What you may have missed from last night Several questionable decisions by three judges irrevocably affected the careers and lives of more than one mixed martial artist last night at UFC Fight Night 133. Justin Scoggins, Dennis Bermudez, a…
What you may have missed from last night
Several questionable decisions by three judges irrevocably affected the careers and lives of more than one mixed martial artist last night at UFC Fight Night 133. Justin Scoggins, Dennis Bermudez, and Eddie Wineland all suffered decision losses with scorecards that surprised many onlookers. Bermudez and Scoggins suffered split decision losses, while Wineland’s loss was unanimous.
It’s not that the judges’ scorecards were completely indefensible. Bermudez landed a number of takedowns in round 2 against Rick Glenn, but also absorbed a number of chipping blows in the standup exchanges. Scoggins’ loss to Said Nurmagomedov came down to what was, watching in retrospect with no sound, a very close round 1 (Although, to make things weird, it was round 3, which should have been Nurmagomedov’s round easily, that Scoggins won on a judge’s scorecard). Eddie Wineland’s second and third rounds with Alejandro Perez were very close, tactical standup affairs.
It was Mike Mikkelson who turned in a couple of these truly bizarre scorecards, including a complete head-scratcher in scoring all three rounds against Dennis Bermudez
There are several frustrating aspects to the state of judging in MMA. One is that bad decisions are irreversible. This is understandable, but it raises the stakes. For Dennis Bermudez, this is the third split decision loss he has suffered in a row, all against Team Alpha Male fighters, all of them with room to think he won the fight. He might lose his spot in the UFC over one judge’s unpopular opinion. For Scoggins, who has been struggling to corral his obvious talent into wins in the sport, this should have been his first win since 2016. It wasn’t. For Wineland, the loss will likely drop him out of top fifteen rankings.
The second frustrating aspect is the utter lack of accountability. Judges do not need to explain their decisions to anyone, and they don’t. They are paid very little for their work, and their job is difficult. Still, there ought to be a clear and public review process for calling especially egregious decisions into question. Tied to this is the question, why are there only three judges? Tripling that number would reduce the uncertainty and the danger that just one fallible human gets it wrong or misses a key moment to a round.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, their decisions are on a round-by-round basis, but fighters and coaches can only guess at the score until the fight ends. This leaves them in the dark as to the approach they need to take. For Scoggins, this meant staying elusive and seemingly riding out much of the third round; as a fighter who is infamous for making mental mistakes and giving away fights he is winning, this was a logical choice for him- but it was dead wrong based on the actual scorecards; he needed to be going for a finish. For Bermudez, it would have been incredibly helpful to know he was down two rounds on two judges’ cards. He should have been going for a finish- but he had no way of knowing that.
Open scoring is something several fighters have called for, and last night in Boise reinforced the case for it. Fighters need to know where they stand so they can make better in-fight decisions. It would increase the urgency in some cases and reduce it in others, but most importantly it would give fighters feedback on how they are doing in-fight, and suggest whether their approach is working or whether they need to up the intensity. For most of us, a bad decision doesn’t affect our lives. For the betting public, it certainly does, but for the fighters, a single bad decision alters the entire arc of a career spent in blood, sweat, and brain trauma. We owe it to the fighters who lay their health on the line to fix this.