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Levick: Minimizing the controversy of controversial endings

After collecting my thoughts and giving myself some time to think clearly I wanted to address the controversial split decision of the Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson fight at UFC 93. I asked myself whether these fighters might be best served if these fights went longer than the normal three rounds for non-championship fights and five rounds for title bouts. Even before the Henderson vs. Franklin matchup I knew the fight had the potential to be a thrilling back and forth affair that would more than likely wind up in the hands of the judges. Lo and behold I was right.

On top of the fact that the fight was extremely close, there was another controversial judge who must have been watching a different fight than the rest of us. How anyone could have scored the first round for Franklin amazes me. While the second round was close and the third was clearly Franklin’s, Henderson was in complete control of the first round and that reinforces my point that it is becoming more & more dangerous for these fighters to leave their fate in the hands of the judges.

I believe these fighters work too hard and dedicate too much of their lives to risk being robbed by a judge who is either incompetent or just isn’t all that knowledgeable about the sport. With that being said, I also believe that there is so much riding on some of these fights — whether it be a title shot or a fighter’s actual career — that these guys deserve more time to have a chance to finish the fight.

How many times have you sat there watching a thrilling fight only to be disappointed when it was over and you knew that the fighters involved had much more to give. One fight that comes to mind is the classic Bonnar vs. Griffin bout at the TUF 1 Finale. Now, that fight had serious implications, not only for both fighters but for the UFC as well. Without that fight we may not be discussing this topic right here and now. Although both fighters were spent after 15 minutes they would have moved heaven and earth if they had to in order to finish that fight.

Another fight that comes to mind was the much-anticipated Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva showdown at UFC 79. Fans waited years for these two to lock horns and we were not disappointed at all, but how many of you would have loved to see it continue in order to see if one these two great warriors could have finished the other one off. How about the Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill travesty that took place at UFC 75? Even the hometown Bisping’s fans were booing that decision. I can’t say that extending the fight to five rounds would have guaranteed a finish but it would have gone a long way in determining a clear-cut winner.

There are many fights that I could list and we could argue about them until we are blue in the face, but I honestly think that these fighters deserve to control their own destiny and it is rather difficult to do that within a 15 minute time frame when some of the combatants are so evenly matched. Title fights at this time are 5 rounds and the last title fight to go the distance was Georges St. Pierre vs. Jon Fitch at UFC 87. Now, I know and you know that another two rounds wouldn’t have done much more than add to the beating that Fitch was already taking, but he trained hard for the fight and who’s to say that he couldn’t have pulled off a miracle?

I want to know if you think it isn’t necessary to extend MMA fights. You may have a great argument and you could sway my opinion or maybe I can sway yours. That is what makes this sport so great — it allows us to express our emotions and go back and forth on them just like these great fighters do when they step inside the Octagon. The only difference is we don’t have a time limit set against us.

  • hindsightufuk says:

    its a murky area. i think everyone would agree those fights you mentioned would have been awesome at 5 rounds. even before the franklin hendo fight i wanted 5 rounds. even sherk/griffin, jones/bonnar, diaz/guida huerta/florian, davis/lyttle, lyttle/kelly would have been great 5 rounders and possibly had different outcomes than the judges offer.
    but for every fight that would be awesome to see go 5 five rounds, there are 2 or 3 that would bore you to fucking tears to have to watch. imagine a gray maynard fight for 5 rounds, 3 is bad enough. so how would you police it? how to decide which fight goes 5. base it on split decisions only?
    personally i liked the 10, 5 & 5 minute rounds but you know that aint gonna happen. 4 rounds dont work, unless you fight 3 and if no finish have one more, winner of that round wins, but then its still on the judges.

    i dunno, basically i wanna see hendo/franklin go 5 rounds, but not gray maynard!

