There are certain controversies that come up a lot in MMA. And Judging is often chief among them. Specifically, bad judging (or at least the perception that judging in MMA is usually bad). So, it wasn’t a surprise to see an online uproar following the Amanda Lemos vs Angela Hill fight, which Lemos won via split decision.
The scorecards read 28-29, 30-27 and 29-28. All three judges scored the first round 10-9 in favor of Lemos. Two judges scored the second round 10-9 for Hill and two judges scored the third round 10-9 for Lemos. The scorecard that immediately got singled out for being most wrong-headed was the one that read 30-27 in favor of the Brazilian.
The second round of the fight seemed the clearest in favor of a 10-9 in Hill’s favor—with the Alliance MMA fighter out-landing her opponent 21-11 for significant strikes, via the UFC’s official stat tracker. Round 1 was equally wide in favor of Lemos, by the numbers (and included an early knockdown for her as well). And round 3, at least by the stats) was near dead even.
Not that judges have access to those numbers. But given that they’re reasonably similar to what many viewers saw on the night, it would seem that one judge not giving Hill round 2 was the biggest mistake on the cards. Yet, even if that judge had scored that second round for Hill, she still would have lost the fight. A 30-27 card in Lemos’ favor would have simply become a 29-28 for the Marajo Bros. talent. Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped some from claiming that Hill was ‘robbed’ of a victory.
We all know that’s just what’s going to happen in a close fight. I think one reason the cries were so loud in this instance was twofold. First, Hill is fairly popular with a segment of MMA’s hardcore fanbase. Second, she’s had four split decisions go against her in the UFC. In this case, even Dana White went so far as to say he felt Hill deserved the win.
“The fight is 29-28 all day, whichever way you went,” White told reporters after the bout, adding that the 30-27 card was “insane” in his opinion. “I had Hill. I thought Hill won the fight.”
Whatever the reason for the stronger than normal reaction here, the wildest take came from an app that allows fans to score fights in real time. Shortly after the bout, they laid the blame squarely on the judges for costing Hill an apparent $73,000.
Before we get to anything else in this, I’d love to know where that $73,000 number comes from. Hill hasn’t had a disclosed payday since May 2020. She has fought four times and gone 1-3 since then. None of the athletic commissions she has fought under in those events discloses pay. If they’ve spoken to her or her manager, or other sources in her camp, that should be cited. Otherwise, at the very least there needs to be an asterisk in there noting that it’s just a guess based on other data.
Second, and more importantly, the tweet seems intended to make readers believe that – had Hill won and been awarded the “win” part of her contract – everything would have been copacetic for all involved. What about Amanda Lemos? Does she not factor into that equation?
It’s purely short-sighted thinking, and in the process it’s missing out on the real issue at play: the UFC pay structure, which only gives the victor a full payday is outdated.
The judges didn’t cost Hill money at UFC Vegas 45. The fact that half her purse is tied to the outcome of an extremely subjective system is where the problem lies. The effort that both women put into that fight shouldn’t result in either of them walking out with half a check. That’s the issue that needs to be attacked in mixed martial arts—especially when compared to judging in the hierarchy of what’s broken in the sport.
I know judges want to do their jobs right and improve. I have sat through hours of meetings designed to improve judging in MMA, with the California State Athletic Commission. I have listened to judges explain why they have scored a round a certain way. I know these people care about their jobs, which are mostly thankless.
Is that all to say judging can’t improve? That it’s a perfect system? No. There’s definitely room for growth. And it’s certainly not to say that judging can’t, or shouldn’t, be questioned. It absolutely should be. But to say judging is the problem when a decision costs a fighter a payday? That’s grasping for exactly the wrong solution to a much bigger problem.