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How Do We Fix MMA Judging? Get New Judges.

With the recent string of bad decisions in MMA, most notably the Tyson Griffin vs. Nik Lentz and Lyoto Machida vs. Quinton Jackson UFC 123 bouts, it has a lot of fans asking how can we change the rules so this doesn’t happen anymore?

Many people like the old Pride system of scoring the fight as a whole. Others like the idea of implementing a half point system. While I personally believe that the 10-point must system is perfectly fine and I have yet to see a fight that couldn’t have been scored correctly using it. Disagreements in what to do about the rules is really a moot point at this stage in MMA judging because it’s the men behind the system that are to blame.

You can change every rule in the book if you want to, but as long as people such as Jeff Blatnik and Sal D’Amato are scoring MMA contests it doesn’t really matter. Commissions are run on “good old boy” networks in which case politics come into play and people become judges just by who they know or what they can bring to the table.

There is no extensive training program like the NFL and judges are not absolutely forced to learn the intricacies of the unified rules. These are not people who inherently care about the sport as it pertains the fighters, fans, promotions etc. These are people like Douglas Crosby, a man who trolled on MMA forums to defend his absurd 50-45 scorecard of BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar 1. It’s really a shame knowing that one decision can derail a fighter’s career.

While judges are certainly the guilty party, the commissions refuse to at least give the judges mandatory monitors. In an interview with Fighter’s Only Magazine, California Athletic Director George Dodd stated that monitors have been used in trial runs.

I think it was reported once, but not too many media outlets have gotten the notice. We used monitors for the UFC’s in San Diego [Jones vs. Matyushenko], in Oakland [Silva vs. Sonnen], and in Anaheim [Lesnar vs. Velasquez].

Dodd also commented on the feedback the use of monitors received.

Well, one thing we noticed is that the judges are able to maintain their view of the match. Sometimes with the ref [in the cage] you don’t get a good look at where the action is taking place, so, working with the UFC, I asked if we could put monitors for the judges to look at, and so far the judges I talked to are very encouraged because it gives them the whole aspect of what’s going on.

I’m really perplexed as to why it has taken so long to realize these things. In this day and age with Hi-Def cameras and crazy angles it’s insane to me that commissions haven’t even considered making it mandatory that every judge be given a monitor. I’ve personally covered events where I’m sitting directly next to one of the cage side judges and half the fight they are either straining their neck to look up at the big screen or they are trying to look around a post to find a better angle on the action.

It’s a ridiculous notion to think that monitors wouldn’t help solve some of these problems. Most notably counter-punching which continues to be ignored by MMA judges for the simple fact that they put way too much weight on this idea that aggressiveness is everything. Just because a fighter is moving forward doesn’t mean he’s not getting his ass kicked. The most egregious example of this is BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar 1 at UFC 112 in which case anyone who knows anything about boxing could see that BJ Penn was completely outclassing Edgar with beautifully timed counter punches.

Even with the possible implementation of monitors it won’t completely change the fact that some of these judges are downright incompetent and are just there to pick up a paycheck. This is not a theory, it’s going down right now all across the world and putting critical losses on up-and-coming fighter’s records. You want to squeeze out the most salient point of this whole debacle? It’s simple, we need new judges.