UFC 127 Results: B.J. Penn, Jon Fitch Draw Shows Limits of MMA Scoring

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Jon Fitch of the USA is pinned to the cage by BJ Penn of the USA shakes hands at the end of the fight during their welterweight bout part of UFC 127 at Acer Arena on February 27, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

UFC 127 brought one truly epic bout to Australia: B.J. Penn vs Jon Fitch. Penn is a former two division champion and Fitch is the long-time #2 welterweight in the world, whether it's on the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings or by any other measure. 

The two fighters went to war and gave it their all. Their performances gave fans no cause for complaint. Penn surprised Fitch by pressing for take downs, taking Fitch out of his game in the first two rounds, but Fitch came back to utterly dominate the third. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that Jon Fitch had won the fight last night. 

Unfortunately he didn't win the GAME of fighting. Two judges scored the fight a draw, despite giving Fitch a 10-8 round in the third. 

UFC boss Dana White went on the record to ESPN saying he scored the fight for Penn:

"I didn't think it was a draw," White told ESPN.com. "I looked at the scorecards and the two judges who had it a draw scored the first two rounds for Penn and the third round a 10-8 [for Fitch].

"Personally, I scored the first two rounds for Penn and had him winning the fight. There's no doubt B.J. got pounded in the third round, but that wasn't a 10-8 round."

Here's Michael David Smith talking about the scoring:

Show the B.J. Penn vs. Jon Fitch fight to people who don't know how MMA is judged, and ask them who won. They'd tell you it was Fitch, obviously. But of the three people whose job it was to decide who won, only one said Fitch was the winner. The other two said it was a draw, and so that was the result: No one won the main event at UFC 127.
...
Jon Fitch deserved to win the decision at UFC 127. That the fight was a draw is a combination of the fact that MMA has bad judges, and bad judging criteria.
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But even aside from the individual judges, there are problems with the judging criteria. My biggest problem with MMA's use of the 10-point must system imported from boxing is that far too many MMA judges seem to think they have to score every round 10-9, and 10-10 or 10-8 rounds are far too rare. Fitch absolutely dominated the third round -- according to Compustrike he landed 134 strikes in the third, and Penn landed zero. That's a textbook example of a 10-8 round, and yet one of the judges scored it 10-9.

MDS has an excellent point but he lets it go to reach for another, good, but not great point. Instead of fixating on the paucity of 10-8 rounds in MMA, MDS should have stuck with the original point -- it was obvious to any untrained eye that Jon Fitch won the fight last night. 

That is unless they know how MMA is scored. 

That's why I've never liked the 10 point must system for MMA. It was imported from boxing with very little thought and it just doesn't work. The point of an MMA bout is to determine who is the better FIGHTER, not create a complicated exercise in point scoring. 

MMA was invented as a reaction against the elaborate kinds of point fighting that dominated martial arts in the 1970s and 80s. Olympic Tae Kwon Do may be entertaining on some level, but it doesn't tell you a thing about who would win in a fight.

Clinging to the 10 point must system even as it more and more results in obviously wrong decisions like Penn vs Fitch and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs Lyoto Machida at UFC 123 is just burying your head in the sand. 

An alternative to changing the scoring system -- which has been codified into law in most of the U.S. -- would be to make headlining but non-title fights like Penn vs Fitch go five rounds. There is no doubt in my mind that had there been more rounds to that fight we would have had a clear winner. 

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