Now I, like many, find myself regularly at odds with MMA judges. Whether it be the extremely controversial Phil Davis Vs Lyoto Machida fight from earlier this year at UFC 163 that saw Phil Davis taking a unanimous decision victory home while we all at least had Lyoto winning Round 3 to take the fight 29-28, with some even seeing it 30-27. Or if it was the very close and extremely entertaining fight between Jones and Gustafsson, we all have our gripes with the way judges score the fights. But UFC 166 saw multiple fights that leaned more towards Davis and Machida, with judges leaving fans who watched puzzled and frustrated. UFC 166 was a great event that I couldn't help but walk away from remembering some late stoppages, poor refereeing, and borderline inexcusable scorecards. It took away from an event that top to bottom was one of the best in a real long time.
Let's start here with the Kaufman Vs Eye fight from the FS1 Prelims. It most certainly was a close fight, there is no doubt about that. When it came down to the end, I had the fight scored 30-28 for Kaufman. I gave the first round a 10-10 but could have argued for giving the second round a 10-10 as well. Now, I know, judges will almost never score a 10-10. But their reluctance to do so should not change how you score a fight. Their reluctance to do so also is spawned from trying to avoid ties, but all they end up doing is causing controversial decisions. With this fight in particular, had they used a 10-10 round for either the first or the second, they could have given a draw to a very close fight. They also however could have come out with a score that gave someone the win, without baffling fans by picking something random out of the middle of the round to determine who gets the 10-9.
Above I have placed the judges scorecards from the fight, as you can see the only round they all agreed on was the first, seeing it 10-9 for Eye. While I am not a fan of using stats like strikes landed as a way to determine who won the round, Fight metrics said that they both landed 30 strikes. When I was watching it, my reasoning behind the 10-10 was that I believed Eye hurt more, but Kaufman had landed more. While I see how you come out to Eye having won the round, I felt at the time it looked very close and close enough that no one clearly pulled ahead, warranting a 10-10 round. Now as we jump ahead to round 2, which I personally scored 10-9 for Kaufman, we see the judges split on who won the round. Both Gino Garcia and Ruben Najera give the round 10-9 to Kaufman, while Jon Schorle sees it 10-9 for Eye. Again with this round I am still not too distressed over the scores. A very close round much like the first. A check in once again with Fight Metrics shows that total strikes landed for the round were 38-33 in favor of Kaufman, with significant strikes being a bit wider of a gap, 26-17 Kaufman. While i do believe Kaufman won I don't feel like Schorle totally botched the score.
It is round three that is puzzling. On my card I have it fairly comfortably 10-9 in favor of Kaufman. My scores lines up with both Garcia and Schorle. But somehow Najera goes off the rails here, seeing it 10-9 for Eye. While an argument could be made for both previous rounds go to either women, or even being a draw, round three felt pretty cleared. While not using fights metrics as a way of scoring the round, it clearly backs up the perspective of giving the round to Kaufman. This is the only round that has a large gap in the total strikes landed and it is 63-30 for Kaufman. The significant strikes also see their largest gap, coming in at 38-23 for Kaufman. Coming full circle on this fight, this clearly demonstrates the dangerous waters the judges get into when they feel the need to force 10-9 rounds. With Gino Garcia being the only judge agreeing with the majority for all three rounds,you wind up with a split decision, that in a very close fight pegs Eye the winner. Now while she never fought horribly, she didn't pull away in any of the rounds either. Kaufman had a clear advantage in the third but the judges need to give someone the win in each round leaves her with the loss. Both of the first two rounds were extremely close. To try and say that the women did not fight on an equal level there would be an insult to both of them. At the very least the women should be walking out of that cage with a draw. All that avoiding draws does is cause controversy. It makes it appear that the judges are just picking random things to determine razor close rounds. Any time you see judges disagreeing on who won a round, it is likely the case can be made for a 10-10. However that is not always true because sometimes, judges just flat out get it wrong, as Ruben Najera did in this fight for round three.
