The Power of Unanimity: What is Unanimous Decisions in MMA

March 15, 2023
From: Spartacus
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In MMA, decision-making is of utmost importance as it ultimately determines the outcome of a fight. Whether it is a decision made by the fighter inside the cage or by the judges outside of it, it can significantly impact a fighter’s career and the overall landscape of the sport. Making the right decisions during a fight, such as when to strike, when to take down an opponent, or when to defend, can be the difference between winning or losing.

Additionally, the different types of decisions, such as unanimous, split, majority, technical, and disqualification, all have their own unique criteria and consequences. A fighter’s strategy may change based on the type of decision that they are aiming for, as certain techniques or tactics may be more effective in convincing the judges or referees. Moreover, the type of decision can also affect a fighter’s record, ranking, and potential opportunities for future fights.

Overall, decision-making in MMA is a critical aspect of the sport that can impact both short-term and long-term outcomes. It requires strategic thinking, adaptability, and careful execution in order to achieve the desired result. In this article, we will be looking in depth at unanimous decisions in the world of Mixed Martial Arts.

What is a Unanimous Decision in MMA?

A unanimous decision in mixed martial arts (MMA) is a ruling by the judges at the end of a fight that all three judges unanimously agree on the winner of the fight. In other words, all three judges agree that one fighter won the fight, while the other fighter lost. This is in contrast to a split decision, where two of the three judges may agree on a winner while the other judge scored the fight for the other fighter, or a draw, where none of the judges can determine a clear winner.

In order for a fighter to win by unanimous decision, they must have won every round on every judge’s scorecard. A fighter can also win by unanimous decision if they won most of the rounds convincingly and none of the rounds were scored even. Judges use a 10-point must system to score fights, meaning that the winner of each round is awarded 10 points, and the loser is awarded 9 points or fewer, depending on the degree of dominance in the round.

A unanimous decision is considered a clear and decisive victory, as all three judges agree on the outcome of the fight. It is often seen as the most definitive way to win a fight, as the fighter who wins by unanimous decision has proven themselves to be the superior fighter in the eyes of all three judges.

Importance of unanimous decisions in MMA

Unanimous decisions play an important role in mixed martial arts (MMA) as they serve as a clear and objective way to determine the winner of a fight. Here are some of the key reasons why unanimous decisions are important in MMA:

  • Fairness and Objectivity: A unanimous decision ensures that the fighter who wins the fight has done so in a fair and objective manner. This is important because MMA is a sport where subjective judgments can come into play, and there may be some level of bias or inconsistency among the judges. A unanimous decision, therefore, serves as a way to minimise this subjectivity and ensure that the fighter who wins the fight has truly earned it.
  • Encourages Fighters to Perform their Best: A fighter who knows that they need to win every round in order to win the fight by unanimous decision is more likely to perform at their best throughout the entire fight. This is because every round is important, and they cannot afford to take a break or coast in any round. This leads to a more exciting fight, as both fighters are giving it their all.
  • Promotes a More Exciting Fight: Unanimous decisions often result from fights where both fighters are evenly matched and have given it their all. This leads to a more exciting fight for the fans, as they get to witness two fighters who are at the top of their game battling it out in the Octagon.

How Are Unanimous Decisions Made?

A unanimous decision is typically decided by three judges who score each round of the fight based on various criteria, such as effective striking, grappling, and aggression.

At the end of each round, the judges assign a score to each fighter, typically on a 10-point scale. The fighter who wins the round is given 10 points, while the losing fighter is given 9 or fewer points, depending on their performance. If a round is deemed to be even, both fighters are given 10 points.

At the end of the fight, the judges tally up their scores for each round and determine the winner based on the fighter who has scored the most points. If all three judges score the fight in favour of one fighter, it is considered a unanimous decision.

 Explanation of the scoring system in MMA

The scoring system in mixed martial arts (MMA) is based on a 10-point system. This means that each fighter is scored on a scale of 10 points for each round of the fight, with the winner of the round receiving 10 points and the loser receiving 9 or fewer points, depending on their performance. If a round is deemed to be even, both fighters are given 10 points.

The criteria used to determine a fighter’s score includes effective striking, grappling, octagon control, and aggression. Judges assess a fighter’s performance in each of these areas to determine who wins each round.

Effective striking includes punches, kicks, knees, and elbows that land on the opponent’s head or body with power, accuracy, and frequency. Grappling includes takedowns, submission attempts, and ground control. Octagon control refers to the fighter’s ability to dictate the pace of the fight and determine where the action takes place. Aggression refers to the fighter’s willingness to engage in the fight and attempt to finish their opponent.

In addition to the individual round scores, the judges also assign a final score to each fighter based on their overall performance in the fight. If a fighter wins all three rounds, they are awarded a 30-27 score. If a fighter wins two rounds and the third is even, they are awarded a 29-28 score. If a fighter wins two rounds and loses the third, they are awarded a 29-28 score in their favour.

