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Should MMA judges have to explain their scoring of fights on TV after a bout takes place?

By Zach Arnold | April 18, 2011

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This is video of Patricio Pitbull beating Wilson Reis in a Featherweight bout last Saturday night on Bellator’s MTV2 show from Yuma, Arizona in near 100-degree heat on a black canvassed cage. You read that right. The two Pitbulls (Patricio & Patricky) are on a tear in Bellator and look fabulous. They were brought to Bellator by their late manager, Ivan Canello. There’s a growing online sentiment that if Bellator Featherweight champion Joe Warren had to face Patricio that he would lose that fight.

Unless, of course, you end up in a commission state/reservation with judges like the ones we saw work the Yuma, Arizona show last Saturday.

Joe Warren was declared the winner by unanimous decision over Marcos Galvao in one of the biggest examples of awful MMA judging. Two judges scored it 29-28 in his favor and a third scored it 30-27. Having watched the fight multiple times now, the only outcome that I could see that would be ‘positive’ for Warren would be a draw… but you would really have to stretch for it. By the standards of the Unified Rules, Galvao should have won 29-28. By PRIDE standards, I would have had him winning the bout as well. Warren fought his usual aggressive ‘no-guard’ style which left him wide open in terms of positioning both in the stand-up phase and ground game. Galvao hit two knees in the second round which would have flattened a lot of opponents.

I like Joe Warren. I think he’s an entertaining personality and his fights never are boring. However, he realistically lost that (non-title) fight last Saturday night. He’s almost 35 years old and he’s got so much on his plate between preparations for a final Olympic run in 2012 and goals for winning Bellator’s Bantamweight title that I don’t see him focused enough in terms of making the right improvements to succeed. I don’t question his talent. I don’t question his heart. I question the way his schedule is laid out in terms of putting him in the best position to be as successful as he can be.

Marcos Galvao is a good fighter. However, he got knocked out cold in a WEC bout. He’s not currently an elite Featherweight. Against a Featherweight under the Zuffa banner, Joe Warren right now loses against most if not all of the Zuffa fighters. He’s not improving fast enough. Compare his trajectory to that of Ben Askren. Askren is doing it the right way.

As for the awful judging that led us to this point, Joe Warren is saying exactly what you would expect to him to say and I don’t blame him for it. This is not on him. This is on the three individuals who scored the fight. So, what can be done about it? Nick Lembo discussed this topic a few months ago and laid out what the state of New Jersey does in terms of putting new applicants through the paces in order to get credentialed. If you didn’t read what he had to say on the topic, go read it. I think it’s an excellent idea. The problem is that most states can’t adopt that system because they don’t have proper structuring in place to regulate amateur MMA or they outsource it to people like Jeremy Lappen.

Jimmy Smith, who did color commentary for last Saturday’s Bellator bout, has an easier and more high-profile suggestion. Put the spotlight on the judges right after they score a fight. Make them accountable for the way they score bouts and make them explain their thinking. Right now, judges don’t have to justify the way they score bouts other than private meetings with athletic commissioners after events.

“I think that’s the heart of the issue,” Jimmy explained to Mauro Ranallo on Monday’s edition of The Fight Show. “If you saw Anthony Lapsley vs. Jay Hieron, an early stoppage in Bellator, in our first episode of this season. I pulled the referee (Josh Rosenthal) aside, on camera, and said ‘what were you thinking? what was the reason for this early stoppage?’ and he said, “Well, I felt his arm, it felt stiff, he didn’t respond when I asked him a question,’ whatever it was. I pulled him aside on TV and said, ‘what were you thinking?’ and he said, ‘here’s what I was thinking.’ Judges don’t have that kind of accountability. They don’t. So, it’s kind of an anonymous activity as far as the sport goes. They’re not on camera. Referees take a lot of heat for the decisions they make.”

Mr. Ranallo, who is a big supporter of the PRIDE scoring criteria, suggested that the system currently in place for scoring fights is at fault as well. Mr. Smith agreed.

“The problem is that it’s a little too bit ambiguous. There is a criteria laid out and it’s effective striking followed by effective grappling, followed by ring control and aggression. Those are the majori criteria. The last one is defense which is a little strange. Your only defense is if the other guy has been active.”

“When you look at the Galvao fight, Galvao was extremely effective. His takedown defense was excellent. Joe Warren ate four or five flying knees. The striking was one-sided completely. In round three, then Joe Warren starts getting his takedowns going and then got some good ground ‘n pound but in terms of effective striking, the damage done to your opponent, Galvao was way ahead. That’s why I gave him the fight two rounds to one.”

