Last weekend’s UFC 247 in Houston, TX featured a number of close decisions which, on more than one occasion, elicited boos from the crowded arena. UFC President Dana White also got in on the judge-bashing. Most notable among the fights that drew controversy was the headliner between UFC lightweight champion Jon Jones and his game competitor Dominick Reyes.
Jones retained his belt with a unanimous decision. The judges gave him scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46. With the MMA community largely agreeing that Reyes had won the first two rounds of the contest (and maybe the third), the 49-46 scorecard was targeted for criticism.
A tweet from Aaron Bronsteter of TSN revealed judge Joe Solis had given Jones the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds of the fight. Judge Marcos Rosales also gave Jones round two, but sided with Reyes on the closely contested third round.
Jones vs Reyes scorecard pic.twitter.com/NdUjUUM8tx— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) February 9, 2020
After these revelations Solis has become a focal point of the perceived poor judging at UFC 247. Angered fight watchers have noted Solis’ score in the Andre Ewell vs. Jonathan Martinez fight, too. He scored that contest 30-27 for Ewell. Many believe Martinez should have won. Solis’ decision to score the first round of James Krause vs. Trevin Giles in Giles’ favour has also been roundly criticized.
I don't say this lightly:— Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) February 9, 2020
This is a fireable offense. This is complete incompetence. A total inability to recognize what one is observing. https://t.co/to1X0wsH0T
Ollie Carlson of The Body Lock dug into Solis’ past decisions. There he found a ‘history of errors’.
Solis’ first assignments came at UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Stephens in 2014. At that event Solis scored four bouts. One of those bouts was a unanimous decision victory for Ricardo Lamas over Hacran Dias. Solis’ scores for that fight were in line with the other three judges, but for the other three fights Solis’ scores were questionable.
For Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Andy Enz, Solis scored 30-27 in Enz’ favour. Both other judges gave Guimaraes scores of 29-28. Solis was also one of two judges to award split decisions to Joe Ellenberger, over James Moontasri, and Clint Hester, over Antonio Braga.
According to The Body Lock no regularly tracked media members thought Ellenberger had won his fight. Only two media members judged that Hester had won his.
Other Solis decisions cited as controversial include his 2017 rulings that Volkan Oezdemir beat Ovince Saint Preux (which one other judge agreed with) and his 30-27 scorecard in favour of Ricardo Ramos over Michinori Tanaka (where most people agree Tanaka won the final round).
Solis has judged 10 UFC contests. He has also judged three Bellator bouts. One of those fights was Linton Vassell vs. Emmanuel Newton at Bellator 149 in 2016. Vassell won by unanimous decision. In that fight he gave Vassell a 30-26 score when both other judges ruled at least one round for Newton.
All of Solis’ scores can be seen here, via MMA Decisions.
According to a 2014 article on TXMMA.com, Solis (spelled Soliz in the article) is a veteran martial arts instructor who has been training since 1977. Among his listed achievements are black belts in judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu. He is also reportedly a certified Jeet Kune Do and Kali instructor.
In that profile Solis responded to regular criticisms of MMA judging.
“I don’t think people always understand all the mechanics that go on inside cage,” said Solis. “Many times people ask me as referee, ‘who won that fight?’ My reply is, unless someone is getting totally dominated, I don’t know because I am watching the more technical part of the fight like where are the strikes are landing, how long are they on the ground, reading body language, is their body fatigued, etc. Judging is no different, in how you have to make sure how effective their striking, kicking, the end results of takedowns, or defense, avoiding these moves, etc.”