Michihiro Omigawa was the unfortunate recipient of bad judging at UFC 131. Dana White paid him his win bonus despite losing on the scorecards. Photos by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Back on May 11th, the Vancouver Athletic Commission approved a motion by the UFC to allow the use of cageside monitors by judges to more accurately view the action inside the Octagon. The move was the product of constant complaints from fans, media, and even Dana White himself about the rash of bad judging we've seen consistently over the past few years. Many fans, including myself, felt the approval would have an immediate impact on the scoring of bouts that headed to decision. Unfortunately, the judging at UFC 131 last night was bizarrely inaccurate across the board despite the installation of monitors.
Judge Dave Hagen's dissenting opinions were the hardest to swallow. Hagen turned in a score of 30-27 for Darren Elkins in the opening bout of the evening while fellow judges Bill Mahood and Jason Darrah scored the bout 29-28 in the same direction. Nearly every single MMA media outlet scored the bout in favor of Omigawa, giving him rounds two and three while scoring round one for Elkins.
Elkins' work rate, a strategy that has helped Leonard Garcia steal a number of decisions, seemed to sway Hagen's vote in the second round despite Omigawa's ability to sneak power shots through Elkins' defenses and batter his face. Mahood and Darrah missed the call on the bout as well, but it isn't unfathomable to see a 29-28 score for Elkins as the second was a very close round if you were simply looking at Elkins' hands flying around Omigawa's head. Hagen's scoring is downright ignorant though, and it's interesting to note that his history doesn't suggest he's a repeat offender.
UFC president Dana White didn't agree with the scoring either, and made sure Omigawa wasn't hurt financially. He tweeted that Omigawa would get his win bonus despite being handed a loss:
Hagen wasn't done however. A couple of hours later, he turned in a score of 30-27 for Kenny Florian when Diego Nunes clearly won the first round in their featherweight tilt on the UFC 131 main card. It was revealed before the bout that Hagen would be judging the fight, and as the scores were read -- most fans jumped to conclusions. Those conclusions ended up being spot on as it was Hagen who scored the bout incorrectly.
I won't solely pick on Dave Hagen. Bill Mahood, who has been known to score bouts correctly for the most part, went along with Hagen in scoring the Poirier vs. Young bout, 30-27. Nelson Hamilton scored the Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz bout, 30-27 in favor of Munoz, a far cry from what actually happened during the fight. Interestingly enough, Hamilton is the man responsible for creating the half-point system. Perhaps improving your ability to judge a fight needs to happen first before suggesting how we improve it from a scoring standpoint.
Monitors are a means to helping judges see the action. It's a move that needed to happen, but it isn't a cure for the misinterpretation of the scoring criteria. The Omigawa bout was the perfect opportunity for judges to view the action with a cageside monitor, watching Omigawa orchestrate a pinpoint striking game in the second round. Unfortunately, none of the judges seemed to see what we all saw.
But a bout like Munoz vs. Maia showed the bigger problem. The old guard in the judging world continues to see what we don't see. Nearly every single MMA fan who I interacted with on Twitter scored the bout sensibly, yet a veteran judge like Nelson Hamilton turned in a score of 30-27? Monitors may help judges, but it will only help the competent ones.
As I stated in a piece in October, the ultimate problem is the older generation running the show. Newer judges must be given the opportunity to prove themselves. Ninety percent of the hardcore MMA fanbase could judge better than the dinosaurs currently in place, and last night's event was a clear indication of that statement. Monitors can help judges see the angles that can't be seen from their seats, but it won't cure idiotic interpretations of the scoring criteria.