COMMENTARY | One guy looked like he had been ran over by a truck and the other looked like he was driving it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the guy driving the truck, in this case Johny Hendricks, defeated the man who looked like road kill. Well, at least not in the world of mixed martial arts. In one of the more controversial decisions in the UFC, Georges St. Pierre had his hand raised via split decision and retained the UFC welterweight title at UFC 167.
The decision sent social media into an uproar and even had UFC President Dana White beside himself at the post-fight press conference. But was it really a robbery? Did the judges really steal the fight from Johny Hendricks?
I, for one, believe the word robbery is thrown around far too loosely when it comes to boxing and MMA judging. It certainly didn't feel right that the man whose face resembled a bruised plum retained the title over his opponent, who looked like he could participate in a magazine photo shoot. However, as controversial as it was, a robbery it was not.
In 2013 we've had a few fights that immediately saw the word robbery tossed around after the fight. People shouted that Gilbert Melendez was "robbed" against Benson Henderson back in April. Others believed that Alexander Gustafsson was "robbed" against Jon Jones. In boxing, Juan Manuel Marquez thought he was robbed against Timothy Bradley. But a robbery would constitute that one man so clearly had the fight in the bag that only the judges could steal it from him.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks isn't one of those fights.
If you ask any media member or fan at home watching the fight, St. Pierre won rounds 3 and 5 while Hendricks won rounds 2 and 4. It's that first round that was razor thin and could have gone either way.
If you want to look at stats, Fight Metric proves that this was one difficult round to score. St. Pierre landed 19 significant strikes to Hendricks' 18 and both had one take down apiece. For those who scored the round for St. Pierre, his guillotine choke attempt allowed him to squeak out the round. For those that saw it for Hendricks, it might have been the late take down and the way he stuffed GSP's second take down attempt and delivery of rough elbows that gave him the round.
But, you see, there's always a bit of revisionist history that goes into fights as people change their opinions about what happened in the first round midway through the fight. Judges don't have that luxury.
Once the first round ended, the judges had to make a quick decision as to who won that round and turn in their scorecard. You don't have much time to debate and can't really think about it because the next round is starting in a minute. And it was one of those rounds any judge probably hoped would not come back to haunt them. However, it did.
What usually happens is that when a dominant champion isn't able to do what he normally does, people think he lost. Jon Jones wasn't able to be the Jon Jones we have been used to against Alexander Gustafsson and ended up in the most difficult fight of his career. Because of that, many thought Jones lost. But if you go back and watch the fight, it's hard to deny that the champ retained the title. It was the shock of it all that had us believing Jones just might lose his title. This same rhetoric applies for Georges St. Pierre.
When GSP fights, we're used to him taking down his opponents with ease and then grounding them out for five rounds. We may not be happy with the action, but we are used to it. The moment St. Pierre runs into adversity, our thought process is given a jolt and any success against the normally dominant St. Pierre is considered a victory.
But the real culprit here is the scoring system. It's archaic and in need of revising somehow. Scoring rounds individually on a 10-point system is a challenge. The loser of the round typically gets 9 points, unless he is thoroughly dominated. St. Pierre wasn't thoroughly dominated in any round but the rounds were close enough that a half point system might have helped Hendricks cause. Bigg Rigg was more dominant in the rounds he won than GSP and perhaps scoring a round 10 to 8.5 could have swung the pendulum in his favor. The problem with that is rewiring judges and fans in how they think about fights. To be honest, there is no real solution here that can be fixed overnight.
But back to the essence of it all: Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks was no more a robbery than any other extraordinarily close fight. To constitute a robbery, one would have to clearly have won a majority of the rounds and still end up losing. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez getting a 114-114 score against Floyd Mayweather could have been a robbery if the other judges didn't negate C.J. Ross' ridiculous scorecard.
You want a true robbery? Go back to Timothy Bradley's victory over Manny Pacquiao. That fight didn't come down to a round. Pacquiao dominated that fight and had it taken from him. You can thank C.J. Ross for that one too.
In MMA, you only have three or five rounds to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you won the fight. What we saw between Johny Hendricks and Georges St. Pierre was a champion benefit from the fact that rounds are scored individually. As a whole, St. Pierre was beaten up and anyone looking at his face would think that he lost. But fights aren't scored as a whole and St. Pierre, as difficult as it is to say, won the fight.
However, a robbery it wasn't.
Andreas Hale is a former editor at websites including BET.com and HipHopDX.com. Today, he resides in the fight capital of the world and has covered boxing and MMA for mainstream media outlets such as MTV.com and Jay-Z's LifeandTimes.com, as well as die-hard outlets, including FightNews.com, Fight! Magazine, Ultimate MMA, CagePotato.com and others.You can follow him on Twitter (@AndreasHale).
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- Johny Hendricks
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