  • hindsightufuk says:

    also, the judging system needs to change. or at leat have experienced judges.
    if everysingle fight was judged by a john mccarthy or randy couture, not only would they be fairer decisions, but fighters and fans would accept the decision easier

  • twopops says:

    These guys know how long the fight is. They need to figure out how they want the fight to go. In the case of GSP/Fitch, letting the fight go longer would have solved nothing except mabye Fitch lucking out and knocking out GSP. How fair would that be? GSP dominates the whole fight, but gets caught eventually by one good shot? No way. Better judging is the key. Ex fighters judging are a great idea.

  • platypus says:

    prides 10 min 1st rounds were good…i mean mma already has longer rounds than boxing or kickboxing k1, why not just have 8 or 10 minute first rounds then 5 minutes for r2 and 3?

    just a suggestion , though for things to progress there should be consistency and for new fans to get into the sport everything must be simplified, ……i guess.

  • Handover Fist says:

    Even back when I was a diehard Boxing fan I always thought they should go to 5 judges instead of 3. While it wouldn’t completely eliminate the problem, I think it would greatly reduce it.

  • Cathedron says:

    I personally thought that Franklin won (just barely) and I think he could have finished Hendo by the fifth round had it been a championship fight. However, it was so close that I’ve never felt it was worth arguing about. But the judge who gave all three rounds to Franklin? Moron. Total moron. I don’t know what fight he was watching.

    Still, the judging will get better as MMA becomes more popular and better understood. It’s a highly complicated sport. There’s a huge amount of variety in fighting styles represented in the cage and most judges will only be familiar with a few martial art styles at best. I agree that the best solution is to keep it out of the judges hands as much as possible.

    Dana White has been saying for years that they need to make regular fights 5 rounds and championship fights 7 rounds. It would alter the sport dramatically for the better (IMO). We would see better pacing, better gameplans, and better cardio for sure. Separate the men from the boys, as it were. I think it’s just a matter of time until we see more rounds (along with more weight classes), but the sport still has a lot of growing to do first.

    Obviously, the US sancitoning bodies would never allow longer rounds due to health concerns, so this is all moot; but I had a love/hate thing for the 10 min round in Pride. I liked seeing nonstop action (when the action was good and the fighters weren’t exhausted by the 5 min mark), but it also makes it tough to judge. Is it worth twice as many points since it’s twice as long? That would cause more draws because it’s like having even number of rounds. It only works in Japan because the judges don’t have to actually score each round. They just declare a winner. Worse yet, so much can happen in that long round that it can get a little confusing for a judge to keep track of. The judges have enough trouble keeping up with MMA. We don’t need to make it harder for them.

  • pak9756 says:

    i agree that the fighters are well conditioned enough that they should consider pushing the non title fights to 5 and title fights to 7 rounds. I also think that each fighter should be eligable to recieve a “finishing” bonus. most contracts pay a fee to show and a fee to win. i think an additional fee to finish would give the fighters incentive to at least push for more exciting matches. there is nothing worse than watching a wrestler, a la clay guidea, hold someong on the ground or hold their back against the cage.

    I would also like someone to rework the 10 point system to clearly emphasis some of the ground work. a take down is useless if you lay in the guys guard and hope like hell that you don’t get tapped out, yet if you take someone down and lay there you seem to get enough points to win the fight, even if the guy on the bottom has the top postion in full defense avoiding submissions.

  • platypus says:

    I like that idea, Cathedron

  • londog says:

    I’ve been cursing the 10-point must system in MMA for as long as I can remember so I’ve spent a good deal of time amusing myself with solutions as well.

    First, most sanctioning bodies that regulate MMA in America seem to be designed for regulating boxing, and thus most of them need something that is similar because it’s what they know. I don’t think that the 10-point system is going away…at leat not any time soon.

    If you look at boxing, most fights are 10 or 12 rounds. The higher the number of rounds the more likely the 10-point system actually works in my opinion. 3 rounds (most MMA fights) is just not enough rounds for the 10-point system to be effective the way that judges currently score fights (they don’t award 10-8 rounds nearly enough and the scoring criteria in MMA as a whole is still a huge arguing point as well). In boxing they don’t make title fights “more rounds”. I actually like the idea in MMA that a title fight lasts longer than a normal fight but I think the number of rounds should be the same.

