Ben Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone: A Look at Why The Judges Got It Right.

Ken FossAnalyst IOctober 11, 2009

Most of the ink spilled about a fantastic WEC 43 card has once again been about the topic of judging; namely the scoring for Cerrone vs. Henderson, totally overshadowing what was an exhibition on what exciting grappling can be.

While this is unfortunate its given me the chance to examine the fight. Most in the media have awarded Donald Cerrone a convincing 48-46 victory. And chastised the three judges who all scored the bout 48-47 for Henderson.

Frankly I can't fault the decision overly, considering I scored the bout 48-48 splitting the opening stanza. However that doesn't seem to have stopped pundits like Jordan Breen from scorning the decision as “tarnishing”, proclaiming that the 5th round was a 10-8 round, and possibly even the fourth.


Rounds scored 10-8 are supposed to imbue the judge with the opportunity to score absolutely dominant rounds. To say that Henderson, who held the better position the whole round(and fight), was somehow dominated because he was locked in some sickening, deep reverse-armbars, omaplatas, and guillotines is a stretch.

As far as I'm concerned you can't EVER totally dominate a round from your active guard. So lets discard that right off the bat.

Moving on, In section I of the NSAC judging criteria, it clearly distinguishes the rules for effective grappling.



I. Effective Grappling
1. The Judge shall recognize the value of both the clean takedown and active guard position.
2. The Judge shall recognize that a fighter who is able to cleanly takedown his opponent, is effectively grappling.
3. A Judge shall recognize that a fighter on his back in an active guard position, can effectively grapple, through execution of repeated threatening attempts at submission and reversal resulting in continuous defense from the top fighter.
4. A Judge shall recognize that a fighter who maneuvers from guard to mount is effectively grappling.
5. A Judge shall recognize that the guard position alone shall be scored neutral or even, if none of the preceding situations were met.(items 2-4)
6. A Judge shall recognize that if the fighters remain in guard the majority of a round with neither fighter having an edge in clean striking or effective grappling, (items 2-4), the fighter who scored the clean takedown deserves the round.
7. A clean reversal is equal to a clean takedown in effective grappling



See No. 6. in it, its told that an even round, in which the items 2-4 do not provide a clear winner, you favor the man who earned the takedown. This is going to be key to the rest of my argument, so keep in mind.

I'm going to spotlight Round 1. because this round was taken as obviously Cerrone's when if anything its Henderson's by an eyelash.

While in the first minute Cerrone locks in a deep guillotine that should have ended the fight. Henderson eventually gets to his feet takes down Cerrone, and initiates some brutal ground and pound, Cerrone would just miss on a triangle later in the round.

However, the overall score ends up being split, effective grappling is split Henderson takes clean striking, and Octagon control, while Cerrone takes aggression.

In my eyes this is the quintessential 10-10 round. As there both equally effective in two totally different ways. If you held a gun to my head, I'd give it to Henderson via rule No. 6 of effective grappling.

I think we can all agree that rounds two and three are Henderson's. While round four is definitively Cerrone's.

When we come to round five, our scorecard reads 39-38(or 39-37 if you have a gun to my head) Henderson's work rate is going down fast, and Cerrone needs this round.

This round would end up almost a carbon copy of four with Henderson being caught as he had all night long in deep submissions.

However the Cowboy could do nothing to stop Benson from taking him down, the key factor for me possibly giving him the 10-8 round is the omaplata at the end that Benson rolls out of. That's a “reversal” or sweep.

However I deemed that it came after the horn. And thus gave the fight a 48-48 draw.

Even though I scored it a draw, if your like most American judges that don't believe in 10-10 rounds, You'd give the fight to Ben 48-47.

I can understand why this wouldn't be taken so well. As looking at the fight the submission attempts just don't seem to get enough of the weight, and I agree somewhat.

But the value of a submission is the potential to end the fight, as well as the possibility to sweep in some cases. By the letter of the law, the judges got this one right ...

 Benson Henderson should, and thankfully is fighting Jaime Varner in December, or January.

Please save the vitrol for Jon Schorle.