The Idiocy of "Beating the Champion" to Be the Champion


Some of the most reflective thought in MMA goes on in's Doggy Bag and while this isn't the headiest material ever discussed, it is essential:

A quick note on Machida vs. Rua: people need to remember that if you are going to beat the champion by decision, it has to be decisive. Championships are different than normal fights. Bottom line: Rua wasn't decisive.
-- Jason

TJ De Santis, radio host: Can you please tell me where this "beat the defending champion decisively" rule is located within the unified rules? Let me save you some time: it doesn’t.

One point or five. A victory is a victory. If you beat the champion by one point on two of three scorecards, you have beaten the champion.

The New York Yankees are currently playing the Philadelphia Phillies in this year’s Major League Baseball World Series. Philadelphia won last year’s. That makes them the current and defending champions of baseball. Does that mean the Yankees need to win fives games out of seven instead of the standard four? Or maybe because the Phils’ are defending champions, they should only lose games when they have been defeated by two runs, instead of one.

The singular nature of championships (either you are or you aren't the champ) as well as their gravity naturally make us lean in the direction of cleanliness. If a challenger wins, they should win decisively; should being the operative word. The reality, though, is that we live in a world of imprecision. And more to the point: once the cage door shuts and both competitors are fighting, there no longer is a champion. In a very real sense, the title is up for grabs and will go to fighter who performs better even if that performance is only marginally superior. The notion that some drubbing is owed to the champion should the challenger wish to take the title is nothing more than the desperation of loyalists hunting for excuses to protect their preferred fighter.

And to that end, "never let it go to the judges" is another meme that deserves to be removed from the language of the MMA community. Again, it would certainly be preferable if all fights ended with a clear victor, but that is not the world we live in. And if a fight does go to the judges, they should not be so incompetent that we have to collectively worry they'll be able to perform the duties asked of them. Arguing for a finish is never a bad thing, but being frightened by judging because of inconsistency and lunacy is not a problem that will be solved if we ask fighters to punch harder or hunt for submissions more actively. The answer is to a) assume some measure of judging error will never go away and b) work tirelessly to make sure athletic commissions have educated and experienced judges.


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