Biggest Loser of the Rampage vs. Machida Fight? The UFC

Jim ValkoContributor INovember 24, 2010

There was no one more surprised with the outcome of the Rampage-Machida fight Saturday night than Rampage Jackson.

To his credit he acknowledged that he got an “ass whooping” at the hands of Machida. Rampage also requested an instant rematch, stating that the fight was too close to call.

Good for him. He knows more than the judges.

In the early days of UFC, they attempted to make the fights as real as possible. Maybe UFC should de-evolve and return to those “good old days.”

In a real fight there are no “rounds,” allowing the opponents to recompose, rest and receive a pep talk from their trainer. The battle goes nonstop until someone wins.

Endurance plays a much greater role. These were the early fights of UFC. They weren’t perfect but one thing was for sure: When the fight was over, the guy that won seemed like the guy who should have won, if it were a real fight.

Today’s UFC is scored more like a boxing match than a real fight.

In the first two rounds of the Rampage-Machida fight, few punches landed from either opponent, although Rampage seemed to land more. Machida, however, repeatedly kicked Rampage in the legs, but apparently the UFC officials don’t see below the waist, similar to boxing.

Since Rampage rarely connected with Machida, one has to assume that in the eyes of at least two judges, Rampage won those first two rounds because of “aggression.” In other words, Rampage gained points for chasing Machida around the ring and swinging at air.

In a real fight swinging at air might be a disadvantage, especially against a counter puncher. Everyone knows Machida’s style is to be elusive and look for an opening; granted, he waited too long in this fight, but what good is “aggression” if it gets you nowhere? Reversely, one could argue, what good is being elusive if you don’t counter punch?

Machida clearly won the third round by landing kicks, more punches, knees to the head, taking Rampage down and mounting him. Machida’s big mistake might have been trying to go for an arm bar from the mount. He should have just rained down punches, as they say, because the judges obviously love to see those punches.


Who are the UFC judges anyway?

From my understanding, the judges of UFC fights are not employed by the UFC. They are employed by the athletic commissions in the various states where fights are held.

The judges are mostly boxing judges. They are not MMA fighters, or ex-fighters, and it is doubtful that any of them have ever stepped into the octagon or have any experience whatsoever in a real fight, or even sparring in a martial arts contest. 

So what gives them the right to be judges? Good question.

The fairest way to determine who wins a direct competition in any sport is by specific points easily observed by the fans, such as those scored in baseball, football, golf, hockey or tennis, i.e.: a touchdown, a goal, a run scored, etc.

MMA and Boxing are the only professional sports where a person can win based on a decision where the “points” are far more ambiguous. This poses obvious problems.

To referee a Brazilian Jujitsu tournament, you have to be a Black Belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. In that sport, as just one example, there are points given for very specific moves, actions and techniques applied (with no rounds), and the winner is the one with the most points.

Unfortunately, MMA and boxing bouts cannot be judged solely by such points because of the speed and variety of the fight. If points were given for punches, for example, the judges would need to count the total number of punches thrown per round, add to that, points for take downs, submission attempts, aggression, etc. It would be impossible.


How UFC fights are judged

UFC fights are judged on “criteria.” The criteria used by MMA judges are:

Effective striking
Effective grappling
Octagon Control
Effective aggressiveness

The UFC judges score fights round by round using a 10-point must scoring system (like boxing). This means that the winner of the round will be awarded 10 points, and the loser of the round receives nine or less, down to seven points.

Using the criteria listed above, a judge must determine who had the upper hand for each individual round. In reality, a “fight” is actually three fights. The winner of the decision is the fighter who won two out of three of the fights (generally speaking).

Let’s take effective aggressiveness as one example. To an untrained eye, if the fight goes to the ground, it looks like the guy on top is being the aggressor. Yet in a UFC battle, fighters on the bottom can sometimes be more aggressive than those on top.

But since submission attempts from the bottom don’t look as aggressive as punch attempts from the top, it appears that the man on top is being more aggressive. Also a fighter chasing another and swinging at air looks more aggressive, if not ineffective. Judges seem to see it this way.

Octagon control is the most peculiar criteria. It basically means whoever can pin the other against the fence the most is controlling them. Does this have anything to do with real fighting?


How do we improve the decision process in MMA fights?

Although football, baseball, tennis and all other professional sports aren’t judged like mixed martial arts, their referees and decision makers still heavily influence the outcome of the games.

And the refs work for the organizations that put on the sport. The refs in the NFL are trained and paid by the NFL. The Umps in MLB are trained and paid by major league baseball.

So why are the UFC’s judges trained and paid by the state athletic commissions? I don’t know the entire answer, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it has something to do with politics.

I imagine the practice started with professional boxing long ago. The state commissions probably stepped in to try to put an end to corrupt boxing. If anyone knows the answer, please write me and let me know.

Just like the NFL or MLB or the PGA, I believe that UFC judges should be trained and paid by the UFC. They should be fighters, or ex-fighters, or coaches, or at least men or women who have a very intimate knowledge of the sport.

They should have some idea what it would be like to be in a real fight. You could argue that NFL refs aren’t ex-football players. My response would be that they are “refs” rather than judges. To render a decision on the outcome of a competition, without using specific points as your guide, you need to have some real experience in the sport.

After UFC 123, Dana White said that he thought Rampage won. Fine, that’s his opinion. I agree that Rampage won two of the three rounds, if it were a boxing match.

I don’t agree that Rampage won an MMA fight. I think kicks have to count for something. I believe, if this were judged more like a real fight than a boxing match, Michida would have won. In the end he did more damage.

The biggest loser of the Rampage-Machida fight Saturday night might have been UFC. There’s just been too many fights lately with controversial decisions.

Personally, as a fan, I’m getting tired of it. I believe there’s got to be a better way and I think everyone would benefit from finding it, especially the fighters that hand out an “ass whooping” and still lose the fight.