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Speed Kills Accurate Judgment in B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar Title Showdown

Photo by Mohammed Salem of <a href="http://www.reuters.com" target="new">Reuters</a>
Photo by Mohammed Salem of Reuters

Following B.J. Penn's loss to Frankie Edgar yesterday at UFC 112, I was pretty confident in my assessment of what happened during the fight. B.J. Penn, in my mind, easily won round one and two without a shadow of a doubt. Frankie Edgar easily won round five. Rounds three and four were somewhat toss-ups for me, but round three was a "lean" in the direction of B.J. Penn for me. 

Later, I re-watched the fight. Sitting at my computer desk sipping on coffee as I tediously watched both men exchange at blazing speeds, I realized that my initial assessment was correct. I felt B.J. Penn edged out Edgar 48-47 at the very least in this fight. Was I outraged? No, not at all. Not even in the slightest. Did I feel it was utterly despicable that some judge at cageside couldn't come up with the same score? No. 

The reaction from fans following the event has been maddening in my mind. Some fans are throwing their hands up that the decision was "horrible" and those fans cannot believe someone would give Edgar the fight when it was "obvious" that Penn landed more and harder. Others state that Edgar was more active, throwing combinations, and moving aggressively. 

Those arguments lead to the natural progression of any argument -- solid statistical data to back up a claim. Michael Fagan reported FightMetric's data and revealed that Penn came out on top in the striking war 49-47 by using their system. Compustrike had Edgar winning the exchanges. For me, FightMetric's dataset looks much more accurate, and I can probably back up that claim as I do believe their staff does a much more meticulous assessment following the fights versus on-the-fly data like Compustrike.

But does any of this matter? No, it doesn't. The larger issue that everyone is missing is that this fight really comes down to the judges and their views of the fight. No, not their idealogy as to how a fight is scored, but their actual view of the fight from a cageside position. 

Seems a little low on the totem pole of importance, right? Wrong. While we're sitting at home with cameras zoomed into the action from an over-the-cage cameraman, we can see every single strike land. Judges, on the other hand, aren't given that opportunity, and even if they were at this event -- chances are they aren't staring at a 58" HDTV either. 

The importance of their view is huge in this fight because it was so close. Frankie Edgar's use of combinations and overall speedy delivery also swayed judges in his favor in my mind. Many of those close exchanges didn't land well for Edgar, but it was perceived that they did due to the aggressiveness and movement forward during his attacks. At least that's what Compustrike's statistics suggest. 

What really happened? Penn usually landed straight jabs as counters to those exchanges, and that's where much of the scoring was apparently missed. It seems judges aren't quick-minded enough to see these blows, or their viewpoint is useless at the side of the cage when the action is generally in the center or near the fence. Monitors may help, but with such blazing quick exchanges -- it's going to be tough for anyone not glued to a monitor.

Maybe I'm being a bit critical, but I sat up in my chair, stared at the television for the entire fight, and analyzed how this fight was going as strikes were being thrown. Am I being over demanding in believing that judges can do the same? I don't think I am. 

You could argue that contenders need to take the belt from champions, but this isn't some sort of glam version of Cage Rage. The fight wasn't judged correctly, but I'm not going to throw anyone under the bus besides the 50-45 and 49-46 scoring judges. It was a tough fight to call, and it's apparent those two were unable to keep up with the speed of the exchanges. As easy as some may think this is to fix, it'll never be fixed. The speed at which both fighters exchanged over at least four rounds was apparently too much for some people.