Every sport has its growing pains, and mixed martial arts is no different. While traditional sports have had more than a century to work out their flaws, MMA is still ironing out some wrinkles.
None bigger than judging.
Ask any fan, fighter or even promoter for their thoughts on the subject and you likely get a sigh or rolling eyes. With the sport climbing closer and closer to the mainstream, every decision is now under the microscope more than ever. And rightfully so, as the inconsistencies from fight to fight and even round to round leave everyone in the MMA community questioning the outcomes.
Take, for example, the last two pay-per-view main events at UFC 143 and 144. Despite current champions Carlos Condit and Benson Henderson taking unanimous decision victories on the scorecards, public outcry led the promotion to schedule immediate rematches with Nick Diaz and Frankie Edgar, respectively. Diaz's positive drug test spoiled those plans, but it does not change the premise.
And the problem is far from a recent one. Edgar is certainly no stranger to rematches, having faced both BJ Penn and Gray Maynard multiple times each. Each instance was the result of questionable cage side scoring.
So what's the solution?
Time. The longer the sport exists, the more educated its fans, fighters and most importantly, its judges become.
Perhaps the biggest ambiguity of the current scoring system is what constitutes a 10-8 round? It is unlikely that you would get the same answer if you polled 10 different judges. The fact that so many "qualified" people cannot agree on the subject and are hesitant to award fighters for dominant rounds really sets the sport back.
Although it would be easy to point out every flaw of the 10-point must system, the bigger problem is that the vast majority of judges come from backgrounds other than MMA. In fact, a number of events are overseen by boxing commissions who later added MMA to their umbrella, without seeking out new judges. Until the next generation of judges–who grew up with MMA–unseat the current crop, this problem won't be going away.
Fortunately for the sport, decisions are not the only way to win fights. As long as there are fighters finishing fights, the sport will continue to grow; masking the underlying problem. In a perfect world, decisions in which a promotion is forced to reward the wrong fighter will be a thing of the past, sooner rather than later.
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