Photo by Dave Mandel for Sherdog.
One of the major problems with judging in MMA is that commissions don't seem to hold judges accountable for their scorecards, no matter how atrocious the scoring. In the past, I've proposed that commissions require judges to write a short explanation when they mark their scores at the end of each round. Even something as simple as "Barry showed more effective grappling." That way, the commission has some sort of insight if they need to review an official's performance.
Of course, we've heard explanations from judges on occasion. Following UFC 104, Cecil Peoples announced to the world that leg kicks don't win fights. Then Douglas Crosby indulged us in a Hunter S. Thompson-style stream-of-consciousness rant to explain his 50-45 Edgar card from UFC 112 in the Abu Dhabi desert.
Now it's Chuck Wolfe's turn. Wolfe scored Saturday night's Bellator main event between Joe Warren and Marcos Galvao 30-27 for Warren. This despite a second round that nearly everyone watching scored for Galvao. Let's break down his quotes, provided by Michael David Smith of MMA Fighting:
Although Wolfe declined to go into a detailed blow-by-blow account of the second round, he defended his scorecard and his decision, saying on Tuesday morning that he thought all three rounds in the fight were close, and that in close rounds, something relatively minor can be the difference in a 10-9 score.
"It could be one takedown different, it could be one punch different, it could be one kick different, it could be one attempted submission different," Wolfe said.
It could be one clinch. It could be one step forward. It could be the twinkle in Joe Warren's eye. It could be the position of the moon in relation to Mars. It could be what I ate for breakfast.
I thought deciding a round based on one minor action wasn't possible. It just doesn't seem like something the human mind was equipped to handle. Imagine trying to keep track of every detail of the fight -- strikes landed, strikes avoided, takedowns, positional grappling, submission attempts -- while analyzing that data simultaneously. That seems like more work than a mere mortal could handle.
Chuck Wolfe must be more than a mere mortal. Some sort of alien superbeing, or the product of a favorable genetic mutation. I want Chuck Wolfe judging every MMA fight from here on out. By himself. Scrap the three judges because Wolfe's got us covered.
"I've judged and refereed since the beginning of the sport, I've been head official for over 600 different bouts," Wolfe said. "If you want to question my credentials, I think I have way more than anyone out there to be qualified to judge. I know fans get disappointed, but I don't think you're going to have Joe Warren fans complain about how the decision went."
You know who else was happy when a decision went their way? Fans of O.J. Simpson.
"Did he damage Warren in that fight? Yeah, he did, for a short period of time," Wolfe said. "I remember the bout very clearly. When they are close rounds there's one thing or maybe two things that might put someone ahead. ... You can grade it 10-10 but you might as well not be there if you're not going to score someone to win the round."
The judging equivalent of Jamie Varner's "I came to fight, Ben Henderson came to grapple." It's one thing to avoid using the 10-10 as much as possible (however misguide that notion may be), it's another thing to treat it like an open-sored Tommy Morrison coming at you with a butcher's knife.
"There are a lot of things that a fan will cheer about outside the cage, but each judge has a different viewpoint and a different angle," Wolfe said. "Unfortunately, judges don't have a replay, don't have a rewind, they just have to judge by what they see."
A reasonable point. Watching MMA live sucks (not the ESPN show, which does not suck) unless you have a top-down view of the cage or you're the referee of the bout. That said, a fighter shouldn't have to worry about leaving it in the hands of the judges, right?
Ultimately, Wolfe said, if Galvao isn't happy with the decision he should look in the mirror, not at the judges.
"He had three rounds to take Warren out if he really wanted to beat him -- he had three rounds to dominate Warren, as well as Warren had three rounds to dominate him," Wolfe said. "It's up to the fighter. ... Don't leave it in the hands of the judges, especially when it's a close fight."
Translation: "You better go out there and finish because I have no idea what I'm doing."