While the anticipation for this weekend's UFC 159 event is rising, I still haven't really been able to digest the outcome of the lightweight title fight between Ben Henderson and Gilbert Melendez we saw a few days ago. I'm not saying this because I thought Melendez won the fight – I didn't – but because I feel like I'm one of the very few people around who scored it as a draw because I scored one round even.
Now I'm not writing these words because I think giving either fighter the advantage is totally wrong in this case, since an argument can certainly be made for both sides depending on how we judge the fight and what emphasis we put on the MMA judging criteria (especially the often discussed aspect of "Octagon Control", which could really be the tie breaker in a fight as close as this one). What I'm trying to say is that there is such a thing as a 10-10 round and an overall draw, and we need to start acknowledging that.
Nowadays it seems like 10-10 rounds are used so rarely that many fans don't even know they exist. The reason for this is obvious: people don't like draws, and the probability of the fight resulting in a draw increases dramatically if judges score rounds even, which they (or the people that hire and instruct them) therefore try to avoid. But let's be honest here: there are rounds which are so close that scoring them in favour of one fighter comes close to a coin flip. Personally, I often find myself giving the fighter I like more (for whatever reason, and maybe even subconsciously) the upper edge, and I'm pretty sure that a significant strike close to the end of a round will have more impact on your scoring than at the beginning of a round. These and other influences are all natural aspects of our conscious and subconscious thought process when we make these decisions, and there is no reason to believe that MMA judges are exluded from that.
Now of course I'm not a big fan of fights ending in the anti-climax of a draw either, and athletic commissions and MMA promotions should still try to avoid them as often as possible while still being fair to the fighters, whose careers depend on such decisions. There are various ways to achieve this, ranging from an overtime round to encouraging judges to use not just 10-10 rounds but also 10-8 rounds more often in the scoring of a fight.
Still, at the end of the day we need to ask ourselves some questions: is a draw really that bad? Is Benson Henderson really still our undisputed lightweight champion? And does Gilbert Melendez deserve that loss on his record (just as Frankie Edgar is on a three fight losing streak after being on the wrong end of some razor sharp decisions)?
You be the judge.