all it entails. Then we’ll get into the problems with using this scoring system for MMA and possible ways to fix it.

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When was the 10 point must system created?

The 10 point must system was created by the World Boxing Council in 1968. It was created due to immense inadequacies throughout boxing nationally and internationally.

Before this system was introduced, every governing body had their own way to score fights. Obviously this meant that fixed fights and crooked judges were more rampant before this system was implemented.

Since it was introduced over 50 years ago it is the most used scoring system in the world. Now not just boxing, but all combat sports like MMA and kickboxing.

How does the 10 point must system work?

For every fight on a card, there are three judges that score the fight. These judges sit on different sides of the ring/cage and aren’t allowed to talk to each other between rounds. 

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After every round, they write down their score and turn it into the governing body.

The fights are scored on a 10 point system. Meaning the fighter, whom the judge feels won the round, is given 10 points with the loser given 9 or less.

Sometimes a fighter can even receive less than 9, but these are given out rarely. Only if a fighter is completely dominated throughout the round or knocked down will a 10-8 score be given out.

A round scored a draw can happen either because there was no clear winner. The other scenario of a round being a draw is a fighter was winning the round, but got a point deducted. Turning the round into a 9-9 round.

If the fight isn’t decided within the regulated time limit, the fight is decided by the judge’s scorecards.

When all judges score the fight the same, that is called a unanimous decision. Next you have a majority decision when judges have the same winner, but scored differently. 

Then you have a split decision. This is when two judges score the fight for one fighter and the third judge scores it for the other.  

Problems with the 10 point system and MMA

The 10 point must system was revolutionary, but has been shown to have flaws. Especially so with MMA, where everyone from MMA experts, fighters, and fans have criticized the system.

There are numerous problems with this scoring system being used for MMA. Here are some of the problems.

Bo Nickal disappointed to miss UFC 294 fight with Khamzat Chimaev they don't want me to smash their boy
Mandatory Credit: Cooper Neil – Zuffa LLC

It was made for boxing

The 10 point system was specifically made for boxing. MMA wasn’t even a thought when the system was being created.

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It was created around the action of a boxing match. Who landed more punches or who landed more knockdowns.

MMA is a far more diverse sport than boxing, where a fighter can win numerous ways. On top of strikes you have takedowns, ground control, and submission attempts.

All of these facets of the sport can decide the outcome of a fight.

Difference between winning a round and the fight

A critique many have on the system is that it judges round and not the fight as a whole. If a fighter lands takedowns every round, they would technically win the fight.

But if they get hurt worse than their opponent, then did they really win the fight? Fights like the GSP vs Johny Hendricks fight is one in particular where this was argued.

The system does not take into account the damage a fighter takes within the fight.

Unqualified judges

By far the worst aspect of the 10 point must system isn’t the system itself, but the unqualified judges using it.

Judges with no background in any form of fighting are put in charge of judging fights. They have no idea of the complexity of MMA or how to judge.

With no idea of what’s really going on, they will just circle a fighter and score it 10-9. This is how you get ridiculous score cards that make fans and fighters crazy.

Jan Blachowicz claims he was robbed by judges in decision loss to Alex Pereira at UFC 291
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger – USA TODAY Sports

How to fix the 10 point must system?

The system in itself isn’t bad, but there needs to be changes made when it is used for MMA. These are all just hypothetical guesses, but here are some ideas to improve the 10 point must system.

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Open scoring cards

During a fight, judges are not allowed to share what their scores were. Their scores aren’t shown until the end of the fight.

Throughout a fight, the fighters have no idea if they are winning or losing a fight. They just have to do their best and if it was close, they must hope the judges thought they won.

By doing open scoring cards, a fighter can see if they are winning or losing a fight. It has the possibility to make fights better when fighters really know if they’re winning or losing.

Count damage

This idea may be a little vague since the definition of damage is up for interpretation, but needs to be considered. Fights are scored by strikes, takedowns, and cage controls without acknowledging the damage fighters sustain.

Looks aren’t everything, but they should be taken in consideration with MMA fights. A fighter may get takedowns every round, but if their eyes are swollen and face is broken, did they really win?

Hire qualified judges

Honestly, maybe the best thing that could be done to improve scoring in MMA fights is hire more qualified judges. There are too many bad judges to count that have no business being a judge.

They have no idea of the concept of MMA and especially how to judge it. What MMA needs is qualified judges like ex-fighters and possibly coaches to score fights.

If we had more qualified judges scoring these fights, then we would have way less controversial decisions.