Split Happens: Not All Split Decisions Are Criminal

When the final bell sounded signalling the end of the very entertaining Jason BrilzRogerio Nogueira fight at UFC 114, I did my best Bruce Buffer impersonation for the people who had assembled at my house to watch the event – my wife Sarah, my buddy Jahmaal and his friend Dwayne – announcing Antonio Rogerio “Minotoro” Nogueira. Moments later, Bruce Buffer delivered the same results.

Let’s get one thing clear up front: split decisions suck, but they’re a part of the sport. When subjective judging determines the outcome and the three people charged with rendering a verdict all have a different angle on the action, they’re bound to have opposite opinions at least once a night.

Saturday night, two judges scored the fight in favor of Nogueira, while one had Brilz as the victor. While I can certainly see how you could give the edge to the underdog, this result was far from a robbery.

Just as describe any fight that doesn’t involve epic levels of battery is now being labelled boring, more and more split decisions are met with allegations that the judges just committed a crime against the losing fighter. Whatever happened to the concept of a close fight?

The Nogueira – Brilz battle is a perfect example. This was a very close fight. In fact, I would have really liked to have seen a draw come off the cards more than anything, as each fighter clearly won a round and the first didn’t feature either fighter earning a definitive edge. There were no 10-8 rounds, and while Brilz came closest to securing a finish, Nogueira outworked him to an equal extent in the third round.

This wasn’t Mike Easton being given a gift decision over Chase Beebe at UWC 7; that fight was rightfully regarded as a robbery, and was eventually ruled a No Contest. No, Saturday night’s meeting between Brilz and Nogueira was a closely contested fight that simply came down to differences in vantage points and opinion, as well as showing the flaws of three judges scoring on the ten-point must, but that last part is another article for another day.

In my estimation, part of what aided to the cause for calling this fight a robbery for some people was the underdog status of Brilz. Few – if any – gave him a chance against Nogueira, and while some may have viewed him as an underappreciated competitor, none expected to see him nearly choke out the Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt. As such, his impressive performance pulled many into his corner, and left them less than pleased when their new charge came up short on the scorecards.

While the Rudy-esque element of Brilz’s performance aided in the outrage, it’s not only underdog performances that come up short that draws the ire of angry fans. It seems like more and more split decisions are being described as a “robbery” or “controversial” when that just isn’t the case.

When compared to other recent controversial fights, the outcome from Saturday’s Brilz – Nogueira meeting is shown to be not controversial at all. This wasn’t Lyoto Machida retaining his light heavyweight title in his first encounter with “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104 or “Greasegate;” this was a close fight that could have gone either way.

There are always going to be differing opinions, both amongst the ringside judges or those viewing the events from any number of other locations. Subjective scoring and alternate angles are going to yield scorecards that don’t always resemble one another.

And d’you know what?

That’s okay… and not at all controversial.