I am a little surprised by the reaction to the decision in the Jamie Varner vs Kamal Shalorus fight. While the fight itself was slightly spoiled by the two lengthy stoppages there is no denying that Shalorus was the main aggressor in all three rounds.
The opening round clearly belonged to Varner as, while he was on the back foot for the majority of the round, he landed a series of well timed counters and was the more efficient and effective of the two fighters. The same pattern continued for the remainder of the fight but Varner’s counters became fewer and further between as he began to wilt under the pressure of Shalorus’s relentless offence.
Varner was on the receiving end of a series of brutal leg kicks which, denied the use of his right hand, he seemed to have absolutely no answer for. It is unfortunate that Shalorus’s assault on Varner’s inside left thigh resulted in a series of painful looking kicks to the groin.
While Varner deserves considerable sympathy for being on the receiving end of these debilitating blows he was also inadvertently a beneficiary of them as Shalorus was deducted a vital point in the second round. From this point onwards Varner seemed to be under the impression that if he managed to see out the remainder of the fight he would be awarded the win.
A point deduction does not necessarily affect the outcome of the round. It is up to the referee to decide when a fighter should be penalized, the task of the judges is to take any round on its individual merits. A point deduction should not be a consideration in a judge’s decision making process, it is merely a mathematical consideration when working out the eventual scores.
If Varner thought that he would be automatically awarded the round because of the point deduction then he was mistaken. His opponent might have lost a point but that does not mean he necessarily lost the round. Varner still needed to demonstrate more effective striking, grappling, aggression and octagon control throughout the five minute round and he failed to do this emphatically at any stage of the second round, either before or after the groin strikes.
Varner landed the most eye catching strike of the round, a right hand which buckled his opponent’s knees, but Shalorus was far more prolific and successful with his strikes. His right kicks continually brutalized the legs and body, as well as the groin, of Varner.
Sometimes fight fans are guilty of overlooking how great the cumulative effect of kicks which land below the neck line can be. A lot of emphasis is placed on punches in MMA because, with gloves which function mainly to protect the knuckles of the puncher, a punch is an incredibly effective weapon.
Not every fight can end with a one punch knock out and kicks to the body and head are an astute investment by any fighter because they will gradually reduce an opponent’s ability to fight effectively. Rich Franklin stopped Matt Hamill with a single kick to the midriff and Matt Hughes systematically destroyed Renzo Gracie’s right leg in the third round of their fight.
While Shalorus’s sustained leg kick assault might not have been enough to finish the fight against Varner it should have been sufficient to secure him the second round, particularly as Varner was largely inactive and Shalorus controlled the octagon, dictating where the fight should take place throughout the round.
The third round was less controversial with almost all ringside observers awarding it to Shalorus meaning that the judge who scored the contest 28-28 was absolutely spot on and that ultimately the result of the fight was correct. The first round was 10-9 Varner, the second round was 10-9 Shalorus but becomes 9-9* with the point deduction and the third round was 10-9 Shalorus, 28-28.
When you are scoring a fight you need to do so without emotion. It would be understandable to feel some sympathy for Varner after being on the receiving end of a series of fouls but it is up to the referee to regulate the fight, not the judges.
The fight itself was not particularly satisfactory because it was punctuated by fouls and both fighters suffered injuries which adversely affected their performances. The eventual decision of the judges was entirely satisfactory and, despite Varner's protestations to the contrary, justice was done.
*I thought the WEC was scored under a 10 point must system meaning that one fighter had to be awarded 10 points and that this round should have been 10-10. I guess I was wrong.