Debated scoring issues on full display on Saturday night
Effective aggression versus effective striking.
What constitutes a 10-8 round?
“He’s looking to steal the round with a takedown here in the final seconds.”
UFC 136 gave we armchair judges a chance to work through all three of these often debated scoring issues on Saturday night. At the close of every round, the Twitterverse erupted with analysis from home judges watching the action in Houston, offering scores and explanations for every five minute segment of action that came to an end.
Debates ensued. Snarky 140-character-or-less comments were typed. Some people offered the customary call of the home judge — “What fight were you watching?” — directed at either the commentators, the ringside officials, or fellow scorecard speculators.
Judging has become something of a focus of mine over the last year after spending two excruciatingly long days huddled in a conference room with 24 other hopefuls as “Big” John McCarthy walked us through close fight after close fight, teaching us what to look for as judges. Now I can’t help but watch fights from a judge’s perspective, weighing out the effectiveness of takedowns, and which strikes were the most significant in the round.
Yesterday I voiced my displeasure with Joe Rogan’s commentary in the Jose Aldo–Kenny Florian fight. Specifically, I was frustrated with Rogan questioning how the judges would score the bout in relation to Florian being the aggressor, because to me, the answer was simple: it wasn’t a factor at all, at least not one that deserved to be scored.
The judges viewed the fight the same way, all three officials submitting a final tally of 49-46 for Aldo, with Florian gaining the advantage in the first round.
I don’t think Rogan actually believed Florian’s aggression was successfully winning him the fight; I think he was just trying to prepare the audience for the wide range of scores that could have been submitted. Thankfully, it wasn’t necessary, as all three judges recognized their was nothing effective about Florian’s aggression in rounds two, three, four, and five.
While the challenger was the one dictating the pace of the fight and stalking Aldo, it was the champion who landed the more significant strikes throughout the final 20 minutes of action. As Florian came in, Aldo stuck a solid left hand in his face, and a solid left hand in the face counts more than a step forward every time.
At least it should.
My personal pet peeve with at-home judging is how freely people want to throw around 10-8 rounds. For my money, there was one 10-8 round Saturday night: the first round of the Frankie Edgar–Gray Maynard lightweight title fight.
Every other round was a 10-9. Some were close 10-9s, some weren’t close at all, but none of the other 30 completed rounds from UFC 136 were scored 10-8 on my at-home scorecard.
Maynard’s opening round against Edgar was the only one that met the criteria for a 10-8 as laid out in the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. To wit:
A round is to be scored as a 10-8 round when a contestant overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round.
Now, everyone is going to define overwhelmingly differently, and some people may have felt the way Aaron Simpson battered Eric Schafer constituted overwhelming domination, but not me. He dominated, but Schafer was never dropped and at no point was I thinking, “The ref is going to jump in here any minute.”
That’s my litmus test for a 10-8 round; do I think the ref could or should have stopped the fight? If the answer is yes, I’m comfortable with a 10-8, and if the answer is no, I’ll pencil in a 10-9 and move on.
It’s the reason I had BJ Penn beating Jon Fitch 29-28 at UFC 127. As much as Fitch convincingly won the final round, there wasn’t a point where I thought Penn was in serious danger. He ate a bunch of punches, but Fitch never scrambled his circuits. Additionally, if that round is a 10-8, how do you score Round 1 of Edgar-Maynard 2? 10-6?
Which brings us to ridiculous idea that a nothing takedown in the waning seconds of a round can sway the scoring of that round.
The only way that happens is if everything else up until that point is dead even, and that is seldom the case. There is usually something in the four minutes and forty-five seconds that preceded the last second takedown that pushed the barometer in one direction or the other, and quickly dragging your opponent to the canvas is not enough to shift the meter.
It is refreshing to hear Rogan talking about the effectiveness of a takedown during broadcasts now, explaining that if a fighter doesn’t advance or offer more than the standard body-body-head routine from inside guard, the takedown isn’t really worth all that much on the scorecards. The same goes from takedowns where the other guy pops right back to his feet.
If nothing else happens and he’s been dumped a handful of times, sure, those takedowns score as the only offense of the round, but they quickly depreciate as punches and kicks land, dominant positions are achieved, and submissions are threatened.
Had Stephens fought his way up and landed a couple solid flurries, I could see making a case for him winning the round. But with the total striking in the round being fairly close, and Pettis going four-for-four on his takedowns and passing twice, he takes the 10-9 in what turned out to be the swing round in the fight.
Overall, the accumulated takedowns turned out to be the most significant offense of the round, in addition to showing that the former WEC lightweight champion was maintaining Octagon control and being the aggressor. Stephens landed the more significant strikes, but Pettis earned the checkmark everywhere else, winning the round on my card, and those of two of the three ringside officials.
On the whole, Saturday night was a good night on the officiating front in my opinion; there were no controversial decisions, and no questionable stoppages.
As much as we all like to rip on the officials, most nights, things go pretty smoothly.
There are always going to be times when we disagree with the judges or question a referee stoppage, and some cases where both just plain get it wrong. But those are few and far between.
I’m an armchair official and I’m proud of it, but I wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone sitting around the cage, that’s for damn sure.
I’m betting a lot of my fellow at-home officials feel the same way, whether they’d like to admit it or not.