The commission overseeing Bellator 289’s main event plans to review the fight’s scoring after a 50-45 scorecard from veteran judge Doug Crosby.
In a prepared statement, Mohegan Athletic Department Director of Athletics Mike Mazzulli expressed no issues with the final outcome but was concerned about the “controversial” 50-45 scorecard. As a result, he scheduled a review with the three judges on the fight: Crosby, Eric Colon and Bryan Miner.
“In the last Bellator event (December 9, 2022) there was a controversy in the Sabatello vs. Stots fight,” Mazzulli wrote. “After reviewing the fight, three rounds of the five rounds were extremely close and the other two were marginally close rounds.
“One judge had Sabatello winning all five rounds, which is controversial. But ultimately Stots won the decision, which is the correct result. In an effort to make this a learning moment, I have informed all three judges we will be reviewing the fight together.”
On MMADecisions.com, four of the five media outlets who scored the fight gave interim bantamweight champ Stots the unanimous decision by a score of 48-47, while one dissented for Sabatello by the same margin. Crosby was in the minority 12.5 percent of the time (7 of 57) in fights he judged in 2022, according to the website, the worst percentage of judges with over 50 fights scored (Colon was second-worst with 12.28 percent).
Mazzulli did not go into detail about the review process but said officials who didn’t correctly apply the criteria faced the loss of judging assignments.
“This is a very serious situation,” he wrote. “The Mohegan Tribe Athletic Department always looks out for the best interests of all fighters. In the past the Mohegan Tribe Athletic Department has sanctioned officials that are not performing to the level that is required. Such sanctions, when they occur, are not made public.”
Crosby, a judge in dozens of high-profile UFC fights, also judged the UFC 282 co-main event between Paddy Pimblett and Jared Gordon. He was then in the majority, scoring Round 1 and Round 2 for Pimblett for a 29-28 win over Gordon.
According to MMADecisions, Crosby’s 50-45 for Sabatello was the first time such a tally had been recorded for the loser of a fight.
The 50-45 Sabatello scorecard in last night's Bellator main event was the very first 50-45 scorecard in favour of the loser ever recorded in our database. @ekc— MMADecisions.com (@MMADecisions) December 10, 2022
Sabatello reacted with disgust following the verdict, saying Crosby’s scorecard compared to the remaining two for Stots “doesn’t make sense.” UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling, whose longtime coach Ray Longo’s feud with Crosby resulted in a conflict of interest allegation against his training partner Al Iaquinta, called out the veteran judge, writing “that’s gotta be the most ignorant judging I’ve seen in awhile at a high level of MMA.”
Bellator President Scott Coker empathized with the judges in the close title fight but added “the 50-45, I don’t know where that came from. To me, it could have went either way.”
With the win, Stots advances to the Bellator bantamweight grand prix finals against Patchy Mix, who defeated Magomed Magomedov at Bellator 289. The winner of the tournament receives $1 million.