COMMENTARY | The UFC shook to its core when welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre held off Johny Hendricks to retain his title at UFC 167 on Saturday, November 16. St-Pierre's split-decision victory set off a whirlwind of renewed criticism for the current mixed martial arts judging system and the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC).
It's a shame that most of the media focus following the event had to be placed on the judges' scoring instead of the epic bout that took place between St-Pierre and Hendricks. The two athletes went to war for 25 minutes and deserved to have a controversy-free decision. Instead, St-Pierre's win over Hendricks will go down as one of the most infamous decisions in the UFC's history.
UFC president Dana White's anger over the situation is valid. He's seen multiple fights within his organization marred by the ineptitude of both MMA judges and referees in the past few years. White vented his frustration about the problem to the media following UFC 167.
"The Nevada State Athletic Commission is atrocious," White said. "... I think the governor needs to step in immediately before these guys destroy the sport like they did boxing."
"The governor needs to step in and fix the incompetence that is happening in Nevada, to what used to be the best commission in the world. It's absolute 100 percent incompetence. I'm scared to come back to the state and do fights. I'm afraid of this state."
The NSAC deserves extra scrutiny due to its lack of action concerning poor judging and officiating over the past few years. Many of Nevada's judges, including Cecil Peoples and Adalaide Byrd, have questionable records, but they still have jobs with the commission. In fact, many of them continue to be employed by other commissions as well. The same goes for controversial referees, including veterans Steve Mazzagatti and Kim Winslow.
At some point, these commissions must take ownership of the problem. The St-Pierre-Hendricks decision wasn't a highway robbery, but that's how it felt for many fans and experts because poorly judged fights are becoming the norm.
I scored the bout 48-47 for Hendricks, who won Rounds 1, 2 and 4 on my card. Two of the three judges scored the first round for St-Pierre, and that's what won him the fight. The round was fairly close, but I'm not sure how the judges could score it for St-Pierre due to the damage Hendricks dealt him. Just because a round was close doesn't mean there wasn't a clear winner. Hendricks won the round and should have won the fight.
Other judging decisions have been worse. Lyoto Machida's win over Mauricio Rua in 2009, and Michael Bisping's 2007 decision over Matt Hamill come to mind. It's easy to understand why fans are frustrated when we're still seeing the same judging mistakes that we saw six years ago.
There needs to be a concerted effort by athletic commissions across the board to fix this problem. The credibility of this sport is on the line. It begins with more accountability between the commissions and their judges. Commissions shouldn't be assigning judges with subpar records to MMA events without additional/remedial training. Judges whose performances don't improve shouldn't be allowed near a cage.
Some people will argue that judging is subjective, which means that training won't help the problem because it's opinion-based. I disagree. A major problem with judging is that the categories being examined aren't balanced. For example, should fighters get credit for taking their opponents down even if no damage is done? Or what about those cases where athletes work for submissions or do significant damage from the bottom? Right now, there are far too many decisions taking place where a fighter does nothing from the top position and earns a round.
There are other cases where athletes have done more damage, but they have lost the round due to a takedown or something minor. Hendricks did much more damage in the first round on Saturday night, and the rest of the round was equal. However, Hendricks wasn't awarded the round on two out of three scorecards. That needs to be corrected. Most fans and experts sitting at home saw the round for Hendricks, but the judges somehow didn't agree. I believe they didn't give the damage dealt by Hendricks enough, if any, consideration when scoring the round.
Dana White was right when he said, "Did you see Georges get smashed and hurt in the first round? It's about damage. This is a fight. It's whoever inflicts the most damage. He got hurt, got wobbled, got dropped."
The judges didn't value the damage that Hendricks did. If they had, then we'd be talking about Hendricks being the first fighter to beat St-Pierre since 2007. It's time for athletic commissions to ensure that the different judging categories are treated equally before another poor decision mars an MMA card.
- Sports & Recreation
- Martial Arts
- Johny Hendricks