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Robbery Review: Song Yadong vs. Marlon Vera at UFC on ESPN 8

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Yadong vs Vera
Song Yadong and Marlon Vera at UFC on ESPN 8 in Jacksonville, Fla., on May 16, 2020
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Like UFC 249, the card that happened a week prior, UFC on ESPN 8 had a trio of controversial bouts and the uproar surrounding them was so immediate and loud that we took a look at all three of them.

First, we agreed that Edson Barboza and his team had a legitimate beef with the scoring in his loss to Dan Ige; second, we explained why Angela Hill should be celebrating a top-5 ranking now instead of lamenting a narrow setback.

Now, it’s time to look at Song Yadong vs. Marlon Vera, a fight that arguably drew the loudest outcry from the MMA community. Here are just a few of the reactions:

And here were Song’s own less-than-enthusiastic post-fight quotes released to the media following the fight:

“I was thinking it was maybe a split decision but when I heard it was a unanimous decision I felt good but I didn’t do well in this fight. I feel like I learned a lot from this fight when I have the chance I will review this fight and get more experience for when I come back.”

Was this another miscarriage of justice in Jacksonville?

What was the official result?

Song Yadong def. Marlon Vera via unanimous decision.

How did the fight go?

The first round played out pretty much as expected, with Song looking for openings to dive in for flurries and Vera scoring with leg kicks and keeping a tight defense. Song’s ridiculous hand speed was on full display, but one has to ask how many of his punches were actually getting through Vera’s blocking. There was a lot of sound and fury, that’s for sure.

Vera’s clinch game superiority was a huge factor in this fight and he got the better of Song almost every time they tied up. Whether it was slipping in elbows, kneeing Song’s body, or setting up a trip, Vera made effective use of the clinch throughout the contest.

After a close first round, Song looked a lot better in round two, landing more cleanly even as Vera stayed in his face. Whether it was an offensive adjustment or Vera’s defense not being as sharp, Song started to connect with power and volume. His own defenses were tested though as Vera fired back and again used that clinch to disrupt Song’s game plan. Vera constantly pressed forward in round two and finished it with a flurry.

Vera came out hot in the third, landing a knee to the stomach that caused Song to initiate the clinch this time. It didn’t work out and Vera scored a takedown off of it. Song worked hard on the ground to get the fight back to the feet. He landed some nice counters, though there’s several exchanges where they just traded punches. What a great fight!

There were a couple of occasions in the third where Vera gained top position and he snuck in some ground-and-pound. Other than that, they battled to the buzzer and you just knew this one was going to leave the loser even more frustrated than usual.

What did the judges say?

All three judges, Sal D’Amato, Howard Reichbach, and Dave Tirelli scored it 29-28 Song. They all agreed that Song won the first two rounds while Vera won the third.

What did the numbers say?

(Statistics per UFC Stats)

If you thought this fight was a busy one, you were right. Both Song and Vera were credited with around 100 total significant strikes, with Song winning in that category 101-92 (he also had more total strikes, 119-115). Going round by round, the numbers might surprise some as Vera held a 21-17 significant advantage in round one, while Song won round two 44-37 and round three 40-34.

Song’s advantage in round three might be offset by Vera going 2-for-2 on takedowns and successfully connecting with four significant strikes on the ground.

In regards to head strikes, Song had a big lead there at 79-41, but Vera did excellent work on the body and legs, winning in those areas 29-12 and 22-10 respectively.

Neither fighter scored a knockdown, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. If you want some idea of how willing these two were to stand in the pocket and fire, Song ended the fight having landed 50 percent of his significant strikes and Vera was even better at 56 percent.

What did the media say?

Of the 17 media member scores tallied by MMA Decisions, there was a near-even split. Nine had it for Vera, eight for Song.

All but one outlet scored it 29-28 in either direction, with only The Fight City issuing a 30-27 in favor of Vera.

What did the people say?

(Data derived from MMA Decisions and Verdict MMA)

As of this writing, the top two vote-getters on MMA Decisions were 29-28 Vera at 57.8 percent and 29-28 Song at 31.7 percent. Coming in third is 30-27 Vera at 7.1 percent, pushing his support to almost 65 percent.

Voters on the Verdict MMA app saw this is a clear win for Vera.

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.

While Song won the first round by a modest 32 points, Vera pulled away in rounds two and three winning by 41 and 85 points respectively. That led to a final margin of victory of 92 points for Vera. If we consider a 100-point win to be definitive, then Verdict voters seem to firmly believe that a robbery occurred on Saturday.

In MMA Fighting’s own poll that asked for thoughts on the decision, 66 percent thought Vera was the victor.

How did I score it?

As exciting as Song’s style is, it really was difficult to tell at times if his flurries were as consequential as they looked. True, Vera’s defense wasn’t flawless, but I thought he did an excellent job of positioning his body to turn Song’s haymakers into glancing blows. So that significant strike count isn’t entirely accurate in my opinion.

Otherwise, I found myself agreeing with the striking stats at least as far as the first two rounds went. Vera did some great work in the clinch in round one that was apparently unappreciated and in the second I thought Song had the better body of work despite Vera closing out the round strong.

The third was a toss-up for me, though I lean towards Vera. You can view this as me being biased towards the sheer variety of his attacks as I felt he beat Song in every aspect of the game outside of maybe pure boxing, but even that was closer than the stats suggest. If you loved Song’s speedy combinations though, then scoring the last round for him makes sense.

Tough, tough fight to score.

Was it a robbery?

Because this was the first close call of the main card (Nate Landwehr’s decision win over Darren Elkins during the preliminaries also drew some skepticism), it garnered a lot of attention. Other than the reactions shown above, there were about a dozen other fighters who felt Vera was robbed.

I can’t join that chorus. The second round was the swing round for most and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Song won it (he was +7 in significant strikes, the largest margin of any round). Viewed under a certain light, I also think you could argue that Vera might have taken all three rounds.

Yes, I’m waffling. That means I either have no idea what I’m talking about (impossible) or that my indecisiveness can lead us to only one conclusion.

The final verdict

Not a robbery.


Was Song Yadong’s win over Marlon Vera a robbery?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    (261 votes)
  • 57%
    (350 votes)
611 votes total Vote Now

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