B/R Staff Roundtable: Was Dominick Reyes 'Robbed' in His Loss to Jon Jones?

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2020

B/R Staff Roundtable: Was Dominick Reyes 'Robbed' in His Loss to Jon Jones?

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    Did the judges get it wrong at UFC 247?
    Did the judges get it wrong at UFC 247?Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defeated Dominick Reyes to become the UFC's all-time record holder for title fight wins on Saturday night in Houston, but the pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter in the world found himself in arguably the toughest test of his entire career.

    Jones, 32, from Rochester, N.Y., and Reyes, 30, from Hesperia, Calif., were in a back-and-forth brawl for five full rounds at UFC 247. By the end of it, many of the 17,401 people in attendance at the Toyota Center were left wondering if they had just witnessed the end of Jones' unprecedented run of divisional dominance. 

    But judges scored the bout all three ways for Jones, 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46. After the fight, a vocal contingent of fans and media began to say Reyes might have been robbed. Even UFC President Dana White said at the post-fight press conference he scored the bout three rounds to two for Reyes. 

    So that's what this week's Bleacher Report MMA roundtable is about. Did the judges get Jones-Reyes all wrong? Or did the champion beat back the challenger just well enough to warrant the victory?

Lyle Fitzsimmons: Reyes Was Robbed

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    Fitzsimmons thinks Reyes deserved the victory.
    Fitzsimmons thinks Reyes deserved the victory.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: As early as the second fight of the early-prelim show—in which Andre Ewell won a split decision over Jonathan Martinez, buoyed by a ridiculous 3-0 on one card—the judging was a bit iffy.

    So, by the time we got to the main event, it shouldn't have been a surprise. Somehow, though, I doubt that's making Reyes feel a whole lot better.

    While it's inarguable the former football player was running on fumes when he dropped Rounds 4 and 5 to an increasingly desperate Jones, it's only slightly less a lock that Reyes had entered the final 10 minutes with an insurmountable (so long as he didn't get flat-out dominated) 3-0 lead.

    He didn't get flat-out dominated.

    Which means, in reference to Kelsey's question, the correct answer is yes. He was robbed.

    Best written in lower-case letters, maybe...but victimized just the same.

    Lest anyone forget, Reyes managed to keep the fight exclusively vertical for the first three rounds, which erases the silly suggestion—made after the fight by no less an authority than ESPN+ commentator Dominick Cruz, among others—that Jones' late takedowns rightfully tipped the scoring scales.

    Considering takedowns and grappling were a non-factor for most of the fight, and effective aggression/cage control were at worst deadlocked, the most significant criterion left to consider is effective striking. To that end, Reyes landed more overall strikes and more significant strikes than Jones in each of the first three rounds—by margins of six, 11 and seven, respectively—and landed a blow, midway through the opening session, that yielded a knockdown.

    It wasn't anywhere near a thrashing. But, scoring one at a time, it's barely conceivable Jones deserved any one of those rounds—let alone the two he was awarded via the suspect pencil of Joe Solis. The very same Joe Solis, incidentally, who provided Ewell the prelim shutout he hadn't earned.

    To score the early main event rounds as only even would have been a cop-out.

    To shade them to Jones, based on a tired notion that a challenger must brutalize a champion in order to get a fair shake on a verdict—or some similarly tenuous logic—is something far worse.

Tom Taylor: Reyes Was Robbed

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    Taylor scored it 48-47 for Reyes.
    Taylor scored it 48-47 for Reyes.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Tom Taylor: Reyes should have won three 10-9 rounds against Jones, and you won't convince me otherwise.

    The first two were clearly in the challenger's favor. Round 3 was closer, but I'm convinced it was his as well. He outlanded Jones and denied both of the champion's takedowns.

    Jones was more aggressive, but as so many pundits have pointed out, aggression doesn't qualify as judging criteria unless damage for the round is equal. It wasn't. As we've already covered, Reyes landed more.

    Given the two rounds Jones clearly won—Rounds 4 and 5—were both clear 10-9s in his favor, that should have given us a final score of 48-47 for Reyes. That's a one-point lead.

    As Lyle touched on, some commenters are clinging to the absurd notion that to beat the champion, you have to decisively beat them—knock them out, submit them or bludgeon them to the brink of unconsciousness for the duration.  

    That's hogwash. I'd use a stronger word, but there might be children reading.

    In hockey, if you're ahead by one point at the end of the game, you win. The same goes for most other sports and MMA is no exception. If, at the end of the bout, no knockout or submission has materialized, the person with more points wins, and that person should have been Reyes.

