How Are UFC Fights Scored? [Unified MMA Rules Explained In Full]

UFC fights rules explained

When UFC fights end without a knockout or submission, the judges decide the winner. How are the winners of these fights determined? MMA rules and the UFC scoring system can be a mystery if you are a casual UFC fan so I have decided to explain in this article.

UFC fights are governed by the new unified MMA rules. This means every fight gets assigned three judges who use the ten-point must system. The judges score every round separately – the winner gets 10 points every round and 9 points or less to the other fighter. The points given to the round loser can be 9, 8, or 7 depending on how dominant the winner was. 10-10 rounds exist but they are very rare.

How then is the fight winner decided? All three judges have a separate scorecard made up of the addition of all individual round scores. After getting all three scorecards, how do we decide the winner? Here are all possible outcomes based on their decisions.

UFC Fights scorecard

Outcomes of UFC Fights Based on the Judges’ Decision

Unanimous decision:
All three judges scored the victory for fighter A. Let’s take a three-round fight as an example. The first judge scored the fight 30-27 (10-9, 10-9, 10-9), the second judge scored it 30-26 (10-9, 10-8, 10-9), and the third judge scored it 29-28 (10-9, 10-9, 9-10).

Majority decision:
Two judges scored a win for fighter A, while the third one scored it a draw. For example, the first judge scored it 30-27, the second one also scored it 30-27, but the third one scored it 28-28 (e.g., 10-9, 8-10, 10-9).

Split decision:
Two judges scored it a win for fighter A and one judge scored it a win for fighter B. For example, let’s take a five-round fight. Scores might be something like: 48-47 (10-9, 10-9, 9-10, 9-10, 10-9), 49-46 (10-9, 10-9, 9-10, 10-9, 10-9) and 47-48 (10-9, 10-9, 9-10, 9-10, 9-10).

Technical decision:
A very rare case when one fighter is unable to continue because of an unintentional illegal shot. The referee stops the fight and sends the decision to the judges. This scenario was present when Donald Cerrone landed an illegal knee on Jamie Varner’s head while he was on the ground. That happened in the fifth round. Varner was unable to continue, so the fight went to the scorecard decision giving Varner a split decision win (49-46, 47-48, 49-46).

Unanimous draw:
All three judges scored the bout as a draw. Meaning all three cards have 28-28 (10-9, 10-9, 8-10).

Majority draw:
Two judges scored it a draw, but the third judge scored it a win for one of the fighters. For example, the fight is scored 28-28, 28-28, and the last judge scored it a win for either of the fighters.

Split draw:
One judge scored it a win for fighter A, one judge scored it a win for fighter B, and the third judge scored it a draw.

Technical draw:
The fight ends in the same manner as in the above-mentioned technical decision scenario, prematurely, but the judges scored it as a draw.

Things To Note:

  • UFC fights that end in a draw don’t necessarily have to have equal points. For example, when it comes to the majority draw, the total amount of points will never be equal; let’s say it is 28-28, 28-28, and the last one is 29-28 for either of the fighters.
  • When a UFC title fight goes to the distance, and it is a draw, the defending champion retains his title.

What Do Judges Consider When Scoring a UFC Round?

I have explained how judges decide the winner when UFC fights go the distance. That brings up the question: How are individual UFC rounds scored? There are some things judges consider when scoring a round. Some of them are effective striking and grappling, aggressiveness, and control of the fighting area.

Some of these are more important than others. High up the list is effective striking or/and grappling. If both fighters were not proactive in this aspect, the judges move on to aggressiveness. They also move to aggressiveness when both fighters are even in the striking and grappling stats. If both fighters show no sign of aggressiveness or are even, the judges move on to which fight controlled the UFC Octagon more.

Let’s explain these in more detail:

Effective striking and grappling:
This gets determined by how many legal strikes the fighters land. They also consider the number of takedowns, reversals, submission attempts, and position advancements.

Effective aggressiveness:
Chasing down the opponent with the intention of punching, kicking, or taking them down. They also consider which fighter is moving forward with the intention of finishing the fight.

Control of the fighting area:
This gets determined by the fighter dictating the pace and rhythm of the fight and choosing where the fight takes place.

Now, let us see what makes a round 10-9, 10-8, or lower.

Explaining Individual Round Scores in UFC Fights

I mentioned earlier that rounds in UFC fights can be 10-10, 10-9, 10-8, or 10-7 on the judges’ scorecards. How do the rounds get scored that way? Keep reading.

10-10 round
This only happens in very rare cases. This exists to score rounds that get prematurely stopped. If there is no premature stoppage and both fighters have different output, the round can’t be 10-10.

10-9 round
This is the most common round score. The judges score a 10-9 round for a fighter that lands more strikes, used grappling more efficiently, scored take-downs, attempted submissions, controlled the fight pace and area.

10-8 round
Judges score the round 10-8 when one fighter is very dominant in the round and came close to finishing the fight several times. The dominant fighter must have delivered a lot more blows, grappled a lot more, totally controlled the fight tempo.

10-7 round
This is also a rare score in the UFC. This is a round where one fighter completely overwhelms another. The winning fighter dominated the tempo, positions, takedowns, knockdowns and significantly hurt his opponent.

Has There Ever Been a 10-7 Round in the UFC?
The 10-7 round happened only once in the UFC. It was in a fight between Forrest Petz and Sammy Morgan at Ultimate Fight Night 6. Petz won via unanimous decision with one of the judges scoring the fight 30-23 including the only 10-7 round in UFC history.

Do Illegal Blows Affect Scoring in UFC Fights?

One more thing worth mentioning is how fouls affect UFC fights. When one fighter throws an illegal blow, a referee can discretely deduce one or more points.

UFC Fights illegal blow Petr Yan Aljamain sterling

Some of the following moves are explicitly addressed as fouls: head-butting, eye-gouging, biting, hair pulling, fish-hooking, groin attacks, small joint manipulation, rabbit punches, elbowing in a 12-6 direction, throat strikes, soccer kicks, kneeing the head of the grounded opponent, etc.

Check out the complete list of illegal moves in the UFC fight.

If a foul disables a fighter, then the match can end in a disqualification (if the foul was intentional) or in a no contest (if the foul wasn’t intentional). If a foul prevents a fighter from being able to fight later in the bout, a fight ends in a technical decision win for the injured fighter if that fighter is ahead on the scorecards. Otherwise, it is a technical draw.

For more information and some updates on the rules, take a look at the video from on the best referees in MMA, “Big” John McCarthy:

If you have more questions about the UFC, check out MMA Planet’s Casuals Corner where you will probably find the answer!

About Ojabowale Afolabi

Ojabowale Afolabi is a content marketing strategist at a leading logistics firm. When I am not creating marketing strategies, I contribute to MMA Planet's Casual corner. If you have any questions about MMA, don't hesitate to reach out on learning(@)mmaplanet.com.ng.

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