There was one round of one fight that brought attention to the judging at UFC 265. That round was the third and final stanza of the lightweight bout between Bobby Green and Rafael Fiziev.
Two of the three judges, Sal D’Amato and Chris Lee scored the round in favor of Green. The dissenting judge was JJ Ferraro, who posted a long explanation why he scored the round in favor of Fiziev.
Early in his post, Ferraro defended himself by saying he had not been involved in any controversial judging before. I don’t find this a compelling defense. MMA judging is a thankless job. Maybe the expectations are too high, seeing as perfection is what fans, fighters and promoters want from the judges, but the line between good and bad judging shouldn’t be avoiding controversy either.
I watched the fight without sound multiple times and according to the Unified Rules of MMA, which Ferraro sites in his reply to his critics, “…we have to assess who is trying to end the fight with their weapons,” I scored the round for Green.
Here is the reason Ferraro gave early in his post about scoring the striking in favor of Fiziev:
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.
As Ferraro notes, Fiziev landed a punch about a minute into the round that hurt Green. The blow lands on the back of Green’s head, but the strike would most likely be called a legal blow because Green moved his head defensively, and that’s why the punch landed to the back of his head. Green staggers very briefly, but recovers and throws a strike of his own without pause and immediately goes back to using defensive head movement. If Fiziev hurt Green, it was not bad, and it was not a strike that put Fiziev closer to a finish.
I must also point out that single strike is the only one that Ferraro points out that “hurt” Green. Is one strike enough to sway a round? I would say yes in some cases, but that strike has to be one that nearly finishes the fight. Fiziev’s punch to the back of Green’s head was not close to finishing the fight.
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.
I strongly disagree with the statement that Fiziev landed strikes “That visually knocked Bobby’s head back.” In fact, what I saw in re-watching was quite the opposite. Green’s strikes knocked Fiziev’s head back more often than Fiziev’s strikes rocked Green.
Fiziev mixed up his striking targets more than Green and I found that to be to Fiziev’s detriment. He landed a fair number of leg kicks and while leg kicks can contribute to ending a fight. Green ate Fiziev’s leg kicks in the third stanza with little problem. I can’t say that any of those kicks had an immediate or cumulative effect on Green.
As for Green, all but three of his landed strikes were to the body and head. He targeted the head much more than Fiziev and he landed some body/head combos that appeared to hurt or at least slow Fiziev. By targeting the body and head, I felt Green was landing more damage and looking to end the fight with his strikes.
One thing I don’t like is Ferraro bringing up stats. Why does this bother me? For one, judges don’t have access to stats and so to bring them up after the fact — to me — is misleading. I can’t — and nor should anyone else — even consider Ferraro’s use of stats as a defense for his scoring. Stats are meaningless to an MMA judge or at least should be. MMA judges can only look at what they see happening in the cage and they do not see stats.
By the end of the fight, Fiziev was bleeding from a cut and his cardio was in the red. I believe Green’s striking was the reason for both, especially in the second half of the third stanza, where Green clearly dominated with his striking.
Ferraro had the striking even. I disagree. I thought Green did more damage and was closer to a finish than Fiziev was. No, Green did not have any strikes that would have immediately led to a finish, but overall? Green’s striking was closer to ending the fight through its cumulative damage.
Ferraro moved to the second criteria for the third round, and that is effective aggression. Again, he called that a wash. Again, I disagree. I thought Green was the more aggressive fighter. I thought his targeting the head and body and throwing combinations gave him the edge in this department. And if we use octagon control, again, I think Green had the advantage there as he held the center of the cage and had Fiziev fighting off his back foot more often than not, especially as Fiziev’s cardio began to fail him in the second half of the third stanza.
In short, I think Ferraro’s defense of his scoring the round in favor of Fiziev falls short and that a 29-28 score in favor of Fiziev (which the other two judges had) is the right call.