Let us now jump to the final fight on the FS1 Prelims that saw Tim Boetsch facing C.B Dollaway. The last thing you want to have happen if you are the UFC is to have the final prelim fight leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth heading into the PPV. This bad taste is usually left by a sleeper of a fight. However this time it was the same three judges from the Kaufman Vs Eye fight botching yet another score. This one I think we all can agree was far worse. The scores here were borderline impossible. Now if I told you that there was an eye poke in round 3 that resulted in a point being deducted from Dollaway, before I told you anything else, you would assume that it had a direct correlation with the scoring being a mess. Unfortunately, the judges were so wrong on this one that it had ZERO affect on the outcome. I can say, without much doubt, that I speak for almost everyone in saying that Dollaway took both the first two rounds and went into the third leading 20-18. Yet somehow both Najera and Schorle gave Boetsch both of them. Those scores are inexcusable. I can't even fathom how they came up with it. MMADeciscions.com for those of you who don't know, allows the public to input their scorecards, as well as compiling media scores and the actual judges cards. For round 1 out of the 70 cards submitted, 95.7% of the public saw it 10-9 for Dollaway. Round 2 was almost equally lopsided with 87% seeing it 10-9 for Dollaway. (Not to mention, some people messed with the number in round 2 as a 10-7 is listed, obviously that didn't happen) It was VERY clear that Boetsch entered round 3 trailing on the scorecard.
As we head to the third round most people watching, including Boetsch's corner, feel he needs to finish this fight in order to win. The fact that he was winning on two judges scorecards makes absolutely no sense. Credit here to Gino Garcia, as he correctly had it 20-18 Dollaway as we enter the third. Although I shouldn't feel the need to give credit for something so clear. Now in this round Dollaway twice, pokes Boetsch in the eye, both pokes coming in quick succession. After the second poke the referee correctly decides to deduct a point from Dollaway. Following the deduction the best Boetsch should have been able to hope for was that he won the round 10-8, allowing him to leave the fight with a 28-28 draw. The round is rather close but I did give it to Boetsch to come to the final score of 28-28, along with 40% of the public. Scoring the round in favor of Dollaway, that after the deduction, would be 9-9 was also an acceptable score to give. It actually was what most people did as 50.7% of the public came to a score of 29-27 along with judge Gino Garcia. However as a result of their bonehead scores for the first two rounds, both Najera and Schorle came to final scores of 30-26 Boetsch. Giving Boetsch a split decision victory he had no business receiving. You may also notice, that if we ignore the deducted point which actually has no bearing on the final result, all 3 judges had it scored 30-27 in favor of someone, but yet we had a split decision. How on earth can you have a split decision, that has all scores come out to 30-27? Split decisions should occur as the result of close fights, not fights that have all judges giving all 3 rounds to opposite guys. We would have had a split decision that resulted in a draw had both Schorle and Najera not been totally insane and that should have been the best Boetsch could have hoped for. Instead we got the worst type of split decision, all the judges think someone dominated the whole fight, they just can't seem to decide who it was and the majority was totally wrong.
So what do we do?
To be honest I don't know. I feel like encouraging judges to use 10-10 and 10-8 more is all we can do as getting the commissions to totally change the scoring system at this point is more of a dream than a possibility. But in the case of the Boetsch and Dollaway fight, no scoring system could have saved Najera and Schorle who just appeared to know nothing about MMA or to not have watched the fight. But it is disturbing that we leave almost every single event with at least one fight that has impossible to understand scorecards. How can MMA expect to gain new fans with scoring that seems impossible to understand and at its worst, fixed. Anyone watching UFC 166 could see that Boetsch didn't win, even someone who had never watched MMA before. How do you explain that to them and get them to comeback? Now neither fight was incredibly important, but what if something like that happens during Silva Vs Weidman 2? Conspiracy theories already surround the first fight. MMA and the UFC can not afford bad scorecards that night. But being in Nevada, for a commission who sees the most MMA, nothing is guaranteed. You never know when someone like Cecil Peoples will show up and leave everyone dumbfounded. This is a problem in MMA. Outside of the downed opponent being classified as a hand on the mat, nothing frustrates me more. But unlike the downed opponent rule, one day this judging will rear its ugly head at the absolute worst time, leaving casual fans turned off from the sport and making it look like a joke. Let us all just hope it isn't when Silva tries to regain the title against Weidman in December at UFC 168.