Would putting the television spotlight on judges after controversial decisions make them more honest brokers?

Topics: Bellator, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 39 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

39 Responses to “Should MMA judges have to explain their scoring of fights on TV after a bout takes place?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) Galvao got KO’d by WEC Bantamweights….

    2) 99.9% of the time Judges, Refs, and Matchmakers should be seen not heard. And if they are heard from, it should be in a post fight press conference manner talking to the media. It should not be in the cage right after the fight.

  2. Brad Wharton says:

    I don’t really see what purpose it serves, other than delaying the show while as many as three judges try to explain what they’ve done over a sea of boo’s.

    If these guys are purposefully scoring fights incorrectly or displaying a personal bias, it *might* discourage them. But if it’s simply a case of the fight being judged incorrectly because the judges don’t know any better (which seems the more likely scenario) then I see no benefit. If anything, it could lead to some judges scoring fight how they think the fans want them to be scored, for fear of being crucified on camera if they don’t.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      The big argument for it, should one want to make one, is that you start attaching a face and a voice to the people in charge of ruling fights. These people get paid by taxpayers, make decisions that affect the financial livelihoods of fighters, and they make a bad call or repeated bad calls and slither away (outside of private meetings with athletic commissioners after the fact).

      • Brad Wharton says:

        Oh yeah, I get where he’s coming from with it. To be honest, even though I don’t think it’d solve the problem, it’s just about the best shout in terms of getting *something* done. Because really, what else is there?

        Obviously the dream solution is a nationally-recognised and required Universal Rules judging qualification with regular refreshers/testing. Incompetent judges would be sifted out, those remaining would be well trained and could risk losing their ‘licence’ if they made repeated mistakes. Fans, fighters and promoters would have a little more faith in the guys sat at the judging tables. Unfortunately we’ll see Zuffa build a 100,000 seat stadium in Moscow for a co-promoted M-1 PPV before that happens…

  3. Jonathan says:

    Not calling into question the integrity of your writing Zach, but Brian Bowles also knocked out Miguel Torres. Does that mean that Miguel Torres is a bad fighter?

    Also, GSP got knocked out Matt Serra, but that does not make him a bad fighter.

    High quality fighters get knocked out all of the time.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      You really are looking for a stretch there. A non-sequitur.

      • Jonathan says:

        You use a fighter getting knocked out as a reason for him not being an elite or a good fighter. All I said is that alot of fighters get knocked out, even high-level ones, and that said knockout does not make them a bad fighter.

        At the time, he got Ko’d by a guy who was tearing 135 lbs. up.

        • Zach Arnold says:

          What’s disputable about Marcos Galvao being a good, but not elite fighter? You have raised questions that dance around this point.

          You can’t compare him to Brian Bowles. Logically, I don’t understand what you’re trying to argue.

        • Jonathan says:

          Here is what I am saying:

          That getting knocked out does not mean that you are not an elite fighter.

          He got knocked out by one of the best 135 lbers. for the time.

          In your article, you discredit him as a fighter because he got knocked out in the WEC.

          I will say again that getting knocked out, especially against high level opposition, does not mean that a fighter is not elite, or that he is in fact a bad fighter.

          I tried to make it as clear as I possibly could.

        • edub says:

          Marcos Galvao was knocked out violently in both of his fights in the UFC (arguably his two best opponents to date).

          I understand what point you are trying to make that just because fighters get KOd doesn’t mean they are terrible fighters. However, he’s not an elite fighter, and if Zach just started that sentence off with something like: “In both of his WEC fights…” it would have led into him not being a top quality FW a little more.

        • smoogy says:

          I laughed at Joe Warren losing to all “Zuffa fighters”. With a mouth like Joe’s, I’m sure UFC could find some easy outs to establish him as a monster “Zuffa fighter” and title contender if they really wanted.

  4. Kelvin says:

    “Would putting the television spotlight on judges after controversial decisions make them more honest brokers?”

    No. The problem is a percentage of the judges are simply not MMA educated. So they wouldn’t know any better if confronted. Now, that may force them to become educated(being confronted on TV)…but that should be taken place already…unfortunately it isn’t.

  5. Solaris says:

    When a new mma fans asks me how mma is scored, I feel a bit silly saying the 10 point must system – the same as boxing.

    The judging criteria must be made more clear and available to all so that the fans, promoters and judges are on the same page.

    Right now, it doesn’t feel that way – and when you watch a fight like the Joe Warren one this weekend – you are left shaking your head because it is very clear that something is not lining up – the judging has been way too inconsistent for it to be working properly.

