Anybody who reads this blog knows that I’ve done my fair share of complaining about judges. It seems that even with a simple scoring system in which a round winner earns 10 points and a round loser earns 9 points, judges of MMA fights have a very difficult time scoring fights correctly. Naturally, there are consequences that result from such a flawed judging system. About a month ago, Miguel Torres lamented that being aggressive against Demetrious Johnson instead of being passive and holding position cost him the decision in that fight. Torres went so far as to say that in his next fight, he would opt to hold position and “be a little boring” if that’s what is necessary to win a decision.
Just as flawed judging caused Torres to rethink his fighting style, Urijah Faber seems to be considering some changes in order to appeal more to the judges. Here’s part of what he said to Bruce Buffer on Sherdog Radio, transcribed by Zach Arnold of Fight Opinion:
…it feels like these days the MMA judges are so off the rocker, like you don’t really know what you’re trying to do out there, you know. It’d be great if we had some consistency but Dominick fought a good fight, I fought a good fight, I tried to go for the finish, I don’t really think about decisions very much and I think I need to start being a little more cognizant of that, you know.
I definitely feel like I could have been more of a person that put on the appearance of winning the fight rather than trying to finish the fight and I think that was the difference.
Now, let me make myself clear by saying that I scored the fight for Dominick Cruz, and I thought Cruz was better on both a round-by-round basis and by the entirety of the fight. However, I think Faber mentioned something very key, which is the “appearance of winning the fight.” I’ve never been an MMA judge and I’ve never talked to one, so the best I can do is speculate about the thought process of the judges who watch fights. With that said, I’ve long suspected that judges give very little thought to specific techniques, the Unified Rules, or much of anything else. When Demetrious Johnson is given a decision victory against Miguel Torres, the best explanation that I can come up with is that because Johnson was in top position for much of the fight, that he “looked better” according to the judges.
I also believe that the ten-point must system, another aspect of judging I’ve complained about many times, enables the tendency of the judges to award rounds that shouldn’t be awarded. We’ve seen rounds that consist of striking almost the entire time get awarded to the fighter who lands a takedown with under 20 seconds remaining on the clock. Instead of scoring the round on the techniques that matter, the judges tend to treat the whole striking period as a wash, and award the round to the fighter landing a very meaningless takedown late in the round.
Ultimately, I feel that the judges are very lazy. Instead of properly educating themselves about techniques that truly contribute towards a potential finish, and scoring fights accordingly, they use the ten-point must system as a prop to simply award a round to the fighter who “looked better.” It’s not a stretch to think that Faber could have won the decision against Cruz if he had landed a couple more takedowns and held top position for a period of time in each round. Either way, the result of having uneducated, inadequate judges in the sport of MMA is that former champions are faced with the idea of changing their fighting style in order to appease these flawed judges. This is a very disappointing and frustrating development.