I will specifically refrain from inserting dramatic words like "controversial" or "robbery" so no one gets the wrong idea here.
As someone passionate about the hot buttons of MMA's judging and scoring conundrum, I thought I'd foster some discussion on one of the many polarizing elements, which is how and when to score a 10-8 round. The issue came into play in the third round of UFC 137's Brandon Vera vs. Eliot Marshall bout and ultimately decided the outcome.
After likely being down two rounds going into the third, Marshall rocked Vera with a stiff one-two less than a minute in. Smelling blood, Marshall pounced on the wobbly-legged Vera and dropped him to the canvas with more punches. Vera was wise in tying up and getting back to his feet to gather his wits, but Marshall connected with another clean left hook shortly after.
Vera, who was clearly in survival mode and mounting no effective offense, initiated a clinch and held Marshall on the fence until the two-minute mark. That's when Marshall broke free and whiffed another big left hand, but caught Vera in a body lock, scored a takedown and took his back while threatening with the rear-naked choke. Having only one hook in and throwing strikes to the body, Marshall then transitioned to a deep armbar with forty-five seconds left when Vera tried to spin into his guard. He wrenched the hold until Vera escaped with ten seconds left.
A round is to be scored as a 10-8 Round when a contestant overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round.
I think it's quite conceivable that Marshall met the requirements for a 10-8 round as described in the Unified Rules of MMA.
Continued after the jump.
The 10-8 round comes down to the basis of "overwhelmingly dominating" with striking and grappling as compared to the standard 10-9 round where "one contestant wins by a close margin".
Rounds one and two are excellent examples of a typical 10-9 round because Vera out-struck Marshall by a close margin, landing the higher volume of more effective blows, but none were of the magnitude of Marshall's third round barrage and both were jousting at a more even pace.
The key differentiators in the third are the tangible impact of Marshall's two monumental flurries -- one visibly dazing Vera, the other dropping him to the floor -- and thoroughly meeting the effective grappling measures with a takedown, back control and threatening with two legit submission attempts (rear-naked choke and armbar).
Additionally, Vera mounted absolutely no significant or threatening offense and was reduced to merely defending through multiple, potentially fight-ending situations for all five minutes.
The following is my Round Scoring Graph to plot the ebb and flow of the action and how effective Marshall's offense was in relation to a 10-9 versus a 10-8 round.
Since Vera mounted no offense, the line never shifts in his favor. The distance the line travels is based on how effective each of Marshall's offensive maneuvers were.
The popular (yet totally undefined) guidelines for "dominating" are damage, unquestionably advantageous positions, proximity to finishing the fight and how mutual the back-and-forth activity was. In my opinion, Marshall inflicting damage was evinced by Vera losing his legs on the first exchange, then dropping to the ground completely in the second. Though you could debate how near he was to finishing with those strikes, he closed with two dominant positions and threatened with two submission attempts, the last being as close as it gets to finishing without actually doing it.
What seals the deal for a 10-8 on my score card is Vera's complete lack of exhibiting any significant offense in any scoring category throughout the entire third round: effective striking, effective grappling, control and effective aggression.
While far from an atrocity, my biggest concern is how judges, fans and media who disagree are equating the level of dominance Marshall showed in the third with what Vera did in the first two. Vera did no apparent damage and he came nowhere near to dominating in either striking or grappling nor finishing the fight.
Marshall, however, did. I have a little trouble accepting a score that brands Vera's first two rounds with the exact same success as Marshall's third round.
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com