Is MMA Judging That Bad or Are Fans Just Too Critical?

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Is MMA Judging That Bad or Are Fans Just Too Critical?
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Controversy goes hand in hand with MMA judging. We've heard it time and time again, "Don't leave it in the hands of the judges." Dana White stresses this point to make sure his fighters go out to win, and win decisively.

So what are these judges supposed to be looking for?

A quick trip to the UFC website tells us. They should be looking for (listed in order of importance): "effective striking, effective grappling, control of the ring/fighting area, effective aggressiveness and defense."

It's pretty much what most MMA fans already know, and it's really quite simple: Judges should be looking at who does the most damage and who puts themselves in the most advantageous positions.

So why does it so often seem that fans ask themselves, "What fight was that judge watching?"

It's a given that different people will see things differently. There are also times when a fight really could go either way. Those split-decisions are more palatable. That's not what really draws the fans' ire.

What really irks fans is when a fighter seems to have clearly won but ends up losing on the scorecards. It's an injustice.

One of the more controversial decisions in recent memory was Leonard Garcia vs. Nam Phan at the TUF 12 Finale. Two judges scored the bout 29-28 for Garcia, while one gave the fight to Phan 30-27. It was apparent to everyone that Phan won the fight, and the FightMetric report will attest to that.

What happened? The judges got it wrong. Two of them, no less.

Thankfully, the UFC scheduled a rematch (as is often the case with controversial decisions), and Phan avenged his "loss" at UFC 136 with an unanimous decision victory.

Dana White has voiced his displeasure over MMA judging on numerous occasions, most recently after UFC 147.

The judges are faced with an interesting predicament. Get every single decision "right," and they're just doing their job. Get a decision "wrong," and they're deemed incompetent, or worse.

Unfortunately, that's the way it has to be. It's their job to get it done right. They owe it to the fighters who put themselves at risk every time they step into the ring as well as the integrity of the sport.

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