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Mailbag: Judging the judges

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Mailbag: Judging the judges
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Most observers felt Michihiro Omigawa won his UFC 131 fight against Darren Elkins

After virtually every mixed martial arts card these days, fans, promoters, fighters, managers and trainers leave the arena shaking their heads about the judging and muttering that "something needs to be done."

UFC president Dana White was irate at the judges following UFC 131 in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday. White was particularly incensed by the scoring in the opening fight between Darren Elkins and Michihiro Omigawa, as well as by judge Nelson "Doc" Hamilton's verdict in the fight between Mark Munoz and Demian Maia.

Elkins won a unanimous decision over Omigawa in the night's opening fight. Judges Jason Darrah and Bill Mahood each had it 29-28 for Elkins, giving him Rounds 1 and 2. Judge Dave Hagens had it 30-27, giving Elkins all three rounds. Yahoo! Sports scored it 29-28 for Omigawa.

White was so angry when the call was announced that he said following the card that he paid Omigawa his win bonus and didn't regard it as a defeat. Most fighters earn one fee simply to fight and then another, additional fee if they win.

Later in the card, Munoz won a unanimous decision over Maia in what clearly was a close fight. Judges Sal D'Amato and Darrah had it 29-28 for Munoz, giving him the second and third rounds. Hamilton scored all three rounds for Munoz and had it 30-27. Yahoo! Sports scored it 29-28 for Maia.

White was incensed by Hamilton's call as well and made no secret of it after the bout. He said he felt Maia won the first, Munoz the second and felt the third was very close. He couldn't buy that Munoz won all three rounds, however.

"Was the guy who scored that 30-27 serious?" White said. "Seriously, the guy who judges that should never be asked back to judge ever again. I don't know what the [expletive] in the world that guy was seeing. He should never judge a fight again – ever."

It's not an easy problem to solve. Even if all judges apply the scoring criteria properly, evaluating effective striking, effective grappling, cage control, effective aggressiveness and defense, it's a subjective decision. One person's idea of cage control is different from another's.

Here's one way to solve those: Eliminate the two most nebulous categories, cage control and defense. MMA is an offensive sport, so the fighter who is successfully attacking should be rewarded. The reward for a fighter with good defense is not being beaten up and being in a position to counterattack; by considering defense, it puts a greater burden on the judges.

The criteria should be rewritten to favor offense, giving the benefit of the doubt to fighters who are working to advance position, who are landing punches or trying to land submissions. Eliminating the more nebulous criteria would force fighters to attack and make it simpler for judges to know what to look for when scoring.

There is no panacea, but it is something that could help and should be given serious consideration.

With that, let's delve into the mailbag, where I'll answer your questions and respond to your comments:

Are judges accountable?

Once again, there were big problems with the judging at an MMA event, this time at UFC 131. No one understands what's going on. The thing that puzzles me most is this: Do the judges ever have to own up to some kind of board? Is there any oversight? Or are they installed and certified for life? That would be weird if that's the case.

Lutek Dabrowski
Rotterdam, Holland

Lutek, the judges are under the control of the athletic commission where the fight is held. So, on Saturday, the event was regulated by Vancouver's athletic commission and those judges are evaluated by that body.

Judges have been let go on occasion, but it's rare. And while the judges' work in all jurisdictions should be considered, in the vast majority of cases that's not happening. Heads of the various athletic commissions do talk amongst each other, but that dialogue should increase.

Also, if the head of state athletic commission A determines he has a problem with Judge X, he should put his findings in writing and share them with his colleagues around the world so that a judge or a referee can be more effectively evaluated.

The greatest need is for more training for the judges. But to get that, the amateur programs around the country need to be greatly increased.

Junior should have finished

As much as Junior dos Santos dominated his fight Saturday against Shane Carwin, it eerily reminded me of his performance against Roy Nelson. These are fights in my opinion he should try to finish. I don't think he has the killer instinct!

Joey Howell
San Ramon, Calif.

I agree he should have finished both fights, Joey. However, you have to give Carwin and Nelson some credit, too. Also, dos Santos felt a lot of pressure. He's a young guy who had a lot on the line. As he gains experience, my guess is he'll finish fights in similar situations.

Missing the boat on Carwin

Hey Kevin, Carwin gets totally dominated by dos Santos on Saturday and I read that it is a victory for him because he went three rounds? Really? His weight was down considerably after one of his doctors got busted for supplying steroids. How come no one mentioned that? How come no one talked about the muscle issue he had in the Brock Lesnar fight at UFC 116? It seems pretty suspicious to me that he's been juicing. I wish someone would look into that.

Mike S.
Loveland, Colo.

Mike, I hardly think the fight was a victory for Carwin in any way. I was surprised that at the start of the third round, he didn't go for broke and make a strong, concerted effort to land a right hand. As for the steroids situation, a lot of fans have asked about the status of the so-called "Carwin steroids case." Well, at least now, there is no case. In August, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama mentioned Carwin's name as one of seven athletes who were customers of a Mobile, Ala., pharmacist who was convicted of taking part in a nationwide steroids distribution ring. But Carwin was never charged with a crime and he has passed all of his pre- and post-fight urinalyses. No one in any other official capacity has ever linked Carwin with steroids and there has been no indication from the U.S. Attorney that he is under investigation.

Unimpressed by dos Santos

Were you really that impressed with dos Santos? His hands were extremely low throughout the fight, and Carwin was simply too slow to capitalize. Carwin didn't look right from the outset. Dos Santos looks very good and fluid from an offensive perspective, but he better get those hands up when he fights Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title. I am not sure if the defeat to Lesnar or the long layout/surgery were the problem for Carwin, but he seemed uncomfortable at best in the Octagon.

Brian Johnson

I was impressed by dos Santos' victory, though I think he could have finished it. But he did what he needed to do against a powerful puncher and a quality wrestler. He stuffed the takedown, avoided the big right hand and kept a hard jab in Carwin's face. I agree it will be another story against Velasquez, but I thought dos Santos looked good against Carwin.

Late takedown an act of mercy

Are you sure dos Santos shot in on Carwin during the last minute to prevent a "home run shot?" Junior was already pleading with referee Herb Dean to stop the match because he thought Shane had taken too much damage, which was serious enough to stop and get the doctor's opinion. I'm not saying it was wasn't good strategy, but it might have been more about a reluctance to do irreparable injury to an already beaten man.

Drey Christianson
Tampa, Fla.

Drey, dos Santos was pleading with Dean to stop the fight in the first round but that was not out of a reluctance to do damage. He admitted afterward it was because he was tired. In the third round, he essentially wrapped up the fight by getting Carwin off his feet.

Should Strikeforce fighters get UFC title shot

If Strikeforce fighters fight immediately for the UFC title, doesn't that devalue the UFC brand if they win? Plus, is it fair to other UFC fighters who spent years working their way up in the top MMA organization?

Jon Finelli
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Jon, you make a good point, but I think there's an easy answer. It's not going to happen a lot. Nick Diaz's situation is an anomaly, mainly because there aren't a lot of clear challengers for Georges St. Pierre's UFC welterweight belt right now. He's all but cleaned out the division. The public really wanted that fight and, devoid of other obvious challengers, UFC officials made it happen. But the other point that needs to be made here is that title shots should be about the best possible opponent stepping up and taking his shot at the belt. If the best challenger for the UFC champion happens to be in Strikeforce, so be it. I don't think it devalues the brand because it would theoretically give the UFC the best champion possible.