UFC on Fox 7: CSAC Executive Defends Judge Selection for Henderson vs. Melendez

Kyle Symes@ksymes88Correspondent IIIApril 23, 2013

Apr 20, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; Benson Henderson (left) celebrates after defeating Gilbert Melendez (right) during the lightweight championship bout of the UFC on Fuel TV at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more interesting storylines coming out of UFC on Fox 7 was that one of the judges for the title bout between Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez had connections with Cesar Gracie.

Despite speculation, California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster told MMA Junkie that he'd choose Wade Vierra to judge the contest if given another chance.

"I'm picking people who know what they're looking at," Foster said. "I will not pick state workers again to judge these fights in California. I had two brown belts and a purple belt judging a world title fight, and they all have striking experience. You can't ask for anything better than that."

Vierra has instructed at an affiliate of Gracie before, and given that Melendez trains with the guys under his banner, it would appear Vierra would not have been a wise choice to be picked for the main event.

Foster knew of Vierra's past but believed other things were more important:

It's more important for me to get the score right than to hire some state worker and get the score wrong. We have a problem with incompetence in this sport, and when you hear people say, 'We need to use fighters; we need to use people that train.' Well, if we do that, they're going to trace back in some respect. You can make a connection anywhere.

Even more puzzling was when Vierra's scorecards were revealed. Vierra scored rounds one, four and five for Melendez, which is in stark contrast to the general consensus of Henderson winning the final two rounds and Melendez winning the early rounds.

While I agree with Foster that by choosing fighters and people who train as judges, I have to believe there were better choices for judges than a guy who instructs at an affiliated school. Vierra wasn't considered for the Nate Diaz-Josh Thomson bout because he said he knew Diaz so why should he be allowed to score a fight with another Gracie fighter just because he doesn't know him personally?

I agree it will be tough to pick fighters and coaches who have zero affiliation to the fighters in the cage but some degree of separation has to be present. In this case, and given the controversy involved, I believe the CSAC could've made a better choice.