ByThe Naked Gambler, writer at Creators.co
MMA hierophant. Follow me on Twitter at @NakedGambling for mostly nonsense with some analysis mixed in.
The Naked Gambler

At UFC 205, confusion spread among the masses, as #TyronWoodley was declared the split-decision winner of his welterweight title bout versus #StephenThompson, with scores of 47-47, 47-47, and 48-47. A collective “wait, what?” rang out throughout the minds of experienced onlookers.

Two 47-47 scorecards should, of course, result in a majority draw. The scores of two judges always overrule the score of the third, even if the point total for either man was greater when tallying the judges' scorecards. Hence, two even scorecards and a scorecard in favor of one participant is known as a majority draw. Meanwhile, an even scorecard accompanied by one scorecard a piece for each man is known as a split draw.

After some confusion, and some disgust on the face of Tyron Woodley, the result was correctly amended to a draw. Still, some complained about the decision, believing that either man was the deserved winner. This is understandable.

The fight was full of effective offense, but of two very different types. Throughout rounds two, three, and five, “Wonderboy” worked successfully at range, outlanding the champion and clearly winning the striking exchanges. He controlled the majority of the bout. However, the first round was a clear one for Woodley, who caught a kick and maintained top position for the majority of the stanza.

In round four, Woodley badly hurt Thompson, battering him as he remained on the precipice of a stoppage loss for extended periods. If Thompson’s offense was more consistent, then Woodley’s shorter bursts were certainly of greater impact.

How you weigh consistency versus short, effective offense is subjective, but fortunately, this was not a fight in which weighing those two traits played much of a role. Under the 10-point must system, the current universal judging standard under the unified rules, the bout had a clear result, and that result was the one the judges eventually rendered: a draw. How they came to those scores, however, is worthy of discussion.

The first round was statistically lopsided, much more so than the fourth. According to FightMetric, Woodley outlanded Thompson 14-1 in terms of significant strikes, and a remarkable 45-1 in total strikes, in addition to scoring a takedown. By comparison, the fourth round saw Woodley outland Thompson 27-5 in terms of significant strikes, and 38-21 in terms of total strikes, with zero takedowns scored on either side.

In truth, striking stats are of extremely limited use in practical scoring, and these two rounds illustrate this point clearly. Despite the first round appearing more statistically dominant, it was not a 10-8 round. The fourth round, meanwhile, was clearly a 10-8 round under the current judging criteria.

Per the ABC’s official judging criteria, the circumstances warranting a 10-8 round are as follows:

A 10-8 Round in MMA is where one fighter wins the round by a large margin.

  • Judges shall ALWAYS give a score of 10-8 when the judge has established that one fighter has dominated the action of the round, had duration of the domination and also impacted their opponent with either effective strikes or effective grappling maneuvers that have diminished the abilities of their opponent.
  • Judges must CONSIDER giving the score of 10-8 when a fighter shows dominance in the round even though no impactful scoring against the opponent was achieved.
  • Judges must CONSIDER giving the score of 10-8 when a fighter IMPACTS their opponent significantly in a round even though they do not dominate the action.

The common theme is consequence of offense; strikes which diminish or visibly affect a fighter are given more weight, and a round in which a fighter is frequently impacted by diminishing offense is more likely to be awarded a 10-8.

Though Thompson had little-to-no offense in the first round, Woodley had few significant moments, and most of his strikes from top position were of little consequence. The fourth round, meanwhile, was a different tale entirely.

Woodley battered Thompson around the Octagon after stunning him repeatedly with right hands. The fight was on the verge of being stopped on multiple occasions, and Woodley caught the challenger in a very tight #guillotine choke, almost eliciting a tap. Thompson barely survived.

The disparity in cumulative offense was unquestionably the largest of any round in the fight, and should rightly have been awarded a 10-8. Judge Doug Crosby, whose scorecards have proven controversial in the past, saw fit to score the first round 10-8, and the fourth 10-9, both in favor of the champion. Most media and fans scored the first round 10-9, and the fourth 10-8.

While the correct result was eventually rendered, Woodley's sustained top position grappling in the first round appeared to sway Crosby to score it a 10-8, but the factors which led him to award Thompson nine points in the fourth round are unknown. Top position has historically been weighed with disproportionate merit by judges, a common gripe among MMA fans, but it is an issue which is slowly disappearing as judges weigh significant impact more heavily than maintained control positions.

Though Crosby's score would appear to reflect the dogmas of a time which is quickly fading into the sport's history, the correct result was eventually rendered.