Anthony Smith believes there is a serious problem with MMA judging that needs to be addressed.
This past weekend, the topic once again reared its head when Paddy Pimblett won a highly controversial unanimous decision over Jared Gordon at UFC 282. While Pimblett maintains he should have won all three rounds, the overwhelming majority of media members scored the bout for Gordon. Some are suggesting the outcome to be one of the biggest robberies of the year, and Smith falls firmly in that category.
“Do you know anyone other than the three people that judged that fight that thought Paddy won?” Smith said on The MMA Hour.
“I always come off sounding like such a hater when you have these conversations about people,” Smith continued. “I like Paddy. He’s different, he’s created something a little bit different. A little bit of it is inspired by Conor [McGregor], but he’s wild and crazy and he’s a good fighter. I don’t think he’s elite, but he’s a really good fighter. I like his aggressiveness, I like his interviews, and I have no issue with him, but I think he lost that fight 30-27.”
The unanimous decision for Pimblett was not just controversial because of the scoring, but for who was judging the bout. The night before UFC 282, Doug Crosby served as one of three judges for the Bellator 289 main event between Raufeon Stots and Danny Sabatello, and he turned in a perplexing 50-45 scorecard for Sabatello.
Crosby’s fight across the country to deliver another widely criticized scorecard caused an uproar among MMA fans, one Smith believes is totally justified.
“I’ve always been really critical of refs and judges, and it’s because this s*** is serious,” Smith said. “Jared Gordon deserved that win. He’s never going to get an opportunity like that, probably ever again. Could he build his way up and end up in some good spots? For sure. But to be the show-stopper for the Paddy Pimblett hype train, he’s not going to have that opportunity again, and that’s unfortunate. He didn’t get the second half of his check. So we need to get people in those seats that understand what the hell they’re looking at.
“Think of this sequence: A guy gets a takedown, he passes from full-guard to half-guard, lands three or four really hard shots, but it takes a little while – this is over a period of two and a half to three minutes – and then he passes to side control and he lands a few shots there. Guy on the bottom scrambles to his feet, there’s 10 seconds left in the round, the guy on the bottom throws a flurry of 10 punches, doesn’t really land anything hard at all, that round ends. A lot of those judges, most of them, will score that round for the guy that spent most of the time on the bottom.
“We need people in those seats that understand how hard it is to get a takedown in the UFC, to then pass someone’s guard, which is goddamn impossible sometimes, then to control someone enough to where you can lift your bodyweight and chest off of them to land those shots. Just because they scramble away at the end, all of us as fighters, and anybody who knows s*** about fighting, knows who won that exchange. The people in the seats should also know that, and that’s the problem. We need people that know what the f*** they’re looking at.”
The topic of the many failings of MMA judging is nothing new, with many parties suggesting a variety of possible solutions, including adjusting the scoring criteria, adding more judges, and even having judges watch the fight backstage, instead of cageside. Echoing Smith’s thoughts, one of the most common suggestions is that more fighters and coaches should serve as judges, as their experience would give them the best insight in scoring. This idea has been met with some pushback for fear of biases and favoritism, but Smith says even if that were true, it’s still better than the present situation.
“It drives me absolutely crazy that these nerds in suits, sitting behind desks in big buildings with cushy paychecks to not do s*** are the ones making the decisions on our career,” Smith said. “Why are there not guys that spent a lifetime doing this and after they retire, or after they’re done coaching — I understand that there’s going to be — I think the one knock on former coaches or fighters, having those kind of people in judging positions, I think the argument is biases in their styles or the people they’re connected to, but it can’t be any worse than what we’re doing now.
“I don’t necessarily fully subscribe that we need former fighters in those seats or whatever, but at least people that understand each intricate part of the game.”
While there has not been an official reaction by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the Pimblett-Gordon fight, Crosby’s 50-45 scorecard for Sabatello is currently under review by the Mohegan Tribe commission, with possible sanctions to come.