Thursday 23 November 2017

Explained: The scoring system and new rules that ensured Conor McGregor emerged victorious over Nate Diaz

20 August 2016; Conor McGregor of Ireland in action against Nate Diaz of USA during their welterweight bout at UFC 202 in the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, USA. Photo by Joshua Dahl/Sportsfile
20 August 2016; Conor McGregor of Ireland in action against Nate Diaz of USA during their welterweight bout at UFC 202 in the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, USA. Photo by Joshua Dahl/Sportsfile

Tom Rooney

While many boxers, including Ireland’s Michael Conlan, are falling afoul of some outrageous judging at the Olympics, mixed martial artists have been enduring the same for years, and there are those who believe that Nate Diaz suffered a similar fate at UFC 202.

Absolutely no-one, regardless of where their allegiances lay, could dispute that last night’s war of attrition between Conor McGregor and Diaz was about as close as it gets.

Both men emptied the entirety of their being over the course of five bruising, blood soaked rounds, at the end of which the Dubliner was awarded a majority decision.

Now, for clarity, the exact definition of a majority decision, according to the UFC, is as follows: “When two judges score the contest for the same contestant and one judge scores a draw.”

The judges

Indeed, of the three judges who scored the welterweight main event,  Glenn Trowbridge, Jeff Mullen and Derek Cleary, the former declared it a 47-47 draw, while the latter duo gave McGregor the nod with a pair of 48-47 scores.

Again, for the uninitiated, MMA’s scoring system should be clarified, once more referring to the UFC’s official definition:

“The 10-Point Must System will be the standard system of scoring a bout. Under the 10-Point Must Scoring System, 10 points must be awarded to the winner of the round and 9 points or less must be awarded to the loser, except for a rare even round, which is scored (10-10).”

Usually, the most dominant score a fighter is awarded after a round is 10-8, though greater disparities are within the realms of possibility, but exceedingly rare.

McGregor was utterly dominant over the course of the first round and a half, before Diaz, as his wont, rallied hard as the third beckoned.

However, the Dubliner knocked Diaz to the canvas three times before the Californian gained a foothold – once in the first and twice in the second.

Despite McGregor’s early salvo, not one of the three judges awarded him a 10-8 score in the opening two stanzas.

Instead, they each gave him 10-9 for his efforts over the course of the first 10 minutes.


Courtesy of

Diaz seriously kicked into gear in the third and, quite conceivably, could have ended the bout before the buzzer sounded, but McGregor dug deep.

The judges reacted accordingly, however, Glenn Trowbridge saw fit to hand Diaz a 10-8 which, on his scorecard, left the bout all square going into the ‘Championship rounds’. His colleagues both awarded the American a 10-9.

The fourth frame saw each man inflict and absorb their share of damage and, judging by the reaction on social media, was arguably the most divisive of the fight.

With that being said, The ‘Notorious’ was handed a 10-9 across the board.

As the fifth and final round beckoned, Mullen and Cleary had McGregor ahead by a score of 39-37, while Trowbridge noted it at 39-38 in the SBG man’s favour. Like McGregor in the fourth, Diaz was awarded a clean sweep of 10-9 for the fifth.

Separating the fighters in that moment would have been no mean feat, hence the heightened anticipation as Bruce Buffer read out the final tallies which revealed McGregor as the victor.

UFC 202 Main Event

It must be noted as slightly strange that not one judge felt compelled to award McGregor a 10-8 for the first or second rounds, but Trowbridge thought Diaz warranted it for the third.

Accordingly, it was that score that meant he declared the contest a draw, and prevented McGregor from taking a unanimous verdict.

The stats

As is the case in nearly all sporting endeavours, the statistics can be misleading in MMA, but they are certainly worth consulting after the barnburner Messrs McGregor and Diaz conjured. is the UFC’s official statisticians, and their findings appear to contradict those of the judges but, again, the grey area here is vast.

For the times a bout is contested on the feet, they collate all the strikes and significant strikes, both attempted and landed.

Unfortunately, and to the great frustration of so many, there are no official definitions for strikes or significant strikes.

Recently, UFC analyst and former title challenger, Dan Hardy, who is also an accredited judge, deemed significant strikes as follows: “I score significant strikes if they upset their opponents balance. Not the peppering point-scoring stuff.” 

Anyway, according to Fight Metric, Diaz landed more strikes and significant strikes than McGregor, but the latter was more accurate.

Diaz connected with 166 of the 343 significant strikes he attempted, 107 of which found McGregor’s skull. In total, the American found a home for 252 of the 435 strikes he attempted. His landing percentage was 48 pc

Conversely, McGregor was successful with 164 of the 286 significant strikes he threw, and 197 of the 322 total strikes – giving him an overall 57 pc.

However, it could be argued that the judges were swayed by the Crumlin native employing a more diverse output and punishing a larger portion of Diaz’s anatomy.

He connected with 26 of 29 body shots, to Diaz’s 50 of 71, but landed 40 of 45 kicks, compared to his foe’s 9 of 16. Moreover, he rattled Diaz’s head with 98 of 212 attempts.

Add in the three knockdowns McGregor scored and, all things being equal, you can probably see why a majority of the judges gave him the nod.

The grappling was, in statistical terms, inconsequential; no submissions were attempted and Diaz ht the only successful takedown of the fight in the fifth round.

New rules

Just this month did the Association of Boxing approve a raft of new rules for judging and scoring of MMA contests, some of which are quite relevant to the issue at hand.

They can be read here

Indeed, one of the amendments was to ensure that immediate consequence of strikes are awarded more precedence than their cumulative effect – again McGregor thumping Diaz to the canvas on three occasions was surely pivotal to the outcome. Quality over quantity, if you like?  

Furthermore, the scoring criterion was updated. Fighters are not required to have monopolised an entire round to be awarded a 10-8.

The new literature states as follows: “A judge shall assess if a fighter damages their opponent significantly in the round, even though they may not have dominated the action.”

Perhaps, this compelled Trowbridge to give Diaz that score for the third.

Such is the subjective nature of judging fights, from one’s couch or otherwise, there will always be room to argue the case of the fighter on the wrong end of a decision but, all in all, it would seem that the judges got it right in the T-Mobile Arena.

Online Editors

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