    As for shining light on judges – that is probably a bad idea. Keep them in the background – the camera time should be for the fighters first.

  6. Chuck says:

    There have been quite a few wonky decision lately in Bellator. Rick Hawn over Lyman Good. Jay Hieron over Brent Weedman. Maybe even Weedman over Dan Hornbuckle (I had Weedman winning, so that one could have went either way). And now Warren over Galvao. And Warren’s decisions over Georgi Karakhanyan and Patricio Pitbull from last year were pretty questionable as well, as far as I remember. Some might even say Pat Curran’s wins over Roger Huerta and Toby Imada, but both decisions could have gone either way (I don’t quite remember the Imada fight, but I did have Curran 29-28 over Huerta). I bet there are others that don’t come to mind.

    What fight promotion can you name with so many close/wonky/”controversial” decisions in such a short time? Way too many coincidences if you ask me. I’m thinking it’s because Bellator has run many smaller states that don’t have much MMA leading to less-educated judges being used.

    • smoogy says:

      Within the margin of error:

      Hawn vs. Good (Correct decision IMO)
      Weedman vs. Hornbuckle
      Warren vs. Karakhanyan
      Curran vs. Huerta

      Clearly poor decisions or outright robberies:

      Warren vs. Freire
      Warren vs. Galvao
      Frausto vs. Aguilar
      Frausto vs. Fujii
      Curran vs. Imada
      Hieron vs. Weedman

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Some people are saying Rebney is putting the fix on.

        Not sure I’m willing to go that far yet…. But a few more of these completely off the wall decision…. And I might be convinced…

  7. Stel says:

    compustrike numbers make the case for Warren winning the second round…and he was pushing forward in that rd….

    “Round one was all Galvao- he doubled Warren in strikes landed, had three takedowns (in three atts.) and also secured two dominant positions.
    They landed similar amount of strikes in round two. Galvao was the busier fighter in a round in which the fighters spent 4:29 on their feet. Warren scored the round’s only takedown.
    Warren dominated on the ground in round three, landing 30 ground strikes after hitting on two of three takedown attempts.”

    • Nepal says:

      While the round 2 strike totals may have been somewhat even, clearly the power strikes were thrown by Galvao.

      • Stel says:

        Right, I seem to remember a few big knees to Warrens head, but they didn’t really do anything to him. I thought Galvao won that round personally, however Galvao couldn’t follow up on those big blows so I see where the judges could give it to Warren just for aggression and the take down.

  8. Fluyid says:

    I’ve judged fight cards from the UFC on down, and I always have a dialogue in my head for justifying my judging scores. I’m not sure I’d do a great job vocalizing my thoughts if called on, but I always think this through.

    Before every card, I remind myself that my job is to score each round based upon that round only. I remind myself that fighters’ reputations, etc., have nothing to do with it. It’s all about what happens in that round. I already know this stuff, of course, but I go through the repetitious ritual of reminding myself these basic things nevertheless.

    Between every round, I focus on my breathing and try to clear my mind and stay present so that I can do my job for the next round based only on that round.

    I try really, really, really hard to do my very best job every single time and to not take one single thing for granted. I take it very seriously and work very hard at it.

    I’m not sure that I’ve always gotten it right every single time, but I try hard as hell to stay focused and present. My personal belief is that this is the toughest thing for judges…. to stay absolutely focused and present with the fight at all times. I could certainly be wrong.

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    Zuffa is releasing an “UFC Encyclopedia” in October.

    The winners of the war always get to write the history…

    I expect it to be a lot of fluff….. But I’m interested in seeing how they cover certain topics….

    So now MMA will have 2 encyclopedias…. One by Zuffa. The other by Snowden.

    When are we going to get the middle ground one????

    • The Gaijin says:

      I never read Snowden’s – was it one-sided?

      From what I’ve heard, apart from the critcisms that he’s a writer of “hot button” or purposely divisive articles at BE, he’s a very good writer and very knowledgeable about the sport.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        On Amazon they have a few pages of the book to sample…

        He absolutely knows a lot. The problem is that almost every page that I could see, he interjected his opinion into the writing too much. An encyclopedia should be factual. Not stuff like:

        “It might be best to think of the Affliction clothing company’s foray into the world of mixed martial arts as a noble failure.”

        • The Gaijin says:

          “It might be best to think of the Affliction clothing company’s foray into the world of mixed martial arts as a noble failure.”

          LOL. Point taken.

