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Bureaucrats: Yeah, maybe we do have fundamental problems in MMA judging

By Zach Arnold | December 13, 2010

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The new angle here, if you want to call it that, is that my article about Keith Kizer’s unwinnable war with UFC perhaps is proving to be prescient after all.

Who knew that this man would cause such turmoil? Listen to Nam Phan’s comments about the fight he had with Leonard Garcia. Take note of his honesty about how the current MMA judges look at striking in fights:

As I referenced in the Kizer/UFC war article, we are at a point where UFC is in a bizarre proxy war situation and isn’t backing down from the idea of having Chael Sonnen as a coach on next season’s Ultimate Fighter show. It would be the ultimate in-your-face move by UFC to Keith Kizer and I don’t see what recourse he would have to stop it from happening.

Our mate Keith Harris recently asked if the athletic commissions are involved in studying up on CTE and issues related to fighters suffering from brain damage. A very trustworthy source with knowledge of the issue told me last week that right now the commissions are largely hands-off on the issue and that no major studies are underway.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 23 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

23 Responses to “Bureaucrats: Yeah, maybe we do have fundamental problems in MMA judging”

  1. mr. roadblock says:

    The Nevada judges made an abortion of a call in the Victor Ortiz/Lamont Peterson fight Saturday night.

    The problem is more than just lack of understanding for MMA. The NSAC is largely inept.

    I’ve also felt for years that having your head at ankle height is not the best way to watch a fight. I think a fight can be seen better with monitors than it can live from close up.

    They should have better educated judges. A more cohesive set of criteria for judging and judges should have to submit written reports for their score each round.

    It can be 1-2 sentences. i.e. Garcia controlled pace of the fight. Phan landed more punches, Garcia’s did more damage.

    Even if you think that’s wrong (and it’s just an example I came up with trying to imagine a judge’s defense of giving a round to Garcia) you’ll see what the judge’s eyes saw.

    • Fluyid says:

      Gotta say I was shocked when the decision was announced at the Ortiz vs. Peterson fight.

      I also gotta say in all honesty that it’s so different sitting there in the judge’s seat, no talking and no diverting your attention, that it’s difficult to understand what it’s like unless you do it. I’m not defending anyone, but it’s a way different experience than you can imagine. Guys like the HBO judge should point that out rather than go along with the announce crew when they insult judges.

      I’m not defending any judges at all, but it really is so radically different of an experience when you’re sitting there in that judge chair, not talking to anyone and trying to have total focus, that it’s tough to describe or relate to.

  2. Cholo says:

    Nevada, unlike NJ, utilizes pure boxing judges for MMA. NJ also directly regulates its amateur MMA program and its judges there. You are also required to have a background in submission grappling and muay thai.
    However, the UFC continues to use Nevada judges when they go to places without Commissions and Kizer insists that you do not need a martial arts, non-boxing background and Kizer does not control the amateur scene in Nevada.

    So it’s the NSAC’s fault for the poor judging and the UFC’s fault for continuing to travel with Nevada judges when they take the show on the road.

  3. When MI brought in the guy who created the rules for MMA as a judge, he “got it wrong” regarding Rampage/Machida. As far as I’m concerned, all the hand waiving about judging is a waste of time. If Jeff Blatnick can’t figure it out, no one who is actually going to get appointed will.

    • mr. roadblock says:

      That’s a legitimate point!

      Part of it is on the style of wrestling and waiting for a decision. A slightly more active form of lay-and-pray.

      I would like to see more standups and have them happen sooner. Also it comes down to UFC. If they cut guys like Fitch loose it would send a message.

      • I’ll be honest – I don’t want to see the UFC ditching “boring fighters” and I think wrestling should be scored as it typically is. Its the most important thing in MMA. If you can’t wrestle, you’ll get shit on accordingly when you try to move up the ladder. I don’t think you find a easy fix though. There’s no perfect balance of how to score officially on wrestling, BJJ, and kickboxing for close fights, and frankly I’m sick and tired of hearing about scapegoats. Is it boxing officials like Tony Weeks that are the problem? Is it TMA officials like Cecil Peoples? How about wrestling guys like Jeff Blatnick? Apparently no one can judge. Guess the sport is screwed!

  4. Zack says:

    I disagree and think there should be NO standups. Let the sport evolve.

    Having the guy on the bottom try to hold on and stall for a standup is even lamer than lay and pray.

    You get a standup every 5 minutes and the fight starts on the feet. That should be enough.

  5. Cholo says:

    I disagree, Blatnick got it right under the current scoring criteria. Rampage won the first two and lost the third.
    While one could possibly see it 29-28 Machida, I think choosing that fight is an extremely poor choice as an example of a bad scoring system or bad judging.
    In any combat sport, you dont deserve a victory by backing up and discarding your offense for a full two rounds.

    • The end result of that are trainers aware of such and we get sloppy boxing between guys who only know how to press forward with reckless abandon swinging punches. And hey, we know that’s what Dana likes too.

