Couture vs. Vera: A Look at How the Judges Got It Right

Ken FossAnalyst INovember 15, 2009

When watching the main event live, thanks to means I must plead the Fifth to, I thoroughly enjoyed it, scoring the bout 29-29 on the first viewing. Later I watched the Spike telecast and came out with a 29-28 decision for Randy Couture—identical to the judges' scorecards.

Both forums and this site, however, have been seething with people who have differences of opinion with the judges.

The question is, how could we all have so many different views? The simple fact of the matter is we all have different criteria. And that's fine, opinions are the backbone of this site, fire away about how you think technique ZA is better than EY.

However, when judging you can't look at things that way. Your job isn't to make up rules, it's to interpret them. What are these phantom rules I speak of, yet don't seem to be on the tongue of anything beyond the most well-informed of fans?

Those would be the NSAC's Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. And under section VIII is a category for judging. It states:

E. Judging Criteria

1. Judges are required to determine the winner of a bout that goes to it's full time limit based upon

the following criteria:

-Clean Strikes

-Effective Grappling

-Octagon Control

-Effective Aggressiveness

For the dedicated fans who were around when SEG got those passed on the 11th hour of their ownership, my apologies, but it needed to be done.

Now we get to the meat and potatoes, my friends—scoring the fight.

In the first round, the fight started off fast, with Vera throwing a quick high kick that drops Randy's defenses long enough for some big shots to land. With Couture wobbled, Brandon grabs the plum.

Randy, however, knows the knees are coming, so he baits him to raise his leg off the canvas with two left uppercuts, then drives Vera towards the cage. This forces Vera to stop the offense and reverse so he has Randy against the cage. He thinks he's safe to start throwing knees but that's not the case, as he's immediately reversed.

From here it's a battle for position against the fence, as Couture racks up control, and lands some small strikes to the legs of Vera. After some shuffling and reversing, eventually Godard separates and Couture immediately takes him right back there. This continues until the end of the round.

Now this is important, so I'll again give you the specifics of one of the more controversial aspects of scoring under the unified rules:

J. Octagon Control

1. The fighter who is dictating the pace, place and position of the fight.

2. A striker who fends off a grappler's takedown attempt to remain standing and effectively strike is

octagon control.

3. A grappler who can takedown an effective standing striker to ground fight is octagon control.

4. The fighter on the ground who creates submission, mount or clean striking opportunities

This is one of the most controversial because it's all encompassing and convoluted, so most either dismiss it entirely, or give it too much credence.

However, in tight rounds, judges routinely use this as a tiebreaker with effective aggression. See Spencer Fisher-Caol Uno for an example. Who's controlling the fight, who's fighting it on their terms?

With this knowledge, we can deduce that unquestionably this was Randy's gameplan, to wear down Vera against the fence and grind him like he did Gabriel Gonzaga, and many others.

It's Vera's job to fight out of that position, and if he can't he needs to find a way to repel Randy and stay out of that spot.

He failed in that first round, and with Vera's flurry being so minimal and Couture's cage work so prominent, it's likely they awarded Randy the first round on this standard. I think that's fine, because that's why I gave it to him, as well, in my second pass.

While people talk about “damage” or tally up strike figures like they work for CompuBox, at the end of the day this is just a third of the overall picture. I know it's boring to watch two guys hug against the fence, but it happens, just like nil-nil soccer games, and 6-3 Cleveland Browns games.

Get Over It!

Moving on, the second round is pretty one-sided, Couture is hurt badly with knees, and is close to being finished multiple times. It's pretty clearly a 10-9 round for Vera.

As we go to the third round, things are pretty tense. Randy puts his best offensive round together, and so does Vera, making for an action-packed round. They both stagger each other and push the action.

But ultimately, again it's the cage work, as he lays it on in stretches with knees, elbows, and uppercuts that really open up the margin. Vera's calling card to make the round is when he has Randy up against the cage and takes him down, passing immediately to mount.

However, this is so brief, and he does nothing with it. While the takedown and pass gain him points, the sweep negates the pass, and the takedown doesn't save him from the fact he's been out-struck and controlled against the cage for the majority of the round.

While it's close, both the judges and I scored the round 10-9 Couture, rendering our final verdicts 29-28 Couture in a hard-fought win.

Addressing Some Things

Fightmetric scored the bout a 29-29 draw. I'm perfectly fine with this; they split the first round.

Nate Double's stance that the UFC rigged the fight because it's in the UFC's best interests to keep Randy relevant...I made my one-liner on that in the comments section of Jung Soo Kim's piece; it was one of my better attempts at humor, I think.

Establishing What the Definition of a Robbery Is

An OBVIOUS bout in which the judges couldn't accurately decide the outcome despite ample evidence that CLEARLY favors the opposite fighter.

Robberies recently including Shogun-Machida, Beebe-Easton, and Omigawa-Hioki.

Until next week, when we probably discuss the Ortiz vs. Griffin "robbery."


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