"That was a crime. That was a crime."
-- Referee "Big" John McCarthy to me, in reference to the decision by the judges of the Virginia state athletic commission to award a split decision victory to Mike Easton over Chase Beebe.
In one of the most egregious examples of moronic and breathtakingly inept judging that I have ever personally witnessed in professional MMA, Mike "The Hulk" Easton was awarded a split decision victory over Chase "The Rage" Beebe this past Saturday as part of the main event of UWC 7: Redemption. To anyone with even a cursory understanding of how MMA fights are judged and evaluated, Beebe clearly won the contest and did so handily. The suggestion that the fight was close is not even remotely justifiable. Easton certainly did not absorb a strong amount of physical damage, but was positionally controlled over prolonged periods of time in four separate rounds by Beebe. The Chicago native did more than enough to win. He had it 49-46 on my score cards.
The reality is this: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Easton and Team Lloyd Irvin (TLI). In fact, I consider him a friend. Easton was one of the first teachers I ever had when I first began training at the TLI facilities in Camp Springs, MD. I have deep respect for him as a person and hold profound admiration for his coach and trainer, Lloyd Irvin. Easton is an excellent fighter with certifiable upside and put on a solid performance against Beebe this past Saturday evening. But as spirited as it was, Easton did not win that fight. I awarded round two to Easton for out striking Beebe and for cage generalship. However, in the other rounds, Beebe used effective wrestling to plant Easton on the mat and superior grappling to both take and hold Easton's back. For the vast majority of the first, third, fourth and fifth rounds, Beebe was able to control Easton's back for several minutes while threatening with chokes and scoring points with less than damaging but conspicuous punches to Easton's ears and face. In short: he completely controlled Easton, threatened him with striking and effective grappling and did so for sustained amounts of time.
Noticeably, in every instance where Beebe was able to take Easton's back, referee "Big" John McCarthy never stood the pair up. Just as he did in the Couture vs. Sylvia fight, McCarthy recognized back control is a highly advantageous, damaging position that by its very nature implies the fighter who is being controlled is in serious trouble. Back control, by definition, is an offensive position. With your back taken, you are arguably in the most defensive position in all of MMA or grappling. You cannot strike effectively and virtually all grappling opportunities from that position are nothing but defensive maneuvering. To a white belt student with six months of grappling, this is common knowledge.
So, who is to blame here? Without equivocation, the judges of the Virginia athletic commission. Mike Easton is not to blame and did nothing wrong. Neither is the UWC who does not have the legal authority to assign judges for professional MMA contests. Instead we are talking about athletic commission judges so inept they do not have the capability to properly evaluate even amateur contests, much less the biggest and most significant MMA fight ever held in the Washington, D.C. area. That they don't even recognize what constitutes effective grappling is abominable; that they were allowed to wield this lack of knowledge during the most significant bout of the evening is downright negligent on the part of those who assigned them their duties.
But something else is rotten in Denmark: the Virginia commission itself. Let me be absolutely clear about this so everyone can get a good look: this is one of the most heavy-handed, incompetent and undeserving athletic commissions I have ever had the displeasure of watching operate. To watch them work is to suffer. As I will detail over the coming week, they are a group that is in no position to be sanctioning and regulating professional MMA. Their judges are utterly clueless, their existing judging criteria is an abortion of proper standards and the officials in place are ineffectual bullies who are thoroughly unfamiliar with law and historical precedent. In their present state, they are a threat to the growth of MMA.
Lastly, I want to say I do not write this as a representative of the UWC. They did not ask me to author any protest. I am writing this in outrage as a fan of MMA and a DC resident. Athletic commissions, particularly those that are grossly negligent and maladroit, do not get to tell us what to do. The performance they turned in Saturday evening evidences their inability to discharge the duties assigned to them by the state and if they had the slightest sense of shame, they'd internally investigate the judges who scored the fight for Easton. I also contend they should put a temporary moratorium on sanctioning and regulating professional MMA until more competent officials can be cobbled together and the existing rules on judging can be modified (for the record, Beebe still wins even under their outrageously illogical system; I'll explain in a later post).
I neither manage Chase Beebe nor run the UWC. But in my opinion, Beebe's team should ask the commission for a review of the judging to get the decision overturned. I also believe the UWC should book an immediate rematch and hold the fight in either Maryland or Washington, D.C. as Virginia has proven itself incapable of the task of proper regulation. And if I had my way, I would not hold subsequent UWC events in Virginia until the commission makes serious and meaningful operational changes to their staff and laws.
For years I have been championing state governments overturning bans on or electing to regulate MMA. The "Lift the Ban Watch" series has been a testament to that development. But perhaps the joke is on us. While it sounds pleasant to have no states banning MMA or refusing to regulate it, we go from the frying pan into the fire when we realize their inept regulation is downright harmful to the sport and its participants. Willing though they may be, the apparatus of regulation across America is woefully amateurish and causing serious problems for the fighters, promoters and fans of MMA.
We must put a stop to this.