In my effort to develop a functioning framework for fans, and perhaps judges, to more accurately and consistently score fights, I’ve gone back and watched some of the most controversial decisions in the UFC. My goal was to see whether or not the judges got it wrong, or if it could be possible to leave the fight in the hands of the judges. These are my findings.
The Fights Under Review
I chose five of the most controversial decisions could think of that each left fans furious at the decision.
- Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 1 – UFC 165: This was the first meeting of Jones and Gustafsson where many believed that the Swede had done enough to beat Jones, the most dominant LHW Champion in the world.
- Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo 2 – UFC 227: This was the rematch from an earlier fight where DJ finished Cejudo in the first round. Many fans believed Johnson won the rematch.
- Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes – UFC 247: An exciting fight all around and one that many fans believed Dominic Reyes had done enough to win.
- Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero – UFC 248: One of the most frustrating fights for a fan to watch, the result came down to razor thin margins, and fans felt like Romero might have stolen the belt from Adesanya.
- Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway 2 – UFC 251: This rematch was for the Featherweight title that Volkanovski won from Holloway. Fans felt like Holloway had done enough to take back his belt, but the judges disagreed.
To understand the Methodology, go back and see how I score the fights: Combat Sports Talk Judging Methodology
Also, I watched each of these fights in real time as judges do. I did not stop and rewind to see if a strike landed or not. Unlike judges, I am subject to the camera angle, so I only scored what was on screen.
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 1 – Jon Jones Wins 48-47
I gave Jon Jones rounds 2, 4 and 5. In the first round Gustafsson clearly won the round having scored two big shots and a takedown. Jones left the round with a cut over his eye. Round 2, Jones returned to win the round. While Gustafsson scored two more big strikes and a takedown, Jones scored one of his own and outstruck Gustafsson. Round 3 went to Gustafsson, four scored strikes to Jones’ three edged out the champion on nearly identical volume. Round 4 was clearly Jones’ round. Gustafsson scored twice in the round, but Jones’ output and seven scored strikes won him the round. Going into round 5, the score was 2-2. Round 5 was one of the most historic rounds in Jones’ career. Having left everything in the ring Jones won the round on several spinning elbows that landed as well as other landed and scored strikes.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo 2 – Demetrious Johnson Wins 49-46
I gave Demetrious Johnson rounds 1, 3, 4 and 5. In round 1, Demetrious Johnson was the aggressor scoring on four strikes to Cejudo’s two. DJ led on volume as Cejudo struggled to make contact cleanly with the champ. In round 2, it was a very close round. From a volume standpoint, the two fighters were about even, each scoring their own heavy strike. An olympic gold medal wrestler, Cejudo scored a takedown and passed to a more advantageous position to steal the round. In Round 3, DJ recovered from the takedowns by out striking Cejudo and despite being taken down, DJ reversed the two takedowns to recover position and get back to his feet. In round 4, which was an extremely close round, Cejudo scored two takedowns and passed to a more advantageous position on one of them. However, from a striking perspective, DJ scored three big strikes and Cejudo scored none. His only output was landed strikes. Round 5 was a tense round, but DJ landed more strikes despite a takedown in the round. Each fighter scored two big strikes, but DJ won the round on volume and aggression.
Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes – Dominick Reyes Wins 48-47
I gave Dominick Reyes rounds 1, 2, 3. In Round 1 Dominick Reyes kept a high pace matched by a high volume of strikes. Jones failed to score a major strike but was forced to take two big strikes from Reyes. In Round 2, Reyes kept the pressure on. While Jones’ volume increased and he scored one major strike in the round, Reyes landed three and output more activity in the round than the champion. Round 3 nearly picks up where it left off. Jones did not score a big strike in this round, but Reyes landed one early in the round and kept his volume and aggression higher than Jones to take the round. At this point, all Reyes needed to do was not get finished. Round 4 was Jones’ round and he landed two takedowns and scored two big strikes in the round. Reyes matched Jones for scored strikes, but his volume was significantly limited. Round 5 was Jones’ round again. High volume, one scored strike and a landed takedown won the round for the champ, but for me, it wasn’t enough to give him the fight.
Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero – Israel Adesanya Wins 48-47
I gave Israel Adesanya rounds 3, 4 and 5. Round 1 had almost no action, but two scored strikes for Yoel Romero in the round was all he needed to win. Round 2 had even more action, but Romero scored strikes early in the round while Adesanya was secure in landing leg kicks throughout the round. Round 3, went to Adesanya on the virtue of 3 scored strikes and a leg kicking strategy that started paying dividends as accumulated damage to Romero. Romero did have some output in the round but none of them were scored strikes that he had in the previous two rounds. Round 4 also went Adesanya’s way, each scored big strikes late in the round, but Adesanya continued to put our more volume than Romero giving him the nod on aggression and landed strikes. Round 5 went to Adesanya as the leg kicks became scored strikes due to accumulated damage. Several times in the round Adesanya was able to affect the balance of Romero. Romero did score two big strikes in the round to keep it competitive, but ultimately, Adesanya’s investment in leg kicks in a low volume fight gave him the edge.
Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway 2 – Alexander Volkanovski Wins 48-47
I gave Alexander Volkanovski rounds 3, 4 and 5. In Round 1, Max Holloway matched Volkanovski’s volume step for step, but a scored strike at the end of the round in the form of a knockdown won the round for Max Holloway. In Round 2, Volkanovski looked to get even for the knockdown increasing his volume and scoring a big strike late in the round, but Holloway scored a big strike early and knocked Volkanovski down a second time late in the round, securing this round for “Blessed” as well. Round 3 was won by Volkanovski. He increased the volume and scored a big strike in the middle of the round which proved enough to earn his first 10 point round. Round 4 was an extremely close round. Both fighters kept a frenetic pace, Max scoring on two big shots in the round, but his performance was matched by the sheer volume of landed strikes by Volkanovski. This volume and the takedown he landed, albeit briefly, was sufficient to give him the round. Round 5 was once again a high pace, high volume round. Each fighter had their moment to shine but Volkanovski scored more strikes and landed more strikes than Holloway. Volkanovski also landed two takedowns that made the difference even though they were brief. At then end, Volkanovski did all he had to do to finish the fight strong and remain champion.
The Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo 2 fight emerged as the most egregious decision out of all the fights I rescored. While all the other fights were close and hinged on a key round, based on the scoring framework provided by the methodology, DJ should have retained his title winning rounds 4-1. Even if you gave Cejudo the very close round 4, DJ still did enough to win. Another very close round was Round 4 for Volkanovski and Holloway. The fight hinged on that round based on the Methodology. This is where differentiation between landed and scored strikes becomes important. While a scored strike is weighted 5:1 to landed strikes, the sheer volume of effort on Volkanovski’s part was sufficient.
Finally, the biggest heartbreaker was Jones vs. Reyes. Reyes’ recent loss to Jan Blachowicz resulted in a defeat that would make the belt ever more elusive. When based on the rescoring exercise, Reyes should have been the first fighter to legitimately beat Jon Jones in a fight. The methodology showed “dominating” performances by Reyes in the first three rounds, which should have been enough to win. I am curious which of the three the judges gave to Jones as only round 2 was close on volume of strikes, but Reyes landed the quality, scorable strikes that won him the round on my card.
You be the Judge
Grab a score sheet and a pen, pull up these fights and see how you score them. Do you get the same result, or did your eye catch something I missed. Let me know if you found the framework helpful or if it needs clarification or tweaks. I want fans to develop a common way to score a fight and language we can use to better describe the action. My dream for this is that we, as fans, elevate our fight IQs to a point where we improve judging in our sport as well.
So give it a shot.
And if you have any controversial fights you’d like me to rescore, let me know. I’ll give it a watch and render my verdict.