If a fight goes to the judges and the scores are tied, it is considered a draw. If the fight is stopped due to an injury or other unforeseen circumstance, the fight can be ruled a no contest

Importance of effective striking, grappling, and Octagon control

Effective striking, grappling, and Octagon control are important criteria in the scoring system of mixed martial arts (MMA). Here’s why:

  • Effective striking: Strikes are the most visible and often the most dramatic aspect of a fight, so it’s not surprising that effective striking is a key criterion for determining the winner. Judges are looking for fighters who land clean and powerful strikes with accuracy and frequency, and who are able to do so while minimising the number of strikes they take in return. Effective striking can lead to knockouts, TKOs, or simply wear down an opponent over time, making it a crucial factor in determining the outcome of a fight.
  • Grappling: While striking is important, grappling and ground fighting can be just as crucial in determining the winner of a fight. Fighters who are skilled in grappling techniques can take their opponents down to the mat, control them on the ground, and even submit them with chokes or joint locks. Grappling can be used to neutralise an opponent’s striking ability, tire them out, or force them to make mistakes that can be capitalised on. Fighters who are able to dominate their opponents in grappling exchanges often have a significant advantage in a fight.
  • Octagon control: Octagon control refers to a fighter’s ability to dictate the pace and location of a fight. Fighters who are able to control the centre of the octagon and force their opponents to the outside have an advantage in terms of both striking and grappling. Octagon control can also be used to force an opponent into making mistakes or to limit their ability to execute their game plan. Judges are looking for fighters who are able to use Octagon control to their advantage, while avoiding being backed up or trapped against the cage.

The Pros and Cons of Unanimous Decisions

Unanimous decisions in mixed martial arts (MMA) occur when all three judges score the fight in favour of one fighter. This means that the fighter wins the fight by decision. Here are some pros and cons of unanimous decisions in MMA:


  • Clarity: Unanimous decisions provide clarity to the outcome of the fight. There is no ambiguity about who won the fight.
  • Fairness: Unanimous decisions are fair because they reflect the collective opinion of all three judges. This reduces the chances of one judge making an erroneous decision.
  • Endurance: Unanimous decisions often indicate that the winner of the fight was able to maintain their performance throughout the entire fight, rather than winning just one or two rounds.


  • Controversy: Even with a unanimous decision, some fans and experts may feel that the decision was unfair or incorrect. This can lead to controversy and criticism.
  • Pressure: Unanimous decisions put pressure on judges to reach a consensus, which can sometimes lead to biased scoring or a rushed decision.
  • Lack of Excitement: Unanimous decisions can sometimes lack excitement and drama. This is because the fight may not have been particularly close, and the winner may have dominated throughout the entire fight.

Famous Unanimous Decisions in MMA History

There have been several famous unanimous decisions in MMA history. Here are a few examples:

Georges St-Pierre vs. Jon Fitch (UFC 87): In this welterweight title fight, Georges St-Pierre won a unanimous decision over Jon Fitch in a dominant performance that showcased his superior striking and grappling skills.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen (UFC 148): In this highly anticipated rematch, Anderson Silva won a unanimous decision over Chael Sonnen after a gruelling five-round fight. Silva was able to showcase his striking and defence to overcome Sonnen’s wrestling and ground control.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor (UFC 229): In this highly publicised lightweight title fight, Khabib Nurmagomedov dominated Conor McGregor in a unanimous decision victory. Nurmagomedov utilised his superior grappling skills to control the fight and secure the victory.

Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega (UFC 231): In this featherweight title fight, Max Holloway won a unanimous decision over Brian Ortega after a dominant performance that showcased his superior striking and conditioning.

These are just a few examples of the many famous unanimous decisions in MMA history that have solidified the legacies of some of the sport’s greatest fighters.

How to Win by Unanimous Decision?

Winning by unanimous decision in mixed martial arts (MMA) involves scoring more points than your opponent over the course of three rounds (for non-title fights) or five rounds (for title fights). The points are awarded based on a combination of striking, grappling, and other techniques, as judged by a panel of three judges.

Here are some tips to help you win by unanimous decision in MMA:

  • Be aggressive but strategic: Being aggressive is important in MMA, but you also need to be strategic about when and how you attack. Focus on landing strikes and takedowns that score points, rather than just throwing wild punches or attempting risky moves that could backfire.
  • Control the pace of the fight: You want to control the pace of the fight and dictate where it takes place. If you’re a striker, keep the fight standing and use your striking to score points. If you’re a grappler, take the fight to the ground and look for submission opportunities.
  • Focus on defence: It’s important to avoid taking unnecessary damage from your opponent. Good defence can also help you score points if you’re able to block or evade strikes and takedowns.
  • Keep a high output: You need to maintain a high output of strikes and grappling attempts throughout the fight. This shows the judges that you are constantly looking for ways to score points and win the fight.
  • Stay active in all positions: Whether you’re on top or bottom, standing or on the ground, you need to stay active and look for opportunities to score points. Don’t get complacent or passive, as this can give your opponent the chance to take control of the fight.
  • Show good sportsmanship: While not directly related to winning by unanimous decision, showing good sportsmanship can help sway the judges in your favour if the fight is close. Be respectful to your opponent and follow the rules of the sport.

Decision-making in MMA requires strategic thinking, adaptability, and careful execution, and it is an essential aspect of the sport that can impact both short-term and long-term outcomes.

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