MMA's Judging System Needs a High-Tech Upgrade

Chan Sung Jung bombs Leonard Garcia during their controversial split decision war that earned both men Fight of the Night honors. Photo by

Following Saturday evening's featherweight contest between former UFC lightweight Leonard Garcia and Sengoku veteran "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung, I was filled with a misconception that the judges would easily score the fight in favor of Jung. It seemed fairly apparent that during many of the exchanges, Garcia simply didn't land his booming overhand while Jung countered with a blistering array of straight punches to Garcia's face.

I was wrong. Judge Steel and Hamilton both scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Garcia, giving him both the second and third rounds. Judge Belardo scored the contest 29-28 for Jung, although he scored the first and second round in favor of Jung.

Interestingly enough, most of the scoring from fans and writers was completely different. As Mike Fagan pointed out in the FightMetric scoring post, there were plenty of MMA sites who also pointed in the direction of Jung.

Why is there such a disparity between viewers and actual judges at these events? As many fans have begun to point out in droves, judges are at a distinct disadvantage sitting cage-side than those of us tuned in on massive television sets with over-the-cage points of view. Jung vs. Garcia is a battle that proves once again that monitors must be implemented for effective and accurate MMA judging to occur.

What's stopping a monitor system from being implemented by state athletic commissions? Is it logistics? Money? What's the problem, and is there some sort of solution?

The budget could be one hurdle limiting the use of a monitoring system. While televisions aren't all that expensive these days, not all events have a television crew and access to feeds available. Requiring all events to do this in order to give judges a good view of the action would hurt many promotions' bottom line, and that probably won't fly with promoters.

That pushes the emphasis of a monitoring system to the athletic commission. If larger promotions with the resources to provide monitors are required to implement a system, wouldn't smaller promotions be in the same boat? Would this need to be a system-wide implementation?

I imagine we'd see some managers and fighters arguing with commissions over the rules of having a system in place if only larger promotions were able to use a system. After all, it's their careers and their records at stake, and many promotions solely go on their success as a way to gauge whether their worth the money to contract for fights.

Are commissions against large promotions providing monitors? If the UFC were to simply put three television sets in place with their live feed fed to it without audio, would a commission deem that illegal under their current by-laws? These are questions that need to be asked and answered.

This defense that judges have an unique perspective due to a cage-side seat is completely absurd for anyone to believe. There is a reason why I hate going to live events, and it's probably the same reason why judges have a hard time seeing action when a fight takes place at the other end of the cage. It's tough to see anything. There are plenty of fans who can argue that they hated spending huge money to look at an overhead monitor for half the night when action took place away from their vantage point. The same applies to judges.

Even if you felt that the Jung vs. Garcia fight was scored correctly, do we really need evidence to point to judges needing monitors? This is a high-tech age we live in, and any advantage we can give the very people who decide who wins in a sport that's gaining more popularity and more revenue every day is a good thing.

NJ State Athletic Control Board head Nick Lembo spoke with back in November and made some comments regarding the use of monitors and Nelson Hamilton's proposal regarding half-points being used. I thought his comments on the monitors was favorable:

"I am not sure what it would require. First, I think a review of all the so-called controversial decisions being re-scored under this system would be an interesting starting point.   I would be remiss if I did not say how difficult a task that MMA judging can be. Sometimes I wonder if judges should be in separate rooms watching on high definition big screen televisions, because TV usually gives you the perfect angles while sitting cage side provides blocked or limited views at times. Or at least have TV monitors at the judges’ seats for times when their views are blocked."

Separate rooms? Yes please. Monitors at the judges' seats. Yes.

Why aren't monitors in place at events? I couldn't tell you, but I do know that many of these close fights in which one fighter wins by consensus opinion, but loses on the judges' scorecards is frustrating to watch. For such an epic war between two great competitors, the rightful winner should have his hand raised.

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