          I understand the idea of wanting to inject some humour and insights/opinion, but when you’re trying to act as a reference guide that kind of jaundices the material…wasn’t sure if it was meant to literally be taken as an encyclopedia or if that was just a catchy title/marketing.

  10. The Gaijin says:

    Why don’t they ask judges to write a report after the event that justifies their scoring of each fight they’ve judged?

    They’re getting paid, why can’t we ask that they do a post-event memo or report that outlines/provides reasoning and justification for their scores. Then it’s a document they can point to that backs it up, maybe it’s something that is on public record and can be reviewed by anyone that wants to request it. That way you save having them provide the reasons after the fight, slowing down the event, and still accomplish the accountability aspect. I guess one negative is that you’ll have guys writing reports that try to “defend” why they scored something a certain way and looking to find reasons ex post facto, but at least you’ve got something to point to and if someone is providing indefensible scores and reports subsequently (e.g. leg kicks don’t win fights) you’ve got a paper trail to boot them out.

  11. cutch says:

    REALLY bad news for Bellator after last week’s “success”

    This past weekend’s Bellator 41 event drew a season-low 132,000 viewers on MTV2, today confirmed with an event source.

    That marks a 39 percent ratings drop from Bellator 40. It’s also 18,000 fewer viewers than Bellator 37, which previously held the season low with an audience of 150,000.

    • smoogy says:

      Please explain how this is REALLY bad news, as I’ve yet to see anyone put any reasonable context to these Bellator ratings other than their losses and gains week to week, which seem to fluctuate quite a bit with no certain explanation. How does Bellator 41 compare to similar programming in a similar timeslot, or other programming on Saturday evenings on MTV2?

      • Alan Conceicao says:

        A) How many dollars per show is Bellator spending for production and fighters?

        B) How much money does MTV2 get per subscriber on digital cable?

        You look at those two questions and then consider the value of the advertising time, and I can’t see how any number Bellator has posted is good *for them*.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Alan is correct.

          Even if MTV2 loves the end product… There is no way 132,000 viewers will bring in enough revenues to warrent a live show for 12 weeks straight.

          Doing a live broadcast is expensive….

        • mr. roadblock says:

          Last I checked (about 2 years ago) it costs around $150k to go live on a bird for a 2-3 hour show.

        • Yeah, exactly Roadblock. They’re spending almost $2 a head for people watching on digital second tier cable. MTV2 probably gets next to nothing per subscriber (if they get anything) and ads for shows that pull 132K viewers are gonna cost nothing unless its a CNBC show interviewing CEOs.

  12. 45 Huddle says:

    The judge who scored it for Warren 30-27 said this:

    “He had three rounds to take Warren out if he really wanted to beat him — he had three rounds to dominate Warren, as well as Warren had three rounds to dominate him,” Wolfe said. “It’s up to the fighter. … Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges, especially when it’s a close fight.”

    This guy is an absolute tool and should never judge MMA again.

    A judge who says don’t leave it in the hand of the judges? Unbelievable…

    • The Gaijin says:

      “Wolfe said. “It’s up to the fighter. … Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges, especially when it’s a close fight.” ”

      HA-HA-HA. WTF. That is so fk-ing meta. WOW.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        So this is really about running your event in a backyard in a 3rd rate fighting state…. And by default you get tools like this….

        • The Gaijin says:

          Yeah, I think that’s the biggest take-away. I don’t think Rebney’s “fixing” fights, I think the issue is you’re dealing with 3rd rate commissions who have absolutely unqualified judges like this guy that judge fights based on “fandom”, “who’s the more popular fighter” and “who should win” among other things.

    • edub says:

      That guy needs to be fired yesterday. No excuses for that garbage.

    • Chuck says:

      So, let me get this straight. This judge thought that because Galvao had three rounds to dominate Warren, and didn’t dominate Warren, he deserved to not only lose the fight, but all three rounds? So it came down to “yeah, Galvao deserved to win, probably 29-28, but he didn’t beat Warren silly for fifteen minutes straight, so fuck him! 30-27 for Warren!”. Hell, if this tool box of a judge truly felt this way then he probably should have judged it 30-21 for Warren with all 10-7 rounds to TRULY screw Galvao raw with no lube.

  13. mr. roadblock says:

    I think what’s troubling here is that Bellator runs a lot of non-commission sites. In every case except Weedman/Hornbuckle the strange judging went in favor of the fighter that the promotion has a vested interest in or thought was the ‘favorite’.

  14. […] Monday, I wrote an article bringing up a point that Bellator color man Jimmy Smith proposed — the idea of putting judges on television right after they score a fight to articulate why they scored a fight the way they did. The reader […]


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