Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.
With Marlon Moraes and Jose Aldo both competing this Saturday at UFC Vegas 17, the timing couldn’t be better to look back at their controversial UFC 245 encounter. Monday actually marked the one-year anniversary of that fight and the ripples of it are still being felt in the bantamweight division after the UFC granted Aldo a title opportunity despite losing a decision to Moraes.
The reasoning behind Aldo getting that championship spot was due in part to his legendary run at featherweight as well as the fact that UFC President Dana White was of the opinion that Aldo actually beat Moraes.
To top it off, the live crowd didn’t love the judges’ decision either.
With that much dissent, it’s time to head to the Robbery Review lab and put this one under the microscope.
What was the official result?
Marlon Moraes def. Jose Aldo via split decision.
How did the fight go?
Moraes came out looking for an early finish, throwing head kicks that seemed to be just inches away from doing some serious damage. Undeterred, Aldo found a rhythm. His trademark counter-striking was on display, but Moraes was the one pushing the pace. As good as Aldo’s chin looked, Moraes consistently landed strikes on it. Aldo threatened to steal the round with a late flurry of punches, but Moraes was right there throwing back and he ended the opening frame with a quick trip takedown.
Aldo teased that we might see him finally start using leg kicks again only to have a straight right by Moraes put a halt to that plan. Moraes showed off a good jab as Aldo stayed aggressive, attempting to cut off angles while landing punches to Moraes’ body. Aldo strung together punches and Moraes had to rely on his power to keep Aldo off of him. It worked too as he landed some hard shots even as Aldo appeared to be winning with volume. He repeatedly went to the body, then scored with a clean uppercut near the end of round two. On the positive side for Moraes, his jab was money all night.
It’s a tool he needed to keep Aldo off of him in the third. At this point, I have to mention that Joe Rogan was a menace on commentary as he was calling the fight for Aldo early in the third despite the fact that it had been closely contested up to that point. Aldo missed with a flying knee and pursued Moraes to the center of the octagon where he was met with a crisp punching combination. Aldo’s output slowed, but he found a home for his right hand on more than one occasion. It’s Moraes who landed the best strikes in the final 90 seconds of the fight as Aldo showed his determination by constantly moving forward.
After the buzzer, the former featherweight champion and his team were already celebrating a victory.
What did the judges say?
Michael Bell scored it 29-28 Aldo.
Eric Colon scored it 29-28 Moraes.
Mark Smith scored it 29-28 Moraes.
All three judges agreed that Moraes won round one and that Aldo won round two, which made round three the decider. Colon and Smith both gave that round to Moraes.
What did the numbers say?
(Statistics per UFC Stats)
Razor thin split decision? Razor thin numbers.
Total significant strikes were deadlocked at 59-58 for Moraes and the round-by-round breakdown isn’t particularly useful for separating these two. Moraes landed more significant strikes in round one (18-15) and three (20-15), while Aldo had the advantage in round two (28-21).
Leg strikes were also a virtual tie (4-3 Moraes), while Moraes won in head strikes (48-39) and Aldo won in body strikes (16-7).
Moraes was credited with a successful takedown in round one, though he only managed 21 seconds of control time and attempted zero ground strikes. Neither fighter scored a knockdown in the fight.
What did the media say?
Of the 18 media member scores listed on MMA Decisions, nine had it 29-28 Moraes and nine had it 29-28 Aldo. Yup, split right down the middle.
Did I mention that this fight was controversial?
What did the people say?
(Data derived from MMA Decisions and Verdict MMA)
The fan conclusion was far more definitive as… nah, just kidding, the fans weren’t that much more helpful.
A solid 53.4 percent on MMA Decisions voted for a 29-28 Aldo score, but 37.5 percent voted 29-28 Moraes and 4.4 percent saw it as a 29-29 draw. So while there was strong support for Aldo, it was far from unanimous.
The deciding third round also saw 53.4 percent of voters lean in favor of Aldo, with 42.3 percent liking Moraes.
Fans scoring on Verdict MMA was also for Aldo:
Marlon Moraes defeated Jose Aldo in a close fight one year ago today at UFC 245. The Global Scorecard had Aldo winning the fight— Verdict (@VerdictMMA) December 15, 2020
Here's a comparison against the scores of the cage-side judges. pic.twitter.com/HGCX7zQoil
That scoring system takes the cumulative total of every submitted fan score (filtering out aberrant scores like random 10-7s if they comprise less than one percent of the total) in every round and divides by the amount of submitted scores to determine the winner of each round and also in totality.
The final total saw Aldo take a 59-point win, bolstered by a convincing second round. However, round one was almost as convincing for Moraes and the third did little to truly separate them on the Verdict card.
So fucked up. Feel for you @josealdojunior Same judges as Wichita apparently. Judges need to be held accountable when they ruin the sport like this ... JMHO— Big Ben Rothwell (@RothwellFighter) December 15, 2019
Bullshit.— Bryce Mitchell (@ThugnastyMMA) December 15, 2019
Moraes did have his supporters though:
I think 29-28 Moraes. Very close.— Funky (@Benaskren) December 15, 2019
You can check out more instant reactions here.
How did I score it?
This comes down to the third round, which I give to Moraes.
Aldo’s body work throughout the fight was a thing of beauty and a reminder of how magnificent his striking is when it’s working on multiple levels (now if only we could figure out where his leg kicks went). But he kept getting caught with hard counters and while the commentary team raved about his forward movement, that doesn’t mean much when you’re repeatedly getting socked in the face.
As fun as it was to see that Aldo can still compete with the best of them, I remember being surprised that there was such an uproar when the scorecards were read. I thought that maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the fight.
Now having re-watched it, I can see that I was completely justified in seeing this is a close win for Moraes.
Was it a robbery?
Again, the narrative of Aldo putting in a vintage performance was hard to overcome, especially with Rogan doing his usual shtick of latching onto a narrative in round one and not letting go no matter what actually happens inside the cage. And make no mistake, Aldo fought a fine fight; maybe even a winning one, depending on how you weighed the significance of each man’s strikes.
The judges were split. The media were split. And outside of a few particularly vocal fighters, most seemed to agree that it was a great contest that maybe should have gone to Aldo.
Considering all that, how can anyone argue that this was the definition of a split decision and thus, impossible to call a robbery.
The final verdict
Not a robbery. Though Aldo getting a title shot over Moraes was.
Was Marlon Moraes’ win over Jose Aldo a robbery?
This poll is closed