How Are UFC Fights Scored? [The Judging Criteria]

If you’ve ever found yourself eagerly watching a UFC fight, you’ve probably wondered, “How are UFC fights scored?” Understanding the intricate judging criteria behind each bout is crucial for appreciating the sport fully. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the specific criteria judges use to score UFC fights, demystify terms like “10-8,” and explore how judges handle close rounds. Let’s embark on this journey into the world of UFC scoring.

UFC fights are a dynamic blend of skill, strategy, and sheer athleticism. As the action unfolds in the octagon, three judges meticulously evaluate each round to determine a winner. To comprehend the scoring process, we must first understand the criteria these judges employ.

What Criteria Do Judges Use to Score UFC Fights?

Effective Striking and Grappling

In the heart of UFC scoring lies the assessment of effective striking and grappling. Judges focus on the impact, quality, and quantity of significant strikes, as well as successful takedowns and grappling control. A fighter who consistently lands clean, powerful strikes or executes successful grappling maneuvers gains an advantage in the judges’ eyes.

Octagon Control

Controlling the pace and location of the fight is another pivotal factor. Octagon control assesses a fighter’s ability to dictate the fight’s location, forcing their opponent to adapt. This criterion emphasizes strategic dominance and maneuvering within the octagon.

Aggression and Defense

Aggression and defense form a delicate balance. Judges consider a fighter’s forward movement, striking attempts, and overall aggression. However, effective defense, including evading strikes and countering effectively, is equally vital. Striking the right balance between aggression and defense showcases a fighter’s overall prowess.

What Are the Official Rules for UFC Fights?

The official rules for UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fights are outlined by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) to ensure fair and safe competition. The rules cover various aspects of the fight, from athlete conduct to scoring criteria. Here’s an overview of the key rules as per the UFC:

1. Rounds and Duration:

  • UFC fights are typically divided into three rounds, each lasting five minutes.
  • Championship bouts and certain non-title main events consist of five rounds.
  • One-minute rest periods separate each round.

2. The Octagon:

  • The fight takes place in an eight-sided enclosure known as the Octagon.
  • The Octagon measures 30 feet in diameter, with a fence rising 5 feet 6 inches from the floor.

3. Attire:

  • Fighters must wear approved shorts, a mouthguard, and a cup.
  • No shoes, shirts, or other traditional martial arts attire are allowed.

4. Weight Classes:

  • Fighters are categorized into various weight classes to ensure fair competition.
  • Weight classes range from Flyweight (up to 125 lbs) to Heavyweight (over 205 lbs for men, over 145 lbs for women).

5. Fouls:

  • Fighters are prohibited from various fouls, including but not limited to:
    • Eye gouging
    • Biting
    • Hair pulling
    • Groin strikes
    • Strikes to the back of the head or spine

6. Scoring:

  • UFC fights follow the 10-Point Must System.
  • Judges assign a score to each fighter for each round, with the winner typically receiving 10 points and the opponent receiving a lower score.
  • A round can be scored 10-8 if one fighter dominates.

7. Victory:

  • A fight can end by knockout, submission, disqualification, or a judge’s decision.
  • Judges consider effective striking, grappling, octagon control, and overall aggression and defense when determining the winner.

8. Draws:

  • In the event of a draw, an additional round is usually conducted in non-title fights.
  • Title fights may result in a draw, with the champion retaining their title.

9. Medical Stoppage:

  • If a fighter cannot continue due to injury or other medical reasons, the fight may be stopped.
  • The opponent may be declared the winner if the injured fighter cannot continue.

10. Sportsmanship:

  • Fighters are expected to adhere to a code of sportsmanship and respect towards opponents and officials.
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct may result in penalties or disciplinary action.

11. Drug Testing:

  • UFC conducts rigorous drug testing to ensure a clean and fair competition.
  • Fighters are subject to both in-competition and out-of-competition testing.

How Do Judges Determine the Winner in a UFC Fight?

UFC fights consist of three rounds, each lasting five minutes. The 10-Point Must System is the standard scoring method, where judges assign a score to each fighter based on their performance in a round. The winner of a round typically receives 10 points, while the opponent receives a lower score, often 9 or fewer.

10-8 in UFC: What Does It Mean?

A 10-8 round indicates a clear dominance by one fighter. This could result from significant knockdowns, submission attempts, or prolonged control. Understanding the nuances of a 10-8 round is crucial, as it can significantly impact the overall outcome of the fight.

how are ufc fights scored

How Are UFC Fights Scored: Reddit Discussion

For a deeper dive into the world of UFC scoring, the Reddit community offers valuable insights. Redditors often engage in lively discussions, sharing experiences and opinions on specific fights and judging decisions. The “how are UFC fights scored” Reddit thread is a treasure trove of diverse perspectives from passionate fans.

CriteriaPmosure’s SuggestionsCurrent System
StrikingEqual weight to all impactful strikesEmphasizes damage and significant strikes
GrapplingEqual weight to effective grapplingCurrently part of overall scoring
SubmissionEqual weight to submission attemptsCurrently part of overall scoring
Overall Rounds10-9 system with equal weight in all categories10-9 system with subjective judgment
10-8 RoundsFor absolute domination in a category or point deductionFor significant dominance, rarely awarded
9-9 RoundsNot explicitly mentionedRarely awarded, typically for point deductions
10-7 RoundsNot explicitly mentionedVery rare, for extreme dominance

How Do Judges Handle Close Fights or Rounds That Are Hard to Score?

Close fights pose a unique challenge for judges. In situations where rounds are challenging to score, judges rely on a holistic approach, considering all scoring criteria. They may reevaluate the round, breaking down each aspect to determine which fighter demonstrated superiority in the given round.

Strikes vs. Grappling: What Takes Precedence in UFC Scoring?

The perennial debate over whether strikes or grappling holds more weight in scoring persists. The reality is that both are crucial, and judges assess the effectiveness of each based on the context of the fight. A well-timed takedown can be as impactful as a series of powerful strikes, depending on the overall narrative of the bout.

Expert Data: Strikes vs. Grappling in UFC Scoring

CriteriaImpact on Scoring
Effective StrikingHigh impact, clean strikes are favored for scoring points.
GrapplingSuccessful takedowns and ground control contribute positively.

Do Knockdowns or Takedowns Significantly Impact Judges’ Scores?

Both knockdowns and takedowns can sway judges’ scores substantially. A knockdown demonstrates dominance in striking, while successful takedowns showcase grappling superiority. However, judges consider the overall impact and effectiveness of these maneuvers to avoid favoring one aspect over the other.

External Influences on Judges’ Scores

Crowd Reactions and Fighter Reputations

While judges are trained to focus solely on the fight, external factors like crowd reactions and fighter reputations can inadvertently influence scoring. Judges strive to remain impartial, but the electrifying atmosphere and a fighter’s past performances can subtly impact their perceptions.


In the multifaceted world of UFC scoring, understanding the intricate criteria is key to appreciating the nuances of each fight. Effective striking, grappling, octagon control, and the delicate balance of aggression and defense all contribute to the judges’ decision-making process. As we decode the mysteries of “how are UFC fights scored,” we gain a deeper appreciation for the sport’s complexity. So, the next time you watch a UFC bout, you’ll have a ringside seat to the strategic dance of scoring that unfolds within the octagon.

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