UFC 167 Aftermath: The time for change in Nevada is now

Esther Lin

LAS VEGAS -- Manny Pacquiao gets robbed against Timothy Bradley. A scorecard comes down in the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez fight which was so bad, the governor had to intervene.

Now it's the UFC's turn in the bad Nevada decision limelight. A live crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena which paid a $5.7 million gate and no doubt one of the largest pay-per-view audiences of the year at home watched as the man who earned the UFC welterweight title, Johny Hendricks, went home empty handed.

"I think they need to step in immediately before they destroy this sport like they did with boxing," said an enraged UFC president Dana White. "It used to be the best commission in the world. It's absolutely incompetence. I'm f--- scared to come back here and do fights."

The overwhelming majority of professional fighters watching the fight -- the guys who are actually in there and understand a fight in the way the rest of us who have never been punched in the face think we do, but really don't -- thought Hendricks was robbed. The media scoring the fight live unanimously thought Hendricks won, according to MMADecisions.com.


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But somehow, yet again, in a fight in which hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line -- from the live gate to the pay-per-view take to the betting lines to the economic impact of thousands of fight fans coming to town -- the ones who got the decision egregiously wrong are those employed by the Nevada Athletic Commission.

At what point does commission executive director Keith Kizer recognize the obvious?

The sport of mixed martial arts has evolved rapidly. Nevada officials haven't. Herb Dean, the best referee in the business, was on the card last night, but inexplicably was not in the main event. While John McCarthy can't get a gig in Nevada, Kim Winslow called several fights on last night's card.

At UFC 155, Adelaide Byrd turned in the single worst scorecard for a fight I've ever seen in eight years covering MMA, giving Melvin Guillard a 30-27 decision in a fight in which the other two judges gave opponent Jamie Varner a 30-27 win. Her punishment? She was given a main-event judging spot for Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar at UFC 156. And she's since been back for the TUF 17 Finale, WSOF 3 and UFC 162 (Thanks again, here, to the people at MMADecisions, who do invaluable work).

"What more can I do?" White asked. "Obviously when there's a huge boxing fight and they f--- up, holy s---, the world stops and we gotta fix this thing. Pacquiao lost that fight and it almost happened to Mayweather in a fight he clearly won. You know? I just don't know what else needs to be done. Its unfortunate."

"We have a great relationship with the MGM, we have a great relationship with Mandalay Bay, this is our hometown, this is where we live, and our athletic commission is the weakest commission in the country. When you start looking at next year's schedule, how many events do you want to do in Vegas?"

Moving multimillion-dollar events out of state is the sort of thing that would hurt Nevada's bottom line. Nevada governor Brian Sandoval already stepped in once, after the Mayweather-Alvarez fiasco. If Kizer won't do something about it, maybe it's time for Sandoval to give things a second look.

UFC 167 Quotes

"I can't sleep at night now. I have issues. I am going crazy." -- St-Pierre, at the post-fight press conference.

"I am the champion. I outjabbed him. I outwrestled him. I outhit him. I did everything to win the fight except to those two judges who didn't give it to me. I didn't prove it to them. That won't happen again. I'm going to come back stronger, I'm going to come back faster, and I'm going to get that belt. It sucks that the belt's not sitting right here." -- Hendricks.

"Hendricks and I can fight for an interim title, and when Georges comes back I can beat him up, too." -- Robbie Lawler.

"I had one significant problem. I took on a better fighter tonight. I got mauled. When he got in that top position, I couldn't go anywhere." -- Chael Sonnen on his loss to Rashad Evans.

Stock up

The most obvious one is Hendricks, who in a just world would have gone home to Dallas on Sunday with the UFC welterweight title belt.

But then there's "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler, who pretty much cemented his status as Comeback Fighter of the Year (well, unless Urijah Faber makes it 4-0 for the year next month against Michael McDonald) with his impressive victory over Rory MacDonald. Lawler still has the thunder in his fists, as MacDonald's face attested to after the fight, but his all-around game is more mature and well-rounded than it's ever been. And let's not forget Tyron Woodley, either. In the UFC 167 pre-fight show, I said his fight with Josh Koscheck would be boring. Boy, was I wrong. Woodley has a bright future at 170 pounds and I'm damn sure not going to sleep on him, ever again. And final, a tip of the cowboy hat to Donald Cerrone, who answered all his doubters with a vintage performance against Evan Dunham.

Stock down

I never 100 percent bought into the Rory MacDonald hype train. Talented fighter? Yes. Lot of potential? Yes. The fighter who will take the torch from GSP? That one was dreamed up by someone who had one too many Labatt Blues with their poutine.

MacDonald had developed the illusion of a brutally efficient killer of a counterstiker. He picked apart an aging, undersized B.J. Penn. Then Jake Ellenberger, who came into their fight on a hot streak, simply froze. But Lawler shattered MacDonald's serial killer aura by simply being unafraid and pushing MacDonald out of his comfort zone.

MacDonald didn't seem to have a Plan B. Until he can develop one, MacDonald appears to have reached his ceiling in the welterweight division.

Good call

First off, I'm suspending "Good Call" from any Nevada events until real changes are made within the commission. Instead, I'm going to make a point here about GSP.

I suspect we're about to get hit with a flood of armchair psychoanalysis about St-Pierre's mental state. People who have never spoken to St-Pierre in their life will tell us about how his heart isn't into fighting anymore, or try to force it into their anti-UFC narratives, or any of a million other possible reasons.

But we don't know. We just don't. St-Pierre says it is a personal issue and left it at that. White, after speaking privately with GSP, confirmed it was a personal issue, but respected his request not to divulge it.

St-Pierre is a gentleman in a sport often lacking in role models. He's been the epitome of class. He showed up at the press conference last night when no one would have blamed him for skipping it. The bottom line is, we don't know what his issues are. And until he, or someone very close to him in his camp, chooses to talk about it, I refuse to engage in speculation. GSP has earned as much after everything he's given the sport over the years.

Bad call

I mean, you saw the scores in Hendricks-GSP, right?

Fight I'd like to see next

The welterweight picture is sort of on hold until we know for sure how long St-Pierre will be out. While White's tone at the press conference toward St-Pierre before the champion showed up was off-putting, the underlying message was correct: St-Pierre can't leave the title in limbo. If he's taking, oh, six months off for mental health reasons (not to mention healing from the fight), fine. But if the possibility of not returning persists, or if he is going to be out a seriously long period of time, he should relinquish the gold.

With that in mind: If St-Pierre's break will be short rather than long, then GSP-Hendricks is really the only fight to make. And Lawler vs. the winner of Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown would be a hell of a scrap. If it pans out that they go the interim title route, or fill a title vacany? Well, who wouldn't want to see Hendricks-Condit 2 if Condit wins?

St-Pierre's hiatus isn't the end of he world. With Hendricks, Condit, Lawler, and Brown in the mix, there's potential for an explosive 2014 in the welterweight division.

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