There was some grumbling about the scoring of the co-main event of UFC 275. In that fight, UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko retained her title with a split-decision win over Taila Santos.
On the official front, judge Howard Hughes had it 48-47 for Shevchenko. Clemens Werner saw it even more in favor of the champ with a 49-46 score. As for the dissenting judge, David Lethaby gave it to Santos with a score of 48-47.
MMA media were split as well. The majority of the media who provided scores to MMA Decisions saw it 48-47 for the champ. The next largest group had Santos winning by a score of 48-47 while a handful of media scores were in favor of Shevchenko winning 49-46.
With the questions about the scoring of the fight, it’s time for another “Scouring the Scoring” feature, which is a deep dive into a particular fight.
For background on the “Scouring the Scoring” series and details on the review process, GO HERE.
The first thing one needs to do in scoring a fight is mute the commentary. Biases can seep into commentary and even worse, the UFC commentary team often provides incorrect information as to the scoring criteria, which can influence those who hear it (more on that later). The second thing one needs to do is get familiar with the prioritized criteria in MMA scoring — especially the first criteria, which is “effective striking/grappling.”
“Legal blows that have immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute towards the end of the match with the IMMEDIATE weighing in more heavily than the cumulative impact. Successful execution of takedowns, submission attempts, reversals and the achievement of advantageous positions that produce immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute to the end of the match, with the IMMEDIATE weighing more heavily than the cumulative impact.”
It shall be noted that a successful takedown is not merely a changing of position, but the establishment of an attack from the use of the takedown.
The scoring of the first five minutes of the fight was difficult. Shevchenko had the more effective striking. She landed a counter right at the 34 second mark of the first stanza and then scored with a knee to Santos’ head while the two were in the clinch against the fence. Outside of those two blows, Shevchenko’s striking was not a threat, according to the scoring criteria, to immediately “contribute towards the end of the match.”
With that, the next thing to assess was the grappling of Santos. A failed takedown from Shevchenko led to a scramble. In that scramble, Santos took the back of her opponent and secured a body lock. She then looked for neck cranks and chokes from that position. While Santos did not threaten to end the fight with a prolonged attack in this position, at one point she briefly locked up a choke.
In scoring this round, I wouldn’t say a nod toward Shevchenko was a robbery, but I think Santos’ effective grappling outweighed the effective striking of the champion. I based my scoring for Santos on this line in the criteria, “Successful execution of takedowns, submission attempts, reversals and the achievement of advantageous positions that produce immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute to the end of the match.”
Round 1: Taila Santos 10-9
The fighters spent the majority of this round on the mat and while Santos was in top position for a prolonged period, she did not employ effective grappling.
Santos literally did nothing with her ground control time. She never tried to advance or improve her position. She did not seek to pass the guard of her opponent. She did not attempt to posture up and land significant strikes from top position. Any offense that was generated on the ground was from Shevchenko, who looked to improve her position, secure a submission and generate (cumulative) damage through strikes from her back.
What stood out for me in this round was that referee Jason Herzog stood the fighters up with 90 seconds left in the round. That told me that Herzog did not see Santos looking to generate any offense from the top position and that she was happy to sit in the guard of her opponent and let the clock tick away. In other words, Santos was stalling.
After the standup, a Shevchenko throw led to a scramble where Santos was again able to take top position — which was effective grappling — but again, with 43 seconds left in the round she was on top and in Shevchenko’s guard and again, she did not try to improver her position during that time.
Shevchenko had the more effective grappling and striking in this round.
Round 2: Shevchenko 10-9
Shevchenko landed a nice counter right to the head 21 seconds into this round, but outside of that, most of the significant strikes from both fighters were leg kicks and neither fighter had an advantage there.
The difference in this round came in the final 1:48 of the stanza. That was when Santos scored a takedown and then, during a grappling exchange, get both hooks in. Shevchenko then sat out. When she did that, which happened against the fence, Santos was able to threaten with a rear-naked choke and also apply a body lock.
I scored this one for Santos for her ability to improve her position on the ground and threaten with a choke.
Round 3: Santos 10-9
This round went to Shevchenko via effective striking. The late takedown Santos scored near the end of the round did nothing to change the scoring of this stanza.
Round 4: Shevchenko 10-9
No controversy in this round, another one for Shevchenko.
Round 5: Shevchenko 10-9
Final score: 48-47 for Shevchenko
One thing I need to mention about this fight was the clash of heads in the third round. We later found out that Santos will need to undergo surgery to repair the broken orbital that accidental impact left her with. The doctor did not even check the injury during the fight even though he was asked to do so by referee Herzog. Hopefully the UFC will not use that cageside physician again, because he failed to do his job on Saturday.
UFC 275 took place at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore on Saturday, June 11. The main card streamed on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.