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Matt Brown: MMA judging can be ‘egregious,’ but scoring criteria also a huge part of problem

UFC Fight Night: Brown v Barberena
Matt Brown and Bryan Barberena
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Like most people watching UFC 282, Matt Brown felt that Jared Gordon did more than enough to secure a victory over Paddy Pimblett.

Despite an overwhelming number of fighters and journalists scoring the fight for Gordon that night, it was Pimblett who got the nod with all three judges giving him the fight with 29-28 scorecards. Now the three judges that night — Doug Crosby, Chris Lee and Ron McCarthy — all only agreed on the second round going to Pimblett but they were split on rounds 1 and 3.

Either way, Pimblett got the win and it sickens Brown that the judges won’t likely face any repercussions for handing down such a life-changing decision in the biggest fight in Gordon’s life.

“The judges, what do they do? They go home, they sleep at night, they get paid the same, they get no accountability,” Brown argued on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I like that you say their names. That’s what we need to do. We need to start putting their f****** names out there, putting their social media out there. At minimum, they need to be hearing from the fans and from the fighters, the media whatever, putting their names on blast when it’s a decision that bad.

“It was egregious. Like there’s no other word for it. This was a f****** bulls*** decision and the judges need to be held accountable.”

Now as bad as the judging might have been in that particular fight, Brown concedes that there are still other problems that plague the sport when it comes to scoring in MMA.

In 2016, the scoring criteria in MMA was overhauled with more defined terms about what should count as a winning round for a fighter. The top criteria across the board was effective offense judged primarily by damage inflicted from one fighter to another.

Here’s how scoring criteria was defined ahead of the new rules being implemented starting in 2017:

A judge shall assess if a fighter damages their opponent significantly in the round, even though they may not have dominated the action. Damage includes visible evidence such as swellings and lacerations. Damage shall also be assessed when a fighter’s actions, using striking and/or grappling, lead to a diminishing of their opponents’ energy, confidence, abilities and spirit. All of these come as a direct result of damage. When a fighter is damaged with strikes, by lack of control and/or ability, this can create defining moments in the round and shall be assessed with great value.

While damage might seem like an easy metric to score, Brown argues that it’s still far too subjective to actually understand what’s happening in the cage.

Particularly, the 14-year UFC veteran looks at issues with bruising, lacerations and bleeding that might appear like damage on the surface but in actuality that doesn’t necessarily help to define who won or lost a round.

“What do you call damage?” Brown said. “I punched Bryan Barberena harder than f***. I thought I probably damaged him but he looked at me like a f****** caveman like ‘what’d you do that for?’ Do you consider that damage or not? Now, let’s just say for instance that particular fight — he hit me back, I got cut. He barely touched me though. That’s why it cut, he grazed me. He didn’t actually damage a single thing but the judges are going to see a cut and be like ‘that’s damage.’ Whereas I punched him harder than s*** and probably caused more long term damage to his livelihood, right? So which one is damage?

“The judge is going to see some silly little cut as damage. Some people just mar up easier. Some people just bruise easier. How many fights have we seen where guys get the s*** beat out of them and their face doesn’t even look that bad. Like how did that happen? Then you see someone else, not even get the s*** beat out of them that bad and their face looks like they’ve been through a five round war. Damage is such a subjective thing.”

Brown also looks at his past fight against Carlos Condit as another example where he believes the judges scored damage as the cuts he sustained during a round but the lacerations weren’t actually caused by a punch, kick, elbow or knee.

“Two or three of the judges gave him the first round like what the f***?” Brown said. “Probably based off damage. My eye got cut from the cage. I took him down, my eye hit the cage, got cut and they’re probably basing it on that. So I look like I just got my ass kicked in this round but I controlled him the whole round.”

Brown takes it a step further when looking at a strike like leg kicks, which can be a very damaging blow but often times doesn’t seem to get the same about of respect as blows to the head.

There are also some kicks that reverberate throughout an arena but Brown says those aren’t nearly as damaging but it sounds worse than it really is while also leaving red marks from the impact.

“What if I kick your leg 20 times and you’re barely able to walk but you punch my face once or twice and I’m cut up and bruised up,” Brown said. “It’s like who did more damage? You’re not walking in the third round or even leg kicks, that looks damaging but I landed with the foot so it really just slapped and your skin is going to burn pretty bad versus Edson Barboza throws a kick and lands with a shin and the guy is tougher than s*** and isn’t really showing any signs of it hurting him but it actually is. He dug it in deep and you don’t hear no slap or anything because he landed with the shin.

“We could go on all day about this. It’s just a f****** most subjective thing I’ve ever seen and that’s the top scoring criteria is damage.”

Brown confesses that there’s no easy fix to the judging issues across the board in MMA but it mostly disturbs him that more efforts aren’t being made to improve how fights are scored.

Sadly, Gordon is just the latest fighter to feel robbed by a bad decision but Brown knows without a doubt that he won’t be the last.

“There’s no evolution,” Brown said. “It’s 10-9 [score] and that’s it. I know we’ve evolved the criteria a little bit but half the f****** criteria’s subjective. The subjectiveness is insane and it just goes so far.”

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