Show the B.J. Penn vs. Jon Fitch fight to people who don't know how MMA is judged, and ask them who won. They'd tell you it was Fitch, obviously. But of the three people whose job it was to decide who won, only one said Fitch was the winner. The other two said it was a draw, and so that was the result: No one won the main event at UFC 127.
What's unfortunate is that the people who don't know anything about MMA would have done a better job of judging this fight than the professional judges.
Jon Fitch deserved to win the decision at UFC 127. That the fight was a draw is a combination of the fact that MMA has bad judges, and bad judging criteria.
Let's start with the bad judges: This is something that it seems everyone in MMA agrees on: Too often, the judges just plain get it wrong. What the judges score a round, it doesn't match up with what the rest of us saw. UFC President Dana White said as much when Nick Ring was gifted a unanimous decision he hadn't earned over Riki Fukuda. White wrote on Twitter: "Judges f**king suck again!! Fukuda got robbed!!!"
I agree with White's assessment, but why doesn't the UFC find better judges? In the United States, the UFC often blames athletic commissions for failing to hire and train competent judges. But in Australia the UFC isn't beholden to any athletic commission and can choose which judges it brings in. It's the UFC's responsibility to make sure the judges don't suck.
So I'd love to see White himself lead the way toward recruiting and training better judges. It's first and foremost the responsibility of the state athletic commissions, but the state athletic commissions have shown they're not up to the task.
But even aside from the individual judges, there are problems with the judging criteria. My biggest problem with MMA's use of the 10-point must system imported from boxing is that far too many MMA judges seem to think they have to score every round 10-9, and 10-10 or 10-8 rounds are far too rare. Fitch absolutely dominated the third round -- according to Compustrike he landed 134 strikes in the third, and Penn landed zero. That's a textbook example of a 10-8 round, and yet one of the judges scored it 10-9.
Watching the fight live, I scored it 29-27 for Fitch: I gave Penn the first round 10-9, Fitch the second 10-9 and Fitch the third 10-8. Watching it again this morning, I scored it the same way. FightMetric.com, which offers the most comprehensive analysis of MMA fights available anywhere, also scored it 29-27. This was a fight that Fitch won.
Except that he didn't. Instead, what Fitch gave us was another example of why MMA needs judging reform.
Notes from UFC 127
-- Is there a worse nickname in the UFC than Nick "The Promise" Ring?
-- Nice submission win for China's Zhang Tie Quan, but let's not forget that Jason Reinhardt is a 41-year-old who hadn't fought in three years and had never beaten anyone of any quality in his life. Reinhardt was the most ill-equipped fighter the UFC has put in the Octagon since James Toney.
-- It's hard not to lose respect for Michael Bisping over the last couple days, between his homophobic slur toward Jorge Rivera and his illegal knee when they were in the Octagon and his post-fight antics. Bisping showed that he's a better fighter than Rivera, but he hasn't exactly covered himself with glory this weekend.
Quotes from UFC 127
"He was very disappointed on the show when his leg blew out." -- Joe Rogan on the injury suffered by Nick Ring on The Ultimate Fighter. Tell me when you meet someone who's happy that his leg blew out.
"Both these guys have great futures at 155 pounds." -- Mike Goldberg on Spencer Fisher and Pearson. Fisher is 34 years old and has now lost three of his last four fights. His future isn't looking so bright.
Brian Ebersole's decision to start his fight with Chris Lytle by using a cartwheel kick. No, it didn't work, but it was worth a shot for a heavy underdog making his UFC debut -- and Ebersole has done it successfully before. It set the tone for a fight in which Ebersole would have his way with Lytle.
Ebersole's decision to shave his chest hair into an arrow. Maybe it was a good luck charm in the upset victory, but it looked ridiculous.
Mark Hunt: Granted, Hunt's stock couldn't have been much lower than it was heading into this weekend; he was riding a six-fight losing streak. But even if he's overweight and out of shape and getting old, Hunt can still hit hard, and when he connects, it's going to hurt. It certainly hurt Chris Tuchscherer who was knocked out in the first round. Hunt, the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix champ, is probably getting close to retiring from combat sports. It would be nice to see him retire with a win.
George Sotiropoulos. After the way Dennis Siver handled him in the stand-up and easily avoided all his takedown attempts, I don't think we'll hear any more about Sotiropolous ever being in title contention again.
UFC 127 was entertaining, as far as it went, but it didn't have a lot of really important match-ups. It was nice to see, however, what a good job the UFC did promoting UFC 128, a huge card headlined by Jon Jones vs. Shogun Rua. The preview for UFC 128 was tremendous, and reminded us what a really great fight card (which UFC 127 was not) looks like.