Want a surefire recipe for MMA controversy? Start with a five round title fight base. Add in a healthy mix of all facets of the sport. Split four of the rounds evenly for the two combatants. Sprinkle a round of even action. Top off with a pinch of submission attempts. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees. Allow five minutes to cool. Serves an unlimited amount of highly reactive fans.
In our WEC 43 live blog, I scored the fight 48-47 to Henderson, with Ben winning rounds 1-3 and Cerrone taking 4 and 5. I debated scoring the opening period 10-10. Embarrassingly, I must admit to forcing myself to score to one of the fighters after scoring multiple rounds 10-10 throughout the night. Around the 'net, all three Sherdog judges scored the fight for Cerrone (two of which had it 48-46). MMA Mania had the fight 48-47 for Henderson. MMA Weekly also had it 48-47 Henderson. Jordan Breen went so far as to Twitter the decision was "bullshit".
But let's be fair. Any time a fight comes down to a single, close round, there's going to be a lot of variance in the outcome. We've made that case here at Bloody Elbow over and over. And when our collective eyeballs are unable to reach a unanimous agreement, it's always useful to check out some data. FightMetric, fortunately, released their report on Cerrone vs. Henderson.
|Round 2||49||33||10-9 H|
|Round 3||76||46||10-9 H|
|Round 4||11||33||10-9 C|
|Round 5||14||57||10-9 C|
What we see here is the FightMetric Effectiveness Scores and Ten Point Must System scores by round and total. Breen and Mike Fridley scored round 5 10-8 for Cerrone, but the round falls far short of FightMetric's criteria for a 10-8 round (a fighter must score a minimum of 100 points and have 6 times as many as his opponent in a single round).
The caveat for FightMetric scoring is that the system can only account for the action it receives. It can't weigh additional judging criteria like cage control or aggression. However, I don't think either of those issues are the crux of round one. It comes back to the long-running debate of submission attempts vs. takedowns and mild striking from the top. FightMetric scores it a draw according to its system, and judging by the varying scores around the internet, it's hard to say the round definitively belonged to one fighter or another.
FightMetric's Rami Genaur elaborates:
My thoughts are simply that judging MMA is probably the hardest (or at least the most confusing) task in sports. I can’t think of any other judged sport that contains two completely equal components that contestants perform simultaneously. Imagine if figure skaters had to sing while performing and were judged on both the quality of their skating and singing. To make matters worse, judges can give only one score and there are no guidelines about which – the singing or the skating – is worth more, because every performance can contain a different mix of both activities, to the point where someone could win by just doing one and not the other. How would you judge such a competition? And in truth, MMA has it worse, because there are three components. As Henderson-Cerrone showed us, judges have to consider striking, takedowns/ground control, and submissions all at the same time. All that with virtually no help or guidance from the official rules.
It makes for an interesting problem: MMA’s greatest strength is the "mixed" part; the multiple facets and numerous techniques that can all be used at any time. This is what makes a true mixed martial arts bout so compelling. Unfortunately, the greater the diversity of action within a fight, the harder it becomes to pick a winner. It turns the sports’ greatest strength into a huge liability.
If an analogy comparing MMA and figure skating (well) doesn't say it all, I don't know what will.