Kampmann vs. Sanchez: UFC Controversy Grows Over Questionable Judges' Decisions

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Kampmann vs. Sanchez: UFC Controversy Grows Over Questionable Judges' Decisions
Diego Sanchez's face during his fight with Martin Kampmann

Martin Kampmann's unanimous decision loss to Diego Sanchez at UFC Live on March 3rd was the most recent controversial judging decision for mixed martial art's largest promotion.

A definite back-and-forth contest between Kampmann and Sanchez, the difference witnessed by this former professional fighter and one-time judge for the Ohio State Athletic Commission was that the Dutchman landed cleaner strikes, resulting in damage evidenced by the look of Sanchez's face.

The final Compu-Strike scores are in line with my analysis.  Kampmann more than doubled the number of strikes landed when compared to Sanchez (97-45), and Martin leveraged a definite advantage in power strikes delivered (50-39).

"I think I won all three rounds," Kampmann stated in his post-fight interview inside the cage.  "I mean, look at his face."

Joe Rogan, although not a judge nor a practicing fighter, is extremely knowledgeable with the fight game and agreed with my decision that Kampmann deserved to have his hand raised in victory.

Comforting the visually frustrated fighter, Rogan sided with the chorus of boos emanating from the fans who believed that Martin Kampmann deserved the victory.

This controversial decision follows a judges' draw between UFC lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar, and the No. 1 contender for the title, Gray Maynard at UFC 125. 

Martin Kampmann locking in a gator roll

More recently, a majority draw was issued for welterweight championship title hopefuls B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch on February 27th of this year.

These most recent questionable decisions have resulted in a tremendous amount of scrutiny for the current system in place utilized by MMA judges.

As stated, I am a former professional fighter and was employed as a judge in Ohio after my competitive days were complete.  I felt the angst of losing a close decision in the cage as a fighter, and I experienced first-hand poor judging decisions by my peers while scoring fights.

For those without a background in mixed martial arts, certain criteria exists for the judges and is followed when scoring each fight.  Scoring is based on:

1.  Clean Strikes

2.  Effective Grappling

3.  Octagon Control

4.  Aggressiveness

If a fighter controls these four criteria, that fighter is awarded 10 points for the round and the opponent nine.  If a fighter dominates these four criteria, 10 points is once again awarded while the opponent receives only eight.

During any given fight, scoring for these individual criteria is evident and disparity does not exist.  However, as witnessed in the Edgar-Maynard five-round battle, subjectivity exists and a clear-cut winner is not always determined.

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Kampmann's loss supports the grey area that is present in a judges' mind.  The Compu-Strike numbers do not lie and the Dutchman landed more clean strikes, resulting in powerful shots and subsequent damage endured by Diego Sanchez.

However, Sanchez's flurry of strikes—especially in the final round—while not landing as cleanly as Kampmann's, may have swayed the decision of the judges because of the visual perception and not the reality tallied by the computer.

Regardless of personal belief, a controversy does exist within the current judging system utilized in ultimate fighting.

With that truth prevalent, what can be done?

First, some background information is necessary. 

Please understand that the judges are governed by each state's athletic commissions and not the UFC.  Believe it or not, Dana White has absolutely zero say with the rendering of the score cards as well as who the judges are at cage-side. 

Secondly, athletic commissions are big business.  Each fighter pays a licensing fee to the state's athletic commission to compete in that specific venue.

Additionally, each promotion, in this case the UFC, pays a fee to the state's athletic commission as well to hold the event. 

Frankie Edgar landing a right hook on Gray Maynard

With hundreds of fighters and dozens of venues paying their dues to the state athletic commissions yearly, there is a substantial revenue earned by the commissions. 

I share this information with you because the commissions do not want their system scrutinized.  Questionable outcomes create controversy which, in turn, have the potential of affecting that state's bottom line for the commission. 

With the background in place, and the understanding that Dana White and the UFC have their hands tied with respect to imposing change, how can the current system be re-vamped to minimize human error?

Minimize is the key word.  Mistakes happen, we are human.  However, I feel the following system will decrease the fallibility of the judges.

Currently, the four selective criteria is considered as a whole for awarding a 10 or nine-point round.  However, if a judge is not skilled in a specific discipline, that round score may be skewed by that judge's lack of experience or knowledge.

For example, Chuck Liddell is a dominant counter-striker.  As such, his strategy as a fighter is to leer his opponent towards him, ultimately exposing an opening for Liddell to capitalize with a barrage of vicious strikes.

The perception to the untrained eye is that Chuck Liddell is retreating to avoid engaging with his opponent.  In reality, he is stalking in a non-traditional manner, waiting patiently for his opening to deliver his knockout strike.  

A powerful slam of Frankie Edgar by Gray Maynard

Based on his counter-striking technique, should Liddell lose credit in the judges' eyes for aggressiveness and Octagon control because the perception is that his opponent is stalking him?  The answer to that theoretical question is simply, no.

To eradicate this example of confusion, I feel that one possible solution is to judge each of the four criteria separately.  Clean strikes will be awarded the appropriate score independent of the remaining three criteria.  Effective grappling will be awarded the appropriate score independent of the remaining three criteria. And so forth and so on.

Instead of each round being scored on a 10-point must system, each round will be scored out of 40 total points.  10 possible points will be given to the fighter who controls each distinct facet of the fight game.

For example, with respect to the Martin Kampmann-Diego Sanchez fight, during the first round, Kampmann dominated Sanchez on his feet. 

Based off this proposed scoring system, Martin would have been awarded 10 points for effective striking, aggressiveness and Octagon control. 

Neither fighter could secure a take-down.  Therefore, both Kampmann and Sanchez would have been awarded nine points for the effective grappling facet. 

Totaling the scores for Round 1, Kampmann would have been awarded 39 points while Sanchez would have been given 36 points or lower. 

Would you like the proposed scoring system in this article?

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After the three rounds, the combined total of each round will define the winner.  By dividing the four criteria into their independent parts, a wider variance of scoring is provided—potentially leading to less subjectivity by the judges and an objective finality to the fights. 

Controversial decisions and resulting draws will be minimized with this prospective system. 

I realize that this change will not nullify all controversies in the Octagon.  However, with fighter's pay based on a victory, and records based on wins and losses leading to title shot opportunities, the current system needs an overhaul. 

In the end, a change needs to be made.  Preserving the reputation of mixed martial arts, and the prevention of controversies growing into scandals, is crucial in maintaining the sanctity of this wonderful sport.

I welcome your comments.

Todd Seyler

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