      I think there’s a huge disconnect between reality and what a lot of MMA fans on the internet argue. There’s a lot of people who want to see an increase of draws since its “more fair” than a debatable decision in a close fight. I guarantee you that the UFC doesn’t want that.

      • Tom says:

        I find Dana walks a tight line when he goes on about the importance of treating the UFC as a legitimate sport, which MMA is, but neglects to mention that it is a ‘spectator’ sport and there’s always an incentive to give fans what they want.

        I disagree with your first point though. If it becomes clear that ‘boxing’ carries more favour with judges than ‘wrestling/grappling’ then the trainers will simply focus on improving their fighter’s boxing technique. How many times has it been shown in combat sports that straight-punches with little wasted movement usually beats out wild haymakers?

        • edub says:

          “How many times has it been shown in combat sports that straight-punches with little wasted movement usually beats out wild haymakers?”

          The thing is that should be common sense. For some reason that is not the case in certain judges eyes.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    In a close fight, there are so many ways to view the action that a “good” decision isn’t always going to happen. Every judge has a slight bias towards striking vs. grappling. Power vs. Quantity. Submission attempts, etc, etc, etc….

    Nobody is ever going to be fully happy. Which is why it is SO IMPORTANT for the FIGHTERS to put on performances that take even the most educated judges guess work out of the equation.

  7. Steve4192 says:

    I think the biggest problem, especially regarding Leonard Garcia fights, is that judges can’t tell the difference between ‘effective aggression’ and ‘blind aggression’. They give points to the guy who walks forward and throws power shots REGARDLESS of whether any of them land. That is NOT effective aggression. Garcia is usually the more aggressive fighter in the cage, but he is rarely the more effective. Phan was far more effective in 10-15 second spurts of counter-punching than Garcia was in five full minutes of walking forward and windmilling punches.

    The rules do not say that judges should reward fighters for simply being aggressive. They say they should reward them for being effective in their aggression. That distinction seems to be completely lost on most judges.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I was at a Bellator event earlier this year. Within 10 rows of the action. And a few times I had a hard time telling who was winning. It’s very hard to tell which strikes land.

      • The Gaijin says:

        I just don’t buy this argument at all.

        How the hell does the entire arena watching live know who won and show their disdain accordingly, especially those sitting much further away.

        Just a lame, lame excuse.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Have you been to live events?

          Half of the people are drunk. 80% are too far away to really determine which strikes connected in a close back and forth fight.

          It’s a pure mod mentality. The crowd’s reaction is hardly the truth.

          Heck, just watch one fight where a guy wins the first 2 rounds and then gets rocked during the last minute of the 3rd. The live crowd almost always acts like its a bad decision.

        • The Gaijin says:

          So now judges and fans that have good seats are “too close to see what’s going on” and everyone else is “too far too really see what’s going on”.

          This is total excuse making…if the views really were THAT bad for everyone, people would not continue to shell out this kind of dough to go. Honestly, yes there is the whole atmosphere and big event feel of being there live, but this is totally ridiculous. Fans can and do see what’s going on in the ring/cage.

          I’ve been to three live UFC events and a number of other mma events and never had an issue seeing the fights or what was going on. Additionally, I don’t believe I was very far off on my judgement of who’d won the fight compared to those who saw it at home.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          When did i say somebody was too close to see what was going on?

          I’m saying with 4 ounce gloves, it’s just very hard to see what is hitting and what isn’t. On a TV screen or in person. It’s just too darn tough to make the right call in a very close fight.

        • The Gaijin says:

          “When did i say somebody was too close to see what was going on?”

          Pretty much every single time you try to “defend” a bad judges’ decision?

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    And speaking of Bellator, it was announced that they are now going to be on MTV2 and not FX. What a HUGE letdown.

    1) I have to check to even see if I get MTV2. I think I have it in my options but I’m not sure if my current cable tier has it. And I’m almost positive it’s not in HD.

    2) MTV loves to edit stuff until it is unwatchable. Remember that Pro Wrestling Show with Sean Waltman? They basically editted it so much to only show the really big moves. The final product didn’t even feel like Pro Wrestling.

    Either way, this is a huge letdown. It probably means 2011 is Bellator’s final year. Then again, I thought 2010 was both DREAM’s & Bellator’s final year. It amazes me how how much bad money can be thrown at a sport.

  9. Zack says:

    “2) MTV loves to edit stuff until it is unwatchable. Remember that Pro Wrestling Show with Sean Waltman? They basically editted it so much to only show the really big moves. The final product didn’t even feel like Pro Wrestling.”


    This sums up everything I already thought about you.

    • Chuck says:

      Actually, huddle is right (I really don’t care to agree with him, but there you go). I remember WSX, and how MTV edited the shit out of it to just show the big moves, and make it truly “crash TV”. Remember Ruckus’ bling-bling ladder? Shitty editing to make a fucking LADDER look cool. And the CGI fireball, so that they could edit out a REAL fireball. It was really fun to watch, but man it was a headache at the same time.

  10. Zack says:

    I just can’t imagine wanting to watch a wrasslin show on MTV…let alone being let down by it when it sucks.


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