Going into UFC on Fox 3, there was a tiny little bit of buzz amongst the MMA cognoscenti that UFC veteran Ricardo Almeida would be one of the judges chosen by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board to score the fights. Notably both Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks expressed their pleasure that Almeida would be judging their bout.
MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani got quotes from both fighters about Almeida:
"I think that's cool because he's going to know a little bit more about the sport and he's going to know what positions really mean," Hendricks said on a Thursday conference call. "He'll know when a strike actually lands. I think that's what we need is some people like that stepping in there and start doing that kind of stuff because they know what it's like to jump in the cage. They know what's like to do all this stuff. I think he'll be a great judge."
"I think it's good for the sport," Koscheck said. "It gets a perspective of a fighter, someone who's been in the Octagon and knows Jiu-Jitsu and knows wrestling and understands this sport. I think that as this sport grows we're going to see more ex-UFC fighters become judges, so I think it's a good start."
So imagine the irony when Almeida was the lone judge to score the fight for Koscheck in a split decision that went Hendricks' way. Fight Metric says Hendricks outscored Koscheck by a wide margin.
More from Luke Thomas and Almeida responds after the jump...
Luke Thomas pointed out the ironies at MMA Fighting:
Hendricks was ultimately declared the winner, but only by split decision. Judges Jeff Blatnick and Cardo Urso scored the bout 29-28 for Hendricks. The dissenting judge who scored it 29-28 for Koscheck? Former UFC middleweight and welterweight contender and now retired fighter Ricardo Almeida.
It'd be a stretch to call scoring the fight for Koscheck irresponsible or evidence of poor judging, although there's not much of a quantitative defense for Koscheck. Still, judging is a qualitative endeavor and one hampered by vantage point, biases both ingrained or innocuous and the limits of one's ability to draw defensible conclusions about athletic performance. By the very nature of how judging is administered, a difference of opinion in close contests among those qualified to score MMA at the highest professional levels is inevitable. A score for Koscheck isn't bad even if it isn't ultimately the most defensible position to take.
Almeida spoke to Brazilian media outlet Globo Sport TV (translation by Orcus):
The fight was very even. But I don't think (the result) was absurd. Koscheck was upset, but it was a tough fight. I don't see any injustice. I still think he did more to win even though Hendricks connected with more strikes standing, but I didn't think it was absurd.
The first two rounds could have gone either way. In the first round Koscheck had two combinations that were interesting. Hendricks stood against the fence and let in at least eight strikes. And when Hendricks took Koscheck down he couldn't do much. Koscheck was able to connect with cleaner strikes. In the second round, Hendricks was starting to connect more and I think he got two takedowns, I can't remember, I don't have the paper in front of me.
There was pressure (on me) for the fact that I used to be a UFC fighter. Everyone there came to talk to me, Lorenzo Fertitta, the people the work behind the scene, and even a guy from the Nevada Athletic Commission. I liked (being a judge), it was really cool, but there was that pressure, even more so because I knew the fight between Koscheck and Hendricks would be a tough one.