MMA judging will never be an exact science. The calibrations between striking volume, perceived damage, aggressive grappling, and control positions must be individually weighed by each person based on their own perceptions of how the action in front of them transpired. What the judge sees cageside may not mesh with what viewers see on TV, and the weight they give specific moments can vary wildly depending on their in person experience of the action.
Given all that, the scorecard turned in by Lukasz Bosacki for Muslim Salikhov in his victory over Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos on the UFC 251 undercard still came as something of a surprise. Of the 16 media members recorded by MMA Decisions, watching and scoring the fight live, not one turned in Bosacki’s 30-27 Salikhov decision. The vast majority, in fact scored the fight a win for the Brazilian welterweight.
It wasn’t the most action-packed fight, but by the numbers (which, obviously, judges don’t see live) Zaleski out-landed his opponent in two of three rounds. He also wobbled his opponent at moments in the first and second round, the clearest instances of damage in the fight. The case for him to get a win seemed reasonably clear. Instead, ‘Capoeira’ walked away with a controversial loss. One that he’s hoping the UFC will find a way to rectify.
“We’re waiting to see what if the UFC will do something,” Zaleski told MMA Fighting after the event, “because I’m very disappointed with the result, disappointed with the lack of professionalism of the judges. But one thing I can say, I keep my head high. I won the fight, my team and I are the winners. The media speaks for themselves, everyone gave me the win. I’m just waiting for the UFC to do something.”
Zaleski added that he felt he “won all three rounds.” Potentially even with a 10-8 in round one where he forced a reactive shot out of Salikhov after landing a clean right hand, and followed up by stuffing the takedown to end up on top dropping hammerfists on the ‘King of Kung Fu.’
“To see a judge give (Salikhov) a 30-27 after he basically did nothing while I was moving and attacking,” Zaleski said, “I honestly don’t understand how that’s possible.”
Round three was unquestionably close, and it’s worth noting that the strikes Zaleski landed in round two didn’t seem to put Salikhov in nearly as much danger as those he landed in round one. But, even if awarding a 29-28 in either direction could be seen as a reasonable outcome, giving Zaleski’s opponent every round seems like an especially difficult score to justify.
For international shows, the UFC often provides their own judges and referees, and often acts essentially as their own commission for events outside the US. What options that leaves Zaleski when it comes to appealing a decision aren’t entirely clear.