Hopefully by now you have read the excellent piece by my colleague, Dave Meltzer, on judging in mixed martial arts and the experiment in California amateur fights with half-point scoring.
What is perceived to be the sport's judging woes has been the topic of almost nonstop conversation for the last several years.
But what truly is wrong with the judging? Is there something so badly flawed in the scoring system that a change in the format is required? I don't think so, because all that going to the half-point scoring system does is essentially change the scoring from a 10-point must system to a 20-point must.
The question that needs to be answered is whether anything is seriously wrong with the judging and, if so, is it the scoring format or the criteria used to judge fights that needs to change?
I firmly believe that the controversy is overblown. Remember, who is qualified to assess the judges? Are fans who are watching on television, cheering with their friends, drinking, eating and having a good time, the ones who should be deciding who can score a fight properly and who can't?
Should reporters, who are doing live chats, play-by-play, Twittering and the like, be evaluating the judges?
I think not.
I don't think the problem is nearly as pervasive as some outraged fans and media members would have you believe, though I agree wholeheartedly that there have been some calls I vehemently disagreed with.
The better thing to do, as I suggested before, is to first better train the judges. They must be evaluated consistently by a qualified peer group. And the scoring criteria should be changed to exclude defense and only cover offense.
MMA is an offensive sport and nebulous things such as defense and cage control are too difficult to accurately assess. The fighter who does more damage and comes closer to finishing should be given the round.
There isn't a need for a new scoring system or even new judges. All that is needed is a clearer scoring standard.
• The fact that Kim Couture was allowed to fight in Calgary while on suspension in New Jersey shows the gaping holes in the regulatory system that need to be fixed soon before someone is seriously injured. This was underscored by the fact Couture was put out by a brutal choke that was left on for far too long before the referee broke it up. I've never been in favor of a federal commission, but it is time for combat sports to be regulated by one body that would oversee such things as medical qualifications and suspensions, among others.
• Much praise to Carlos Condit for seeking out the toughest fight he could face by agreeing to fight B.J. Penn when he could have chosen to sit on the side and waited for a shot at the UFC welterweight title. That kind of attitude is largely responsible for the rise in interest in MMA. There are a lot of fighters who understand that being in high-profile, competitive and entertaining fights means a lot more when it comes to earning money than just a glossy record.
• Why is it that whenever there is a fighter with an issue where other states won't license him, he's able to get licensed in Texas with no issue? In boxing last year, it was the case for Antonio Margarito. So far this year, Texas granted licenses to Josh Barnett and Chael Sonnen to fight.
• I like Strikeforce light heavyweight prospect Lorenz Larkin – a lot. He's a guy I hope to see more of soon.
• Speaking of Strikeforce, the main event of the Challengers card on July 22 in Las Vegas between Bobby Voelker and Roger Bowling should be outstanding.
Can you tell me the difference between what Chael Sonnen did and what Nate Marquardt did? It sounds like the same thing. Nate had made every commission aware in advance that he was using this treatment and before the June 26 bout in Pittsburgh just didn't manage the timing properly. That is wrong, I admit, but Sonnen not only didn't tell the commission, but he then lied about it and made up some pretty awful excuses during his testimony. It just sounds weird that when two guys commit the same offense, one guy gets fired the other gets a top 10 fight. If I'm not mistaken Thiago Silva whooped up on Brandon Vera and then admitted he didn't even use a human urine sample to take his test but he did not earn the same tirade from UFC president Dana White. Why so much inconsistency? It's starting to sound like the civil justice system when celebrities get away with murder and less famous non-money makers get made an example of. Thoughts?
