In the Hands of the Judges

It’s one of the most over used phrases in MMA, “Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges!” (Add a few “F” words in there if Dana White said it!). We see and hear about terrible decisions all of the time in our sport, like the Diego Sanchez vs Ross Pearson fight last weekend. That fight was a clear cut win for Ross Pearson however Sanchez got the judges nod. While this was most likely a “Home town decision” for Sanchez, there have been many fights in the past which have caused uproar among fans and media alike.

The scoring system for MMA is a ten point must system, with each round winner getting ten points, and the looser getting 9 or less. The official scoring criteria as outlined on the UFC website is below:
“Judges shall evaluate mixed martial arts techniques, such as effective striking, effective grappling, control of the ring/fighting area, effective aggressiveness and defense.”

To me that is all very broad and open to interpretation to each judge. Effective striking doesn't necessarily mean tucking your chin and swinging hooks non-stop. Effective grappling doesn't necessarily mean laying on top of your opponent until the bell rings. Effective control of the ring/fighting area doesn't necessarily mean moving forward. Effective aggressiveness and defense doesn't necessarily mean throwing everything into every shot.

I know many people involved in judging boxing, MMA and Thai boxing. Some like to see someone going forward and landing as many shots as they can. To them technique or they amount of damage they take in the process isn't really a deciding factor. Other judges like to see fighters moving backwards and picking off clean and clear points (Lyoto Machida is a good example of this style). I have had many heated “discussions” with many of these judges based on the outcomes of different fights. Each of the judges are knowledgeable and capable, yet like to see different things, which has often lead to controversy/ Under unified scoring rules, are they really wrong or right?

One of the most high profile “robberies” recently in MMA was the GSP vs Jonny Hendricks fight. Many saw the result of this fight as a travesty, an insult to MMA. I saw it as a fair decision. I had GSP winning 3 rounds to 2. Why? He picked off the cleaner shots and controlled his distance well. Jonny bust the champs face up pretty badly, which was the argument for many to give Jonny the belt after the fight. However look at the Jonny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler fight. Jonny won the fight but had his face bust open, Robbie looked fine. Remember MMA is still scored on a round by round basis. Most of the damage to GSP’s face was done in one round. Fights aren't won or lost in one round (unless they get stopped, that’s a different story), imagine a champion boxer defending his title. For 11 rounds he batters his opponent without taking much damage. In the 12th the challenger comes back hard with a strong flurry and breaks the champ’s nose, closes his eyes etc. but doesn't stop him. Should he get the belt?

Often times if you watch a fight back without the commentary you will see a different fight (try this with the GSP vs Hendricks fight). Rogan’s biased one sided commentary lead the charge for the media and fans alike in favor of Jonny Hendricks. Its only when you take the time to watch GSP’s masterful, technical performance with an open mind you can see that it wasn't as bad a decision as you will have been lead to believe.

So the moral of the story is this. The old saying of “Never leave it in the hands of the judges” is a fair one, because they might not like your style….plus fans love a finish, give them what they want.

Author: Dwayne Crowley

Twitter: @dwaynecrowley

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