Almost everyone who watches Muay Thai fights in Thailand has at some point been confused why a decision went a certain way. This is because the scoring system in Thailand can be quite different to how Muay Thai fights are scored in other parts of the world, such as Europe or North America. Here we provide a brief summary of what fight judges and referees in Thailand take into consideration when making their decision..
(1) Three-round fights:
In a 3 round fight, all rounds are supposed to be given equal weighting. However, rounds 2 and 3 are often given higher priority by judges.
(2) Five-round fights:
In a 5 round fight, rounds 3 and 4 are given much higher priority by the judges than rounds 1 and 2. With the highest priority given to round 4.
The importance of round 4 cannot be understated. This round means everything in Thailand. A losing fighter can win a fight purely by dominating round 4, even though they may have clearly lost the previous 3 rounds.
The biggest points are awarded for roundhouse kicks and knees to the body or head, elbows to the head, cuts to the head caused by elbows, and sweeps and take-downs that result in your opponent hitting the canvas.
What do not score highly are front kicks, leg kicks and punches. Although they are all a key part of Muay Thai boxing, they only score if they have clearly rocked the opponent, such as causing them to either stumble, buckle or hit the canvas.
The judges are looking for clean strikes, meaning ones that either get through your opponent’s guard or they fail to block.
They also want to see strikes thrown with obvious power. So, for example, if a fighter lands 2 light kicks and their opponent immediately fires back with 1 really powerful kick, then it is the single more powerful kick that will score.
In terms of the clinch, points are awarded to the fighter who lands more clean knees before the referee separates them.
(4) Additional considerations that Thai judges take into account or particularly like:
Immediately countering with a strong strike.
Causing the opponent to turn their back.
Smothering the opponent's ability to land clean strikes.
Controlling the action and showing dominance over the opponent.
(5) A common misunderstanding:
Many people assume that higher priority is given to the fighter constantly moving forward and applying pressure because they think that it shows control and dominance of the opponent. But this is simply not the case. Many very famous fighters have built their entire careers by constantly moving backwards - skillfully outsmarting their opponents with clever pivots and outpointing them with counterstrikes. So showing control and dominance has nothing to do with moving forwards or backwards. It is about who is landing the high scoring strikes, dictating the pace of the fight, demonstrating they have the upper hand, and displaying the most confidence.
In conclusion, Muay Thai scoring in Thailand is actually even more complicated. But hopefully this brief summary of the basics will help to clarify any confusion the next time you see an unexpected result.