There is a difference, Michael, even if it seems like there is not. Marquardt tested positive for anabolic steroid usage in Nevada in 2005 and was suspended. He applied for a therapeutic use exemption for TRT in New Jersey before he fought Dan Miller in March. As part of that, New Jersey tested him after the fight and he had high levels, so the exemption was denied. Then, as recently as days before the fight in Pittsburgh, his levels were still high. A person on TRT should only be in normal range and not high, so that led White to conclude he was attempting to cheat. Given that, White felt it was three strikes and fired him. In Sonnen's case, he was suspended for improper reporting. On the day of the weigh-in before UFC 117 he fought Anderson Silva for the title, he told George Dodd of the California commission that he had been taking TRT. The rules require him to receive an exemption for use prior to that and, as a result, he was suspended. But even if you want to consider it a failed test, it was his first and fighters with one failed test are not fired.
I am completely baffled by Zuffa's continued use and defense of fighters who have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. How Strikeforce continues to use Josh Barnett in its heavyweight tournament and how the UFC granted big-mouth Sonnen a fight against Brian Stann is beyond me. In a life and death combat sport, Sonnen and Barnett are the MMA equivalents of boxing trainer Panama Lewis and boxer Luis Resto, who removed the padding from Resto's gloves before a fight. They should be treated accordingly: banned for life.
Jersey City, N.J.
I share many of your concerns, Bakari, though Zuffa gets a pass for Barnett. He's a three-time loser, but he was with Strikeforce and signed a contract to fight in the heavyweight Grand Prix on Showtime before Zuffa acquired the company. Contractually, Zuffa had an obligation to keep him. In Sonnen's case, he will have served more than a one-year penalty. It was his first offense, so his punishment is consistent with that given other fighters and in other sports. But the thing that Zuffa needs to be concerned about is what happens if there is a traumatic brain injury or a death and it turns out that the fighter who inflicted the damage tests positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Such a scenario will threaten the promotion's very existence. As a result, Zuffa should adopt a hard-line approach in regard to its stance toward users of performance enhancing drugs.
With the joining of PRIDE, Strikeforce, and WEC into the Zuffa/UFC fold, where will the next great unknown names come from? I know Bellator and M-1 are still active, but there aren't many training grounds for MMA fighters to start off. Also, how long until the Strikeforce contracts end and we see some dream fights along the lines of Nick Diaz against Georges St. Pierre?
Santa Clara, Calif.
Matt, there are literally hundreds of small promotions across the country and around the world where fighters can learn the game. Some are more prominent than others and Bellator and M-1 have national television contracts, so they're familiar to you. But there are no shortage of smaller-level professional shows. What is needed is a better amateur system. There is a good amateur program, Tuff "N" Nuff, in Nevada that holds regular amateur shows, but there needs to be more. As far as the dream fights, when the Strikeforce fighters' contracts with Strikeforce expire, they'll then be free to sign Zuffa contracts and then Zuffa can make whatever matchups they wish. Now, for instance, Gilbert Melendez is under contract to Strikeforce and was before Zuffa bought it. The UFC would love to match Melendez with any of a number of its top lightweights, but Zuffa has a deal with Showtime it inherited when it bought Strikeforce and can't gut the Strikeforce organization.
Jimmy Miller has won seven consecutive UFC fights and is up against a very formidable Ben Henderson at UFC Live next month in Milwaukee, Wis. Miller's only loss in the UFC was to Gray Maynard and that fight went the distance. If Miller beats Henderson, isn't it about time he gets a title shot?
Miller without question has the résumé, Dustin, and a win over Henderson would only enhance it. But title shots are not only about winning, but also timing. And given that the Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard fight hasn't even been scheduled yet, that throws everything off. That fight has to happen first and then everything else can spin off of it. If it happens sooner, rather than later, I think there's a better chance of Miller getting the next shot if he were to beat Henderson. But the longer it stretches, then the less likely it becomes, because Miller would probably be forced to take another fight in the interim.
"If you're take it for performance enhancing, you're a loser. You see a lot of guys doing it. For me, the bigger they are, it shows weakness." – Bas Rutten, former MMA star, on HDNet's "Inside MMA," discussing testosterone replacement therapy and steroid usage.
- Chael Sonnen