Debate rages over the hotly contested main event match from last night. Fans on both sides fighting across comment lines and forums all over the internet, arguing if it was Overeem or Werdum who deserved the W.
The central points of the debate highlight the challenges in scoring an MMA fight, the multifaceted nature of the sport brings up the concept of valuing certain events in a fight more than others. Also, how to score grappling and striking in context to each other adds to complexity of properly scoring a close match.
One of the very first debate points is the striking differential, Overeem coming into the fight was considered to have a huge striking edge but in the fight it was Werdum who pushed the action on the feet. Werdum threw over 100 punches and landed more strikes than the K-1 Champ, but it was Overeem who landed harder strikes.
But that brings up another point, Werdum's guard pulls or guard flops when Overeem began striking have been a point of contention. Should those be counted as knockdowns? If not, should they reflect poorly on Werdum in scoring? Is that timidity or savvy attempts to get the fight to the ground? And once you've answered those questions, how much should it be weighed in scoring a round.
Also lost in the mixed of being accused of back flopping was the Werdum had some very nice half-guard pulls straight into sweep attempts and Overeem had equally nice defense of said sweeps. And Overeem's defense against those half-guard sweeps and Werdum's overall takedown game is one that should be counted in scoring, stopping all but one of Werdum's takedowns and even then scrambling to the feet quickly.
Also where do Overeem's Muay Thai style dumps fit into the scoring? Are they takedowns, puesdo-knockdowns or something else entirely?
Once on the ground now the debate of activity vs position can begin. First is the guard necessarily an advantage for the man on top? For it was Overeem, not Werdum assuming a defensive posture once in the guard and Werdum was the fighter working to achieve offense, but does the simple fact of being on top out-weight that? And if Werdum is punished for timidity in the striking game by pulling guard, should Overeem not also be punished to assuming such an inert, defensive posture in guard and then fleeing the position given the first opening?
While the majority of debate over decisions often focuses around the ineptitude of the judges and their inability to correctly see who is clearly outboxing or out grappling the other. Those decision will fade over time as judges become more educated (we hope), but debates like the one taking place over Overeem vs Werdum will not.
It is a debate about how to assign value to actions in a fight and how much value to give. The leg-kicks vs punches debate of Shogun-Machida I is an issue that would cause division in MMA no matter if it was the 1990s or the 2020s because it gets to the heart of MMA; which techniques and styles are more effective.
Photo by Esther Lin via Showtime Sports.