    My idea is that all fights are 5 rounds and non-title fights go 4 minutes per round while title fights remain at 5 minutes per round. For non-title fights you are adding five minutes overall for a fighter who’s fight goes to a decision but by adding two rounds to the fight the 10 point system should work a little bit better. The 10-point system has it’s flaws and will never be perfect…the only real solution is to make every fight go on indefinetly (back to the olden days!) to a finish which will never happen in America with sanctioning bodies.

  • fightfan says:

    IMPORTANT TO NOTE…………………….

    Is the fact that the JUDGES for the Hammill/Bisping fight were UFC PAID EMPLOYEES!!!!!! There was NO ATHLETIC COMMISSION that overseen the event. That was done by the PROMOTERS(IE, the UFC). That logic is simple. With Dana’s powerful personality and the way he treats people that “are NOT on board” with the UFC is banned to the outer gates of mma hell.

    Simply, if you worked for a company in which Dana was your boss and Dana(and the UFC) HAS A LOT RIDING ON BISPING WINNING, ESPECIALLY AGAINST a guy that SAID HE WOULD BEAT HIM and is “THE REAL TUF 3 WINNER”. It would be simple to say it was “close and Bisping won” and NO ONE CAN DOUBT THAT OR SAY it was influenced or fixed.

    But WHEN the JUDGES that resided in Bisping’s HOMETOWN called the fight 30-27 for Bisping and the UFC’s judges called it for Bisping………You KNOW something was not right there!!!! Especially when the HOMETOWN crowd BOOED when Bisping was given the victory.

    That was the biggest travesty in all of mma, IMO….since there was SO MUCH riding on it. That decision made me sick. TheUFC SIMPLY could not have “their” moneymaker, the TUF 3 champ, the FUTURE and success of mma in the UK lose to some nobody in his hometown.

    Plain and simple, there was a LOT of money riding on Bisping winning and PROVING he was the REAL TUF 3 CHAMP

  • fightfan says:

    Sorry for double…….

    Guaranteed if that fight takes place where an athletic commission is overseeing it……..Hammill wind that fight hands down. Bisping KNEW he lost that fight after teh bell for the 3rd round rang. The disgust on his face said it all……and even better was the shock on his face when it ws announced he won.

    TOTAL BS. That is one of the main REASONS, I NEVER buy a UFC EVENT in the UK. I watch it FREE. Way to go, UFC. I now thousands of others that watch it by free means also. I simply DO NOT TRUST decisions when the UFC employees are in charge of decisions. PLAIN and SIMPLE……If a fight is even somewhat close the UFC CAN SWAY the DECISION ANY WAY THEY WANT TO

  • fightfan says:

    Sorry in FIRST POST……

    The THIRD paragraph MEANT to SAY this..

    But WHEN the JUDGES that resided in Bisping’s HOMETOWN called the fight 30-27 for HAMMILL and the UFC’s judges called it for Bisping

  • roidsnvaletudo says:

    Well put. I think the first round should be 10 mins and then a 5 minute. Like Pride had.That might help too.

  • TerribleT says:

    I totally agree that the fights should be extended in one way or another.Hell in Boxing
    fighters go 12 rds for the championship but they also find every excuse known to man for almost every fight to be for some kind of crackerjack championship so that it can have a supposed legitimate reason to go 12 rds.I think something need to be done in MMA to get away from all these 29-28 split decisions.Maybe make the 3rd round a 20 point must round.Hell I don’t know! I don’t see why the rounds couldn’t be shortened 1 minute and 1 extra round added or hell I’m greedy! Just make fights with contenders in them 5 rds!

  • BigDave says:

    Certainly they should make fights longer would really show the makeup of some these fighters. also as for the judges they need to maybe bring in ex-fighters ie royce gracie, dan sevrne and make them judges as they know the mma game and are able to call it better then some guy thats only judged boxing.

  • Ft. Dub says:

    Having ex-fighters work as refs and judges doesn’t necessarily work. fighters are trained to fight, not ref or judge. just because they know how to do one doesn’t teach them how to do another.

