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Nevada commission director Bob Bennett reacts to questions about UFC 209 main-event scoring

UFC 209 photos
Nevada commission executive director Bob Bennett explains his view on the main-event scoring after UFC 209.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The first two rounds between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson were incredibly close and mostly inactive. There were very few strikes thrown and no grappling to speak of.

Many onlookers felt like at least one of those rounds in the UFC 209 main event Saturday night in Las Vegas should have been scored a 10-10 tie, rather than the more traditional and prevalent 10-9, giving the round a winner.

Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) executive director Bob Bennett explained the commission’s policy on 10-10s in a rare appearance for a commission official in a post-fight press conference. Bennett said that an elite judge should be able to determine a winner in all but the very closest and most inactive rounds, calling 10-10s an “anomaly.”

“If you’re a top-notch, A-plus judge, you should be able to discern through the scoring criteria who wins the fight, even if it’s razor thin,” Bennett said. “Does a 10-10 round come up? Yes, but in the three years — almost three years — that I’ve been the executive director, we have not had a 10-10 round. And I think it’s incumbent upon the judges to be on top of their game and be able to pick a winner in that round. One effective strike or kick can determine who wins a round.”

Bennett’s explanation falls in line with the policy of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC), the body that oversees athletic commissions in North America. A 10-10 score is only supposed to be used if all three tiers of the scoring criteria are 100 percent equal, which is a rare circumstance.

Per the scoring rules, rounds are judged based upon effective striking/grappling, effective aggression, and cage control, in descending order. Aggression and cage control are tiebreakers, so they are not even considered unless effective striking/grappling is 100 percent equal. If effective striking/grappling and aggression are both equal — again, a rare occurrence — then cage control is taken into account.

Only if all aspects of that three-tier system are equal is a 10-10 score applicable.

However, Bennett said he would never personally discourage a judge from using a 10-10, since they are trained professionals and it is their call.

“These judges, just like in the boxing events, you’re gonna score a round the way you see it,” he said. “I don’t put any pressure or stress on them. It’s totally incumbent on them.”

Woodley ended up winning the fight over Thompson and retaining his UFC welterweight title by majority decision. Two judges — Derek Cleary and Chris Lee — had the bout 48-47 for Woodley, while Sal D’Amato had it a 47-47 draw. D’Amato had the second round for Thompson and scored the fifth for Woodley, 10-8.

Bennett took with the D’Amato’s 10-8 for Woodley in the fifth, calling it “unacceptable,” since Thompson was winning the round until Woodley dropped him and did significant damage in the final minute of the fight.

“The one judge that had it 10-8 — we went over it in the debriefing — and that 10-8 was unacceptable,” Bennett said. “Not that it would have affected the outcome of the fight, but just to share it with you. We strive to do the best we can, but we don’t always succeed and that judge should have scored that round 10-9.

“He just missed it and usually he’s spot on. But thank god it didn't affect the overall outcome of the fight.”

Bennett, in his third year as NAC executive director after a 25-year career as an FBI agent, added that it’s not easy for a judge in a pressure-filled, title-fight situation, especially when there are large bouts of inactivity in a fight.

“Tonight is a big-time fight for those judges,” Bennett said. “It’s very easy for someone to say, ‘I scored it 3-2 this way or that way,’ but you put your butt in that chair for five minutes and when you don’t see a lot of action you’ve gotta, really always be on top of your game — but it’s even more difficult when there’s less punches being thrown.”

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