There was a minor uproar online following the UFC 265 following the Rafael Fiziev vs. Bobby Green fight. While Fiziev won the bout via unanimous decision, the 30-27 score from one judge raised eyebrows as most fans and pundits thought the correct call was 29-28, which was the score the other two judges assigned to the fight turned in.
The judges who scored the final stanza for Green were Sal D’Amato and Chris Lee. The dissenting judge was JJ Ferraro.
Rarely does a combat sports judge take the time to explain their decision-making process in the aftermath of a controversial score, but Ferraro did just that.
As a reminder, according to the Unified Rules of MMA, judges score rounds based on effective striking and grappling, followed by effective aggression and then cage control. Fighters get credit is for offensive techniques that move the fight closer to a finish with immediate effectiveness given more weight than cumulative effectiveness. When a judge deems the striking and grappling equal, then and only then should effective aggression and cage control be considered when scoring a fight.
Here is what Ferraro had to say about his scoring of the third round in favor of Fiziev.
I scored 10-9 for Fiziev in Round 3. First and foremost I want to congratulate both fighters on their performance and great fight. Round 3 for me is the toughest round to score that night. I have been a licensed official for nearly 10 years and this was my 5th UFC event. Feel free to look up my record and history at mmadecisions.com. I haven’t been involved in any controversy. Going into round 3 all three judges saw the fight the same. I didn’t think any of those rounds were very close to be honest. Sitting cageside you know whose shots are landing hard and clean. Round 3 I cannot say that a 10-9 round in favor of Green is “wrong” per se but I still stand by my score based on the Unified Scoring Criteria.
First and foremost I encourage everyone to watch the fight without sound multiple times. Taking out the commentating and crowd noises is what we have to do in the judges chair every bout. It’s not easy. Obviously Green was the fan favorite and I can see why. The antics, the toughness, the busy handwork, etc. I think he is great to watch but let’s get into the actual criteria for MMA Judging. We can all agree that Effective Grappling is not a factor in this round, so we move on to Effective Striking. What is effective striking? Strikes that are deemed most effective are strikes that have potential to have “Impact” in a fight meaning having potential to end the fight. Those are the strikes that hold more weight than any other strikes. It doesn’t matter if they are punches, kicks, elbows, you name it, we have to assess who is trying to end the fight with their weapons. Those are the strikes that hold most weight in the criteria. Im not making this stuff up. Its in the Unified Rules.
Looking at the fight about one minute in Fiziev landed a shot that in my opinion hurt Green, Green played off well by shaking his head no. This is entertaining I understand, but antics are not scored, toughness is not scored. Its not scored against you but we assess the strike the same. Bobby threw more volume and landed more “significant” strikes in every single round of the fight which indicates that Volume and Landed strikes does not hold the most weight in mma scoring, Round three although razor close was no different in my eyes. After the halfway point of the round, I still see Fiziev as having landed the most “impactful” strikes of the fight. A few head kicks, a few body kicks, hard countering crosses, (That visually knocked Bobby’s head back), Strong leg kicks that Bobby ate well. If I am assessing the quality of potential “impact” of the strikes that were landed i had it about even at best for Green. Green landed his best shot of the night close to the end of the round that knocked the fatigued Fiziev back a few steps, but nothing too concerning or bothering him much in my eyes.
According to UFCstats.com, although Fiziev was more fatigued in Round 3 he only threw 3 less strikes than round 2 when he threw 82 Strikes. According to UFCstats.com Fiziev and Green were identical 54% landing significant strikes in round 3. Percentage wise you cannot say that Green landed at a high percent for what he was throwing, he just threw a significant amount more, just like all the other rounds. But quantity is not better than quality in MMA. Nevertheless, for me I gave Green’s strong finish to the fight, sheer volume, and overall fresher fighter even up the Striking.
So now what? Well in MMA Criteria if all is equal we go into alternative criteria. It rarely happens and I can’t honestly say last time I had to pull that out. But it is there, and it there for a reason. Effective aggression? For me it is a wash also, I can’t say Fiziev coming forward eating jabs all round is effective aggression and I can’t say that Green’s countering style is effective aggressive either. What is the next criteria if Effective Striking/Grappling is equal, and Effective aggression is equal? We have cage control. Who was controlling the cage? I give a slight advantage for Fiziev constantly controlling more of the octagon and more of a will to come forward in the round.
I believe that the commentating and fan noise blew this one way out of proportion. If you look at the fight ufcstats.com it also shows more of a percentage to spread the damage/impact out through the whole body head to toe for Fiziev. That is to show there can be style bias for Green’s busy handwork and hard kicks being overlooked. It happens all the time in MMA. Round three could have gone either way. One of the other judges told me immediately after the fight that he could see my score as well and was not surprised or shocked at all when I went to Fizev 10-9. JJ Ferraro
Bloody Elbow will have a “scouring the scoring” later this week for a more in-depth breakdown on this round. For what it’s worth, out of the 20 media members compiled by MMA Decisions, no one had the same 30-27 scorecard as Ferraro.