    I think the fights need to be 5 and 7 rounds. clearly the 10 minute first round (which i would be in favor of) isn’t going to happen, so this is the next best solution. I think changing the round time lengths would create even more of an advantage for champions than fighting extra rounds.

  • the_ivory_fist says:

    the first guy was right sure u want to see those exciting fights go more wounds but forevery one of those theres a bunch of boring fights u dont want to go past the first.

  • wardog says:

    Thunderdome rules! 2 men enter 1 man leaves! But seriously I don’t know if having another round overall would help most fights. Perhaps there could be an overtime round that the judges would call if the fight were to close. This would be a sudden death all or nothing round. But then you would be leaving the fight up to the judges still. So as people have pointed out there needs to be better MMA trained judges, not boxing judges.

  • Oberst76 says:

    While we would all love to see longer fights, we have to think about it from the Pay-per-view perspective.

    We already have 3 hour shows that only show 5 of the 10 fights from the night. If the fights were extended to go farther, we would see more action, but we would see less fights. We’ve already seen that the UFC isnt willing to buy more air time to show the undercard fights, so why should we expect them to buy more time for this.

    I love the UFC and I love the idea of longer fights, but I’m not sure I love it if it comes at the expense of watching fewer fights.

  • redwire says:

    I think we need to question the initial logic behind the judging. That is, why is the judging a surprise at the end of the fight? Boxing/MMA is the only sport where you don’t know if you are winning until it’s too late to do anything about it! What’s wrong with posting the scores at the end of each round? Heck, it would be cool if they would start the round with both fighters getting ’10’s, and the judges could adjust as the round went on. Sure, there’s a certain amount of drama having a big ‘reveal’, but if you need drama, go watch a soap opera.

  • Glen903 says:

    Boxing Judges can be bought!! I think that if it is going to the Judges each side should have a say for another round.Both sides would have to agree or let the judges have it.

  • mu_shin says:

    Lots of good perspectives above. Here’s my two cents…

    Spent many years competing in and judging point fighting tournaments, and can relate from that experience that real fights in real time often happen at such a blinding pace, it can be difficult for even the most experienced judges to always agree on a consensus outcome.

    Now when you have such disparate scores as recorded in the Bisping/Hamill fight or the Henderson/Franklin fight,, it’s reflective of the complex nature of MMA fighting, as well as some business concerns that might not always mirror what actually took place in the ring. Also, as commented on above, it’s often indicative of the relative experience/inexperience of the judges, as well as their personal proclivities in valuing certain techniques over others, like rewarding striking over grappling, or scoring takedowns but not knowing how to quantify submission attemps or actions like the clinch and fence work.

    I have UFC 1-7 recorded on VHS that I taped live off the TV when they originally aired, and recently saw one of the higlight shows the UFC puts together that showed a lot of older matches from the “old days”. When two men walked in and one man walked out, the outcome was universally objective, and undisputed. The fights today are of a higher caliber, as the fighters are all so much more well rounded and experienced in all areas of MMA, but this whole discussion reveals that the judgng standards have not evolved along with the sport as it transpires in the ring.

    Personally, I think the three round format is acceptable for most non-title contests. My idea would be to institute a “win by two” rule, so a match that ends in a 29-28 split decision among the three judges goes to a fourth round. If the fighters cannot bring the match to a close, or demonstrate a clear margin of victory, it’s either a draw, or goes to a fifth and ultimately deciding round. Not sudden death, but a final round to determine a clear winner.

    I also think more work needs to be done on defining scoring standards, and differentiating MMA scoring from boxing. Obviously, I don’t think a 10-8 round for a knockdown works in MMA, but more thought given to what does constitute a 10-8 round might help bring more three round fights to a more objective, satisfactory conclusion. Finding three competent judges is apparently hard enough, such that going to a five judge panel seems outside the realm of possibility, but I do recall that the least controversial decisions in matches I participated in and reffed were usually judged by four corner judges and a voting ref. Fighting and judging are two distinct and seperate skills. Fighters can be trained to judge, but fighting is not training for judging, in my humble opinion.


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