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10-8 Round? 10-4!

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10-8 Round? 10-4!

Written by Barry Lindenman

Although I don’t have any empirical evidence to back up my suspicion, my guess is that the distribution of scores recorded from all rounds in mixed martial arts bouts would resemble the normal distribution typically associated with a bell curve. That means that 80% of the scores would fall within the “standard normal” score of a 10-9 round with the less frequent scores of 10-8 and 10-10 representing the “standard deviations” from the norm lying on the outside perimeters:

10-8 is 10-4


Unlike the casual fan who watches a bout with their own unique perspective and prejudices, judges are trained to watch and judge a round based on the agreed upon scoring criteria (clean striking, effective grappling, cage control, effective aggression and defense). Because the judges are watching each round with (1) a better seat than the fans and (2) with a keener eye on what to look for, my presumption is that in the overwhelming majority of rounds, a trained judge can usually pick the winner of a round.

 The margin of victory may be small in some cases and only some subtle differences may have tipped the scales in favor of one fighter over another. That’s what they are trained and paid to do. It’s their job to pick the winners of each round. Only in very rare cases would a trained judge be unable to identify the winner of a round. To simply say that a round was even and score it 10-10 is a copout or an admission that they lost their concentration or were distracted during the round. A casual fan watching a fight might generally feel that a round was even, but the three judges who are viewing the round from a different perspective (a scoring point of view) should know who did enough to actually win the round.

The converse of the 10-10 round would of course be a 10-8 round, where there was a sufficient amount of strikes, grappling control or a combination of both, to sway a judge’s score from the default 10-9 score. Once again, this is what judges are trained for and paid to do: render their expert opinion as to who actually won the round AND by how much.

Different judges have different criteria for what justifies a 10-8 round in their minds.  This is my take on a 10-8 round: From a strictly damage perspective, if I feel like one opponent so dominated their opponent that as a judge, I thought the referee should or could have stopped the contest but didn’t, I would lean towards scoring the round 10-8 in favor of the winning fighter.  From a grappling perspective, if I thought that one opponent so dominated their opponent, so much so that their opponent was either unable or unwilling to do anything to mount an offense, I would also lean towards scoring the round 10-8 in favor of the winning fighter.

The scoring of rounds is not scientific. It is subjective. But it is subjective based on a standardized scoring criteria that all professional judges should be thoroughly trained on and well versed in. A good professional judge should not wait until the end of the round to score it. He or she should know their score at all times during the round.

The only thing that the sound of the bell at the end of the round should signal to the judge is to write down their score. They should already know what their score will be based on their observation of the action inside the cage as the round progresses. 

Although I would be the first to admit that most rounds do fall into the 10-9 scoring criteria, if I had my choice, I would be an advocate for judges scoring less 10-10 rounds and more 10-8 rounds. As previously mentioned, that’s what judges are trained and paid to do: apply their training, experience and expertise to identify not only who won the round but by how much.  

Most people are very familiar with the standard police radio code “10-4,” to mean “OK” or “message received.” As far as 10-8 rounds in MMA bouts are concerned, I say “10-4.”


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