MMA Judging Methodology
Updated October 5, 2020
The Combat Sports Talk Judging Methodology (CST Method) is designed to provide uniformity and a common language to scoring fights to fans. Influenced by the Unified Rules of MMA, Muay Thai Kickboxing and Wrestling, the CST Method provides a way to watch fights and score the action as you see it. Since fans struggle to understand judging in MMA matches, this methodology will help you successfully score UFC fights.
Striking over Grappling over Submissions
The CST Method prioritizes striking over all other activities in the fight. While grappling and submissions are equally important to the overall success of a fighter in a match, the most demonstrable evidence of a fighter winning a match is based in effective striking and aggression.
Scoring vs Landing
In the course of a match, fighters will attempt numerous strikes, takedowns and submissions against their opponent, but all attacks are created equally. The CST Method will differentiate attacks that land from attacks that score. Viewing attacks that land as a means to set up attacks that score, but the accumulation of landed attacks should not outweigh a few successful scored attacks that contribute to turning the tide of the contents.
NOTATION: Use a forward slash ( / ) for a landed strike. Use an “X” for a scored strike.
Strikes that land are considered any offensive attack using the fist, elbow, knee, or leg/foot that contacts the opponent but does not cause the opponent to react, step backwards and disengage or change offensive strategy.Strikes that score are landed strikes that cause an immediate and visible reaction by the opponent as evidenced by loss of gross motor control, disengagement, or a change in strategy.Strikes while on bottom will only be scored if the strike from a fighter leads to a visible reaction (i.e. cut) or immediate loss of position by the opponent.
Strikes will be evaluated based on how effective they were in achieving a reaction from the opponent. Multiple strikes thrown should be seen as one group of attacks and not as individual strikes. Even if multiple individual strikes land as part of an attack combination, the attack will be scored as one unless there are distinct damaging blows that can be easily scored.
Strikes of Aggression
Some strikes are not noted as landed or scored. Strikes used for tactical advantage or annoyances such as numerous repeated punches in the clinch, repeated hammer fists to conclude a fight, foot stomps along the cage, punches to the body or kicks to the legs or buttocks after a takedown will be documented as evidence of aggression, but should not be weighted equally to clean strikes in the open. Knees or elbows in the clinch and elbows on a downed opponent are scored normally. Use these actions as a determinant when the winner of a round is unclear. Similarly, if a strike is landing but it is ineffective due to a desire to disengage, the strikes can be considered aggression despite the fact that they landed.
Example 1: A fighter takes the opponent down and is fighting from full guard. The opponent has neutralized the fighter’s posture by controlling his head. The fighter looking to avoid being stood up throws 20 strikes from a prone position to the opponents ribs. These strikes are noted as aggression but are not effective striking and should not be considered as landed or scored strikes.
Example 2: A fighter pins the opponent against the cage in an over- and underhook position. The fighter throws 5 knees to the opponent’s thigh, stomps the opponent’s foot 3 times, and upon the break, throws an elbow striking the opponent cleanly. The knees and stomps would be considered aggression and the elbow on exit is a scored strike.
Example 3: A fighter was rocked and does not want to engage with the opponent so the fighter throws a leg kick and disengages several times in a row. While this strike lands, it is not being used to further the fight and it is not resulting in the accumulation of damage on the opponent. This leg kick is being used for a defensive or tactical purpose and should be scored as aggression as the strikes are ineffective.
Should a strike of aggression produce a clear reaction or accumulated damage, that individual strike is scored separately.
NOTATION: Use a capital “A” or a caret mark ( /\ ) to notate distinct acts of aggression.
Accumulated Damage and Scoring Strikes
During the course of a fight, the accumulation of damage on an opponent will create opportunities for strikes that score which would have otherwise have just been considered as only having landed. Accumulated damage would be a cut around the eyes, swelling to the eyes or face, brushing and or welts on legs or ribs, or a broken nose. Accumulated damage also includes damage the that can’t be seen but are clearly ailing the opponent such as torn ligaments, broken arms or broken legs.
Example 1: If, after numerous leg kicks, an opponent with clear swelling and welts takes another leg kick to the damaged area, the landed strike should be upgraded to a scored strike if it lands on the damaged area and causes a reaction from the opponent like switching stances or losing balance.
Example 2: Jabs are considered strikes that land, but if an opponent has a broken nose, a jab to the broken nose would count as a scored strike instead of a landed strike. Typically the opponent will reach for the injury following a strike to it.
Takedowns are fundamental aspects of a match that allow one fighter to control an opponent and limit the opponent’s striking production in the process. Takedowns also set up opportunities for submissions which can result in a successful conclusion of the fight.
Takedowns are considered landed if the fighter shoots and/or locks a body part of an opponent and uses it to bring the opponent to the ground. If the result of the landed takedown is the opponent standing back up, reversing, or neutralizing the ability of a fighter to pass to a more advantageous position or land scoring strikes from a position, the takedown is noted, but not scored.
Takedowns are scored when a landed takedown is used by a fighter to pass to a more advantageous position, half-guard, side-control, or full mount AND the fighter lands scoring strikes from the new position. Each significant movement to a more advantageous position shall be scored separately.
If a fighter is able to land scoring strikes from full guard or by posturing or standing, the initial takedown is noted, but not scored. The strikes from closed guard or original position will still be scored.
NOTATION: Use a minus sign ( – ) for a landed takedown. Use a plus sign ( + ) for a pass to a more advantageous position or moving the opponent from a more advantageous position to a less advantageous position.
Successful submissions are those locks and chokes that lead to the conclusion of the fight. While arts that focus on submissions are extremely important to the sport, use of submissions, especially in a defensive manner to neutralize attacks following a takedown will be noted, but will not be scored.
Failed submission attempts do not score as they did not succeed. However, passing to more advantageous positions to attempt submissions will score as modifications to a successful takedown.
Aggression and dominance
If, in the course of scoring a fight, it can not be determined that one fighter should win the round, the fighter who appeared more aggressive or dominant should be awarded the round. This means that the fighter who pressed forward more, occupied the center of the ring more, or controlled the other fighter from top position longer should be given the edge in scoring.
However, if it can not be determined whether one fighter was more aggressive or dominant, then both fighters should be considered drawn and both fighters awarded full points for the round. Judges should seek to avoid drawn rounds whenever possible given the limited number arounds available to score.
Determining the Winner of the Round
At the conclusion of the round, note the number of landed strikes, the number of scored strikes, the number of takedowns landed and the takedowns scored due to passing to a more advantageous position.
1 point per landed strike or takedown
3 points for every pass to a more advantageous position or reversal
5 points for every scored strike for each fighter
The fighter with the higher total is awarded the round 10-9.
If the calculation results in a tie, Aggression should be used to determine the round winner.
If the calculation results in a fighter score that is twice or greater than their opponent, the judge may choose to score it a 10-8 round. This is purely at the discretion of the judge.
The Score Sheet
You can document the action on a blank sheet of paper, or you can use the CST Method Score sheet if you’d like an easy-to-use grid to work with. Make your marks in each cell of the Striking and Takedown categories. Calculate category totals, round scores and cumulative scores all on one page.