UFC President Dana White is again exasperated by MMA judging after watching Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya at UFC 259.
This time, it’s about the margins by which judges are giving victory. A pair of 10-8 scores in the fifth round gave Blachowicz a 49-45 score over Adesanya, making a dominant win even more dominant when the light heavyweight’s performance didn’t necessarily warrant it, according to the UFC executive.
“The scoring was insane,” White said at the post-event press conference on Saturday in Las Vegas. “These guys are giving out 10-8 rounds like f*cking... there were two rounds in that fight that they gave a 10-8. When I came up in the fight business, a 10-8 was an ass-whupping. You got your ass whupped. You didn’t do sh*t in that round and got beat down if it was a 10-8.
“This 10-8 sh*t’s is out of control right now. So hopefully, we can get this fixed. They’re going to screw up a lot of fights, they’re handing out 10-8s like that. There was no 10-8 in that fight.”
Asked whether the UFC would take action by refusing to allow certain judges, White stopped short of making any threats.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” he said. “I just think that for some reason, all of a sudden these guys are scoring 10-8s for rounds that are clearly not 10-8s. I mean, how do you address this? It’s the criteria they’re giving them right now. I think they’re getting some bad advice.”
Indeed, the criteria by which judges score MMA fights has evolved considerably over the past decade. Much of it has been to educate officials on how to weigh the different types of action that take place in the cage. One measure of progress given by multiple regulators is the 10-8 score, which is employed when one fighter wins a round by a “large margin.”
Per the unified rules, the 10-8 margin is described as “absolutely essential to the evolution of the sport and the fairness to the fighters” in when it is utilized.
“A score of 10 – 8 does not require a fighter to dominate their opponent for 5 minutes of a round,” the current judging criteria reads. “The score of 10 – 8 is utilized by the judge when the judge sees verifiable actions on the part of either fighter. Judges shall ALWAYS give a score of 10 – 8 when the judge has established that one fighter has dominated the action of the round, had duration of the domination and also impacted their opponent with either effective strikes or effective grappling maneuvers that have diminished the abilities of their opponent.”
In the fifth round of the light heavyweight title fight between Blachowicz and Adesanya, the action took a decisive turn at the midway point when Blachowicz took the fight to the ground. For the remainder of the frame, the light heavyweight champion landed strikes from top position, and in the final moments, he achieved mount position and rained down heavy shots. That sequence may have cinched a 10-8 margin in the eyes of two judges, though the third dissented with a 10-9 score, according to official scorecards.
In the wake of several controversial scores at UFC 245, longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan declared judges to be incompetent. Several veteran officials disagreed with his assessment and said education and training remains a priority for active judges, many of whom meet regularly online to score fights and discuss how to apply the judging criteria.
White, though, believes that judges continue to get things wrong. And while his comments rarely lead to changes in the pool of MMA judges, he continues to state his case, particularly after an unusual score in a big fight.
“First of all, I think we can all agree, and I’m not defending Israel Adesanya here, that fight wasn’t 4-1,” White said. “That’s batsh*t nuts. If anybody watched that fight and thinks that fight is 4-1, you’re nuts. It was even going into the last round. Israel was winning the first half of the round, then Jan took him down and won the fight in the second half of the second half of the round. The only thing that makes that fight 4-1 are ridiculous 10-8 rounds. Not one person in here, people who watch fights every f*cking weekend, think that’s that’s 4-1. It’s a big problem with judging that needs to be fixed.”