Controversial Fight Decisions and the UFC


Watching Jones and Gustafsson at UFC 165 I think it’s hard to believe for many that the judges scorecard may have been skewed in the wrong direction (me, personally, I had the fight going 3-0 for Gustafsson going into the 4th round); that said, many could’ve have easily agreed with the direction the judges score.

Dana White has always told fighters and the media alike, if you that you should be aiming for a finish if you don’t want to take the chance that you’re going to lose the fight on the judge’s scorecard. Controversy and judge’s scoring go hand-in-hand in MMA. However, Dana White is right: At the end of the day someone’s scoring during a fight is very much a matter of personal perspective (despite mandated technical elements that a fight needs to measured on). Everything above noted, there have been a few fights over time where even the most “arm chair judge” could’ve seen that the fight was scored the wrong way, here is my take…

*Disclaimer: This analysis is focused on the UFC. While other promotions have also had controversial decisions, the UFC as a promotion is the focus of this article.

*Second Disclaimer: This analysis is about “decisions”, not “stoppages”.

If you’re still interested to read on, keep going…

Tito Ortiz v. Forrest Griffin II: A lot of people felt that the first match-up between these two was close, but to deny that Ortiz lost the second match-up is absurd. Ortiz lost some of his momentum going into the last round, and it’s often that last impression you leave with the judges that can snatch a decision away and lock up a victory, but even Griffin implied at the end of the fight that he didn’t think he should’ve won. Many felt that karma was in play with the decision on this fight, as Ortiz had won a somewhat arguable decision in the first fight. Ortiz would retire with some grace and quietly into the night (well at least from the UFC).

Frankie Edgar v. Ben Henderson I: This is one of those fights, where I still truly feel it was judged the right way – but, could only do so potentially because of fan bias toward Henderson. Edgar put out a strong performance which, using his previous fights as a measure, should have been enough to win him the fight. However, Henderson was awarded the match and in true UFC-style Edgar was awarded the instant re-match.

Michael Bisping v. Matt Hamill: Matt Hamill was relentless against “The Count” this entire fight, taking him down to the ground and controlling him at will. Bisping really did very little to prove that he deserved a victory, other than shoot his mouth off in the build-up to the match. However, perhaps to appease the English audience, the judge gave Bisping a split nod in this match-up. It’s not one that would ever be significant enough for a re-match,  but many to this day feel as though it was the most poorly judged match in UFC history (on a side note, it was the one UK judge who judged on the panel that elected in favour of Hamill… s0, take what you want from that).

Forrest Griffin v. Quinton Jackson: Jackson was at the height of his career, as a light-heavyweight champion. Many thought he would reign over the division for some time to come. Realistically, after his fight with Girffin, he should’ve have kept his crown. Griffin definitely did win two rounds in the fight, using continuous leg kick and some of the worst ground-and-pound I’ve ever seen. However, when Rampage was on, he was on and definitely dished out more damage between the two. It really brought into perspective for many fans coming into the sport, what judges really deem important on the scorecards – damage or control (the latter being the case).

Chris Cariaso v. Takeya Mizugaki: This one still makes me scratch my head today. If you haven’t seen this fight, take the time to give it a watch for yourself. It was a match-up that was clearly swinging in the favour of Mizugaki, but apparently the Japanese judges saw it fit to award the fight to Cariaso. Ultimately, the UFC would award the victory, via winnings, to both fighters – but, Mizugaki will always have a non-warranted “loss” on his record that no amount money can erase.

Lyoto Machida v. Shogun Rua I: This was one of the few times that I actually asked myself whether or not the judges had been drinking heavily before the fight. Machida did nothing the entire fight, while Shogun engaged. Neither fighter awarded much damage to the other, but Shogun was the clear aggressor throughout the entire fight (which in MMA terms should equate to points), but was alas denied the UFC light-heavyweight title. Fortunately, Shogun would be given an instant re-match and reap his revenge!


If you look at the above results, you’d likely notice that many of them have been in more recent memory. Is that because the judges are getting worse? Because there were no bad decisions prior to the more “moder-era of UFC”? No, it’s because there has been a lot more opportunity for fights to go to the judges scorecard. As we wrote some time ago, fighters just aren’t finishing fights like they used to and are fighting more strategically, instead of putting it all on the line. With this noted, I would be remiss to say that I don’t think we’ll see plenty more poor decisions in the future.

Of course the UFC often grants a reprieve for those that it thinks have been denied on the scorecards – the instant re-match. However, that’s another story for another day.


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