November 14, 2009
Mixed martial arts is still in its infancy, but just like its older brother, boxing, the sport sometimes struggles to define what truly wins a fight that goes to decision. What gets rewarded? In the striking game, is it volume or the harder shots? When grappling, is it control or defense?
Brandon Vera thought he had done enough by landing the harder shots and exhibiting good takedown defense to pull out a huge win over the legendary Randy Couture. The judges disagreed. They gave a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) win to Couture. Cagewriter scored it 30-28 for Vera.
The disappointed Vera left the Octagon when he heard the decision, and sat cageside on the steps. After that, he handled things with class, immediately stepping back in to speak with UFC color analyst Joe Rogan.
"I still don't know. What the hell? Thanks judges," Vera said of the decision.
Vera didn't gripe too strongly beyond that.
"I thought I won. I left it all out there. I gave it to Randy that best that I could. I don't know man, I don't know."
Rogan said sternly that there have been quite a few problems with judging recently. There was also some outrage following the close fight between Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua at UFC 104. Many viewers, media members, Rogan and UFC president Dana White thought Rua won the fight. The judges all scored it for the light heavyweight champ Machida.
"I controlled the tempo of the fight. It probably wasn't the most exciting thing to watch."
Couture (17-10, 14-7 UFC) pointed out that sometime it's a mystery what the judges will come up with.
"You just never know. We've seen this in the past already. You just don't know what the judges are looking at and how they see the fight. And that's what ultimately, in a close fight like this, determines the decision."
With effective kicks, Vera (11-4, 7-4 UFC) landed the heavier shots in the second and third. He dropped Couture with a body kick on a delayed reaction with 2:06 left in the round. Vera crushed a left kick into the ribs of Couture, who stood for second and then retreated, turning his back and falling to the ground.
"Brandon's dangerous. He kicked twice in the body in the second and third round. That hurt. He stung me with the body kick [in the second]. He did it again in the third round. He didn't get me quite as bad, but it was still bad."
But Vera didn't pounce on the opportunity in the second. The Filipino-American fell into Couture's guard and took a break for 45 seconds. Couture eventually got himself off the deck taking little damage.
In the third, Couture controlled the first two minutes and forty seconds with some good dirty boxing. Couture landed some effective uppercuts and elbows while working along the cage. Vera was freed when referee Marc Goddard separated the fighters. That's when Vera landed some of his best strikes of the fight, including the kick Couture mentioned. From there, a tired Couture allowed himself to get backed up to the cage. That's where Vera scores his only takedown of the fight with 39 seconds left. He moved to mount but again failed to get off any damaging shots.
Couture was impressed with Vera's wrestling ability.
"Brandon's a helluva fighter. He had to dust off his wrestling skills and he definitely did a great job."
Cagewriter called the first round 10-10. Couture had outside position in the clinch along the cage throughout much of the round. He got a takedown with 2:41 left but Vera got to his feet in less than 10 seconds. Neither fighter really landed anything significant as far as punches or knees. Most judges would give that type of round to Couture. The second was a clear cut win for Vera and the third could've gone either way, which easily explains why Couture was given a 29-28 decision by the judges.
I'll say it again, as I did after non-title main events that went to decision at UFN 15 (Nate Diaz over Josh Neer), UFC 93 (Dan Henderson over Rich Franklin), UFC 95 (Diego Sanchez over Joe Stevenson) and UFC 99 (Rich Franklin over Wanderlei Silva), these main event fights need to be five rounds. Even without a title strap on the line, these fights are way too important to go just three rounds. It opens the door for too many disputed decisions.
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