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John McCarthy details proper way of MMA judging based on Adesanya vs. Romero

Former referee and Bellator commentator “Big John” McCarthy explains what proper MMA judging really is.

MMA: MAR 07 UFC 248 Photo by Louis Grasse/PX Images/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Judging controversies have been the unfortunate trend in the last couple of months. Both UFC 247 and UFC 248 were riddled with questionable decisions, both involving the title fights that headlined the said cards.

As it is mentioned ahead of every broadcast, judging is based on effective striking, grappling, aggression and octagon control. For former long-time referee and Bellator commentator John McCarthy, the problem lies with how these criteria are understood.

“The biggest thing we have to have is the judges understanding the criteria that is given to them and how to use it and then understanding in a fight what is effective,” McCarthy told MMA Junkie Radio. “It’s not what is flashy. It’s not the guy that’s moving forward. It is what is the most effective element in that round. Who’s the guy that created the most dangerous situations for their opponent?

“It doesn’t matter if he’s chasing him down. It matters if he is doing the most effective damage during that round. That’s what the judges are looking for.”

For basis, McCarthy used UFC 248’s main event fight between Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero, a matchup that was heavily criticized.

“Personally, I knew at the end of that (first) round, I knew that every judge - my son was one of those judges - I knew everyone was going to go with Yoel Romero because he landed the one big right hand,” he said. “You saw Israel rubbing his left eye, blinking his left eye because a knuckle caught him or something, but it showed that that punch had an effect. That’s what I’m talking about: Who affected the other the most?

“I wanted to give it a 10-10 because neither, in my opinion, neither guy deserved to win that round,” he added. “You didn’t do enough to win that round. You didn’t do enough for me to say you actually get an advantage over your opponent now, having one point higher on the scorecard.

“But I knew when the round was over, they’re all going to give it to Yoel, and I probably would have to because that’s what the criteria tells me.”

Adesanya won the fight via unanimous decision. McCarthy’s son Ron scored it 48-47, giving the first two rounds to Romero. The exact same tally was given by veteran judge Sal D’Amato. Judge Chris Lee gave a 49-46 scorecard, with the “Soldier of God” winning the first round only.