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.
This time around, fortune did not favor Michael Page.
Heading into Bellator 281 this past Friday, “Venom” was coming off of the biggest win of his career, a narrow split decision over three-time welterweight champion Douglas Lima last October that the esteemed Robbery Review team (that team being comprised of one person: me) determined to be fair and just. In the first title fight of his MMA career, Page again went to the judges, but he would be denied Bellator gold (interim, naturally) as he dropped a split call to Logan Storley.
The debate on social media was a furious one as the fight was happening, with fans and media members being all over the place with the scoring. Some felt Storley’s wrestling had him firmly in control of the scorecards, while others pointed to Page’s striking as being the only meaningful action of the fight, and others still felt the final decision would be a coin toss.
Following Storley’s win, Bellator President Scott Coker criticized Storley’s strategy and how it was scored.
“Honestly, I thought that ‘MVP’ won that fight,” Coker said in his post-fight media scrum. “And the reason why I say that, to me, it’s like, I was talking to my guys back home and they go, ‘Look, it’s close but we think MVP won.’ And I said, ‘Well, why do you say that?’ And they said, ‘Because half the round, he was striking. The other half, you can’t just lay on somebody.’ You’re not doing any damage. You’re not getting closer to a submission. You’re not creating any threat. You’re just laying on somebody — and to me, that’s not MMA.”
Neither fighter did a particularly great job of mixing the martial arts, but is Coker wrong about Storley doing enough to win or does Page have a case to have a second Robbery Review go his way? Let’s go to the lab.
What was the official result?
Logan Storley def. Michael Page via split decision.
How did the fight go?
The first three rounds of this fight played out in nearly identical fashion, with Page working to score from distance while Storley waited for openings to shoot in for takedowns (which he successfully scored in each round). So let’s pinpoint some key moments here before digging into the championship frames.
- R1, 0:42 - Page lands a clean right hand and Storley immediately drops for a single leg. Page scores again with an elbow the side of the head, but Storley isn’t deterred and he eventually gets low on that single leg and pulls Page off of the cage for a takedown
- R1, 3:20 - Storley hits a trip to put Page on his back again. This leads to a lot of ineffectual, back-and-forth body shots from both fighters on the ground. More of that to come
- R2, 0:06 - Page has Storley backed up against the fence and he’s probing with his jab, but nothing is actually getting past Storley’s defense
- R2, 0:27 - Page connects with another clean right hand, this one over the top and Storley has to circle out of there
- R2, 1:18 - Storley comes close with a couple of left hands, but neither lands with any impact (much easier to see this with the benefit of replay)
- R2, 2:00 - Page overextends on a lunging right and Storley snatches a leg. A successful takedown occurs not long after
- R2, 3:52 - Page gets back to his feet momentarily, but Storley just powers him back down to the mat
- R2, 4:29 - After some hand fighting on the ground, Storley gets his left hand free and hits a short punch that connects. There’s not much behind it, but it’s his best shot so far. Storley sticks with the ground pressure and actually sneaks in a few elbows, though overall Page avoided any serious damage before time ran out
- R3, 0:22 - Page misses with a flying knee, but does connect with a follow-up right hand. Storley just shakes his head to no-sell it
- R3, 0:35 - Page hits a step-in elbow strike. Storley felt that one
- R3, 1:15 - Page connects with another elbow, this one not as clean. Storley instantly reacts with a single leg that Page tries to roll out of, but that just gives Storley top position
On to Round 4, which featured some of Page’s best work. He opened with a three-strike combination that didn’t appear to score (at least from the broadcast angle), but soon after he connected with a big right hand. A straight left also broke through Storley’s guard and Page then caught him with another right hand off of a high knee that just missed.
About a minute in, Page started acting like he was doing between-the-leg crossovers with an invisible ball, which isn’t all that relevant, but it was funny and reminds me of this scene from Honey. Actually, it did end up setting up a nice jab for “MVP.” Thirty seconds after that, Storley walked into another good right hand from Page. Storley couldn’t get out of the way of that punch in the fourth and this was also the only round where he didn’t score a takedown early enough to dominate control time.
Page got adventurous to start Round 5 and it cost him. He missed a flying knee and Storley took the opportunity to snatch Page’s legs and drag him to the mat. Storley held position against the fence until he was able to pick Page up and slam him in the middle of the cage. From there, Storley still didn’t do much damage-wise, but Page essentially did nothing for the last five minutes of this fight.
What did the judges say?
Bryan Miner scored it 48-47 Storley.
David Lethaby scored it 48-47 Page.
Michael Bell scored it 49-46 Storley.