    Dare I say, had the judges who gave Jones Round 3 not been playing Angry Birds on their phones or topping up at the concessions stand while the round was actually happening, it would have been Reyes.

    By that logic, which I'm sure somebody far smarter than me will puncture quickly, there was a robbery in Houston last weekend. It wasn't the heist from Ocean's Eleven, but it was a robbery all the same. 

Scott Harris: Not a Robbery

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    Harris believes it all comes down to how someone scored Round 3, so it can't be a robbery.
    Harris believes it all comes down to how someone scored Round 3, so it can't be a robbery.Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Scott Harris: This comes down to two things: Round 3 and Texas' combat sports commission. 

    On the first one, Reyes won the first two and Jones the last two. That's what we know. That leaves the third. Yes, the striking numbers favor Reyes for that round, but at 23 to 19 it isn't exactly overwhelming. And even if it was, that's just one metric. 

    For example, UFC stats revealed a major advantage for Jones in striking accuracy, with 62 percent for Jones to Reyes' 44 percent. If that's not "effective striking" (the first of the UFC criteria for scoring), then I don't know what is. That helps illustrate why Jones won the third. Reyes' low percentage speaks to Jones' ability to slip shots.

    Meanwhile, Jones blocked plenty of strikes as well, including a head kick in the third that caused far more drama than damage. But never forget UFC fights can never be a stats-only discussion. It's fairly easy to argue Jones held an edge in Octagon control in the third, applying constant pressure and consistently fighting from the center. 

    Are we getting into the weeds? Yep. But that in itself tells you how close it really was. You can't just hand the round to somebody. In order to be credible, you have to make a case, no matter what side you're on. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what is known as a close fight. In a close fight, there are no robberies. A robbery is Roy Jones and Park Si-Hun, not a fight that everyone agrees came down to one close round.

    That brings us to Texas. That commission needs some assistance. This is far from the first time something like this has happened. Thus, Texas gave cover to its own accusers, who are now free to charge gross incompetence or even malfeasance.

    The commission brought this on itself by removing its own ability to receive the benefit of the doubt. If it was a more reputable operation—one that hadn't already spit the bit once that night—then the outcry is at least a little quieter.

    So even conceding their incompetence, it doesn't mean the same thing as robbery or even a bad decision. That 49-46 score was awful, but luckily it proved irrelevant given the 48-47 from the other judges. 

    Bottom line: Did the right guy win? It's hard to say. A robbery is always pretty easy to spot.

Kelsey McCarson: Not a Robbery

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    McCarson scored the fight for Jones.
    McCarson scored the fight for Jones.Mike Roach/Getty Images

    Kelsey McCarson: I think the word "robbery" is used way too often in combat sports. I thought Jones-Reyes was a close fight that could have gone either way. In fact, my assumption right before the announcement was made was that Jones would probably win on the scorecards via split decision. 

    While I love reading other people's viewpoints on the many different pieces of this MMA scoring puzzle, my general opinion on scorecards in general is that the system in place isn't designed to tell you how close a fight was. Rather, it's only designed to produce a winner. The same goes for what happens in boxing. Too much is made over how the math works, and people seem to conflate what it can and can't do with the idea that there's some kind of secret conspiracy.  

    Now, I'm not an expert statistician by any means, but my rudimentary understanding of the subject is that three is way too small a sample size to do anything but give a general sense about something. That means the three judges sitting cageside for UFC fights are never equipped to tell us how close a fight was. They can only produce a winner via the preselected and completely subjective criteria they're supposed to be using. 

    Jones-Reyes was scintillating. I thought the first three rounds were the hardest to score. Maybe you could reasonably score it 3-0 or 2-1 for Reyes. But the last two rounds looked like Jones rounds to me with some serious certainty. In fact, lost in the hubbub over how well Reyes performed in the first three rounds is what guts, guile and championship mettle Jones showed over the final two. That's the real story of UFC 247. 

    For me, what Jones did over those last two rounds gave him a legitimate claim to winning it. Had it been scored the other way for Reyes, I wouldn't have called it a robbery, either. Like Scott said, a robbery is what happened to Roy Jones at the Olympics. Another example would be what happened to Manny Pacquiao against Timothy Bradley in 2012. Jones-Reyes was nothing like these two fights. 

    Close fight? Yes. 

    Great fight? Absolutely. 

    But robbery? No freaking way.