The fact that, upon reading the title, most readers are either wondering, "Does he actually mean the guy who scored the first Penn vs. Edgar fight 50-45 for Frankie?" or sharpening their pitchforks with a wicked grin wholly justifies why this needs to be written:
Douglas Crosby is the best judge in mixed martial arts.
It is indeed possible, maybe even likely, that Crosby's identity is etched into the very fabric of your psyche as not only a poor judge, but one who purportedly lost his shit on the Underground Forum whilst explaining the rationale for his seethingly contentious tally in the UFC 112 clash between B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar. If so, you may find yourself experiencing a number of unsettling sensations such as shock, disbelief or perhaps even anger at this assertion. And that's OK, because that all too common reaction has triggered similar qualms of discomfort on my end for Crosby's lack of prior acknowledgment and unfairly distorted reputation.
Considering those polarized perspectives, and in plain terms -- one of us is crazy. Let's find out who.
Defining the Whole by a Half-Percent of Performance
From the total perspective, do we define the entire legacy of Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko by his lone submission loss to Fabricio Werdum? No. Why? Because one single fight in 38 outings represents less than three percent of Emelianenko's cumulative professional career. That's also why we don't measure "Big" John McCarthy's overall acuity as a referee by his hotly debated management of the virtual low-blow buffet that transpired in the Bobby Green vs. James Krause match at UFC Fight Night 31.
Beyond combat sports, this is why we'll think of Michael Jordan as an all-time NBA great instead of a random outfielder in triple-A baseball; why roles like Jules in Pulp Fiction and Jedi knight Mace Windu come to mind for Samuel L. Jackson instead of Neville in Snakes on a Plane; the reason Sherlock Holmes stands as an ace detective rather than an avid connoisseur of cocaine and morphine.
By all standards of science, reason, or good ol' common sense, the act of forming an encapsulating judgment on anyone or anything based on one tiny portion of an extensive body of work is at least reprehensible, if not just silly and useless.
So, with a 13-year tenure as a top-level MMA judge and a grand total of 169 decisions under his belt, why are you defining Douglas Crosby by one measly performance, which happens to account for around one-half a percent of his MMA judging career?
I adamantly disagreed with Crosby's aforementioned clean sweep for Edgar at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi and voiced it in an article supported by detailed, round-by-round analysis. Therefore, I am not painting Crosby as infallible, however, nor am I limiting my scope of assessment to one single decision out of a nearly unparalleled field of 169 in all.
- Exhibit A: Penn vs. Edgar at UFC 112, which represents 0.6% of Crosby's judging performances.
- Guidelines: Using a lens 168-times too small results in a drastically skewed, and in this case, unfair, evaluation of overall performance.
- Conclusion: Penn vs. Edgar 1 or any of Crosby's singular scores could be the most egregiously inconceivable pile of dogshit imaginable and he'd still have the best track record in the history of MMA judging.
Comparative Peer Analysis
Flawless officials don't exist in any capacity. In the context of sport, any official with a perfect track record is subsequently plied to service as often as humanly possible until imperfection inevitably arises. Over the last half-decade, MMA ref Herb Dean began to accrue the well deserved reputation of a stellar referee and became a fixture in the cage for most of MMA's marquee match ups. It's no coincidence that Dean's nearly pristine status lost a little luster as his occupational frequency and imperativeness increased. That's quite typical, and doesn't mean Herb Dean is a poor referee -- hairs can be split over whether he's the outright best referee in MMA, but no one can deny that he's somewhere among the very elite and one of the most competent and consistent in the biz.
The same applies when grading MMA's echelon of judges. The best decisions are those we don't speak of, so I can't fathom a better rule of thumb to gauge judging performance than to contrast the sum of an individual's contentious scores with those that are not.It's a painfully basic but logical "good vs. bad" comparison.
And judges with a better performance ratio than Douglas Crosby simply do not exist.
If anyone insists otherwise, I can all but guarantee that their candidates have yet to serve term in the biggest of the big leagues or, at least, for any comparable amount of time. In plain terms, citing an obscure judge with an exemplary history in non-premiere regional shows is not unlike justifying that a promising King of the Cage fighter with an undefeated record deserves the same lofty status as a UFC champion. Sure, the potential might be there, but it's not a reality until it happens.
As with MMA's combatants, the true prestige of officials is best measured through consistent immersion at the sport's apex level. MMADecisions.com, a regular pit stop for hardcores, has documented all of the relevant judges and decisions in modern day MMA. For those who remain unconvinced that Crosby is the alpha judge, every conceivable alternative with a better track record in more and bigger fights is just a click away ... but, having rifled through that site for years, I'd be lying if I said I'll be waiting with baited breath for this unsung savior to be revealed.
- Exhibit B: Douglas Crosby's documented history of judging performance from MMA Decisions.
- Guidelines: Finding a superior judge with a comparable history and tenure at MMA's pinnacle.
- Conclusion: Zilch. Nada. None.
Bright Sides in the Darkness -- Innovation and Accessibility
In retrospect, Crosby's cynical wit and inappropriate humor on the Underground Forum (UG) was probably more inflammatory and malicious than the score he was attempting to defend.
However, as an everyday reader and virtually immovable bastion of the UG at the time, the Penn-Edgar discussion overshadowed Crosby's previous attempts to engage the fans in a back-and-forth discussion on judging specifics. Fans who've bemoaned the dire lack of accountability and accessibility associated with MMA judges might understand how rare it is for a staple of UFC judging to not only agree to field questions but reach out on his own with the desire to interact with the fans.
Though under the questionable guise of his self-fabricated "Judging Genius" character, Crosby had initiated more than one Q&A sessions on the UG before the Penn-Edgar fiasco. Considering the way everything turned out, I suppose it's the thought that counts.
Scoring every round 10-9 is perhaps the most unanimously agreed upon problem with MMA judging, yet Crosby has budged from that atavistic standpoint with admirable regularity throughout his judging tour. Over the last few years, most have come to agree that penciling the same identical score in over 90% of every round doesn't accurately reflect the wide spectrum of dominance and superiority we witness in the cage, and 10-8 scores, though still highly infrequent, are only just now breaking the confines of the "10-9 or die" mentality. Crosby has not only shared that progressive outlook but had the stones to implement it since day one, and did so with the looming repercussions of being ostracized for not following the herd.
Douglas Crosby has been in the trenches since UFC 28 in the year 2000 when the criteria was literally "pick this guy or that guy after the fight ends." His term of service as a judge is unmatched in MMA. He's an innovator, as evinced by the atypical variety of his scores and equally atypical willingness to discuss MMA judging with fans. Honestly, even though you'll be hard-pressed to cough up a better candidate, I really don't care whether I've convinced you that he's the best judge in MMA. However, he's undoubtedly one of the best, and acknowledging him as anything less is just flat-out wrong in every sense of the word.