Scoring for Rounds 2, 4, and 5 were all unanimous, with Storley winning Rounds 2 and 5, and Page winning Round 4. Page was actually ahead on the cards after Round 1 with both Miner and Lethaby scoring that round for him, but Storley took Round 3 on Miner and Bell’s cards.
What did the numbers say?
Right off the bat, it has to be said these live on-screen stats are pretty much useless for scoring purposes, but I’m including them to paint as broad a picture as I can here.
A significant strike count would be far more interesting (if not all that informative) to see as I’d be stunned if more than handful of the 172 combined strikes supposedly landed in this fight would qualify as significant. The pitter-patter exchanges on the ground shouldn’t count for anything, but that’s where that raw strike count is coming from.
It should also be noted that the type of strike landed is far less important than the location of those strikes.
Nice work by Storley to snag eight takedowns though.
What did the media say?
Only eight media members formally submitted their scores to MMA Decisions and five had it for Page, with three people giving him the win 49-46. At the other extreme, Sherdog.com gave Storley the fight 50-45.
What did the people say?
Fans on MMA Decisions agreed with the judges for the most part, specifically Michael Bell, as 38 percent had it 49-46 Storley. A 48-47 score for Page isn’t far behind at 23.9 percent, but another 21.7 percent had it 48-47 for Storley.
The pro reception was mixed as fighters like Douglas Lima and Pedro Carvalho felt that Storley didn’t do enough to win, while Brett Johns and Kai Kamaka III landed on the other side of the discussion.
Takedowns with 0 damage ehhhhhhh— Douglas Lima (@PhenomLima) May 13, 2022
Some judging criteria really need to change…— Pedro Carvalho (@the_game_mma) May 13, 2022
Reward someone that refuses to fight is just wrong… https://t.co/p8rlaf1Uiy
Maybe there wasn’t much GNP or sub attempts but the wrestling of Storley was brilliant.— Brett Johns (@36Johns) May 13, 2022
Stuck to his game plan.#Bellator281
If volume that doesn’t have damage can win you a fight, then a fight with takedowns and no damage should to— Kai Kamaka III (@kaiboikamaka) May 13, 2022
For all u #MMA fighters that think 2 days a week of wrestling is enuf, it isn’t . Mayb for a MMA opponent, but for a fighter that insists on wrestling you will learn the hard way. PS it’s too late once the fight is booked to focus on it and sux for you if it’s for a world title.— Eric Albarracin (@CPTdasAmericas) May 14, 2022
How did I score it?
In real time, I had this one for Page and a thorough review hasn’t changed that.
When I say Storley did nothing offensively with his wrestling in the first round, I mean he did NOTHING offensively. As absurd as it sounds, the one punch that Page landed before being taken down was of far greater impact than anything Storley did (or didn’t do) once he had Page on his butt against the fence. Look at the criteria, please, and you’ll understand how that one strike could win Page the round.
Top and bottom position fighters are assessed more on the impactful/effective result of their actions, more so than their position.
Position without offense does not win you a round, no matter how long you hold that position.
Storley actually did better in Round 2, particularly at the end when he definitely broke through with some ground-and-pound even if it was only for a few seconds. You could still give Page that round based on a hard shot he landed early, but I’m comfortable giving that one to Storley.
Round 3 goes to Page as it was similar to Round 1, except Page landed a couple more good strikes before being taken down. Once again, Storley didn’t register any notable offense despite being in an advantageous position for the majority of the round.
The last two rounds shouldn’t be up for debate as Page was legitimately lighting Storley up for most of Round 4 and Storley completely neutralized Page in Round 5.
So that’s Rounds 1, 3, and 4 for Page on my card and I can even see a case for giving him Round 2.
Was it a robbery?
I wouldn’t go as far as to call this a “robbery of the year contender” as phrased by Seán Sheehan, who has researched and scrutinized MMA scoring criteria as much as any media member, but I do feel the judges could have been sharper here.
It’s true, in the past, I’ve been reluctant to call any fight where neither competitor is able to truly assert themselves a robbery. However, this classic striker vs. grappler matchup really should be put forth as an example of the misconceptions that still persist when it comes to MMA scoring.
In the modern era, you simply should not be rewarded with a win just for position. The same goes for fighters who come forward aggressively and cut off the cage, but don’t consistently land strikes (something Kai Kamaka III alluded to above). Page was anything but dominant in this fight, but in every round except for the last he did a better job of doing damage and attempting to finish the fight. There’s no case to be made Storley made the same effort.
Lastly, if you want to see what effective and impactful grappling looks like, watch the best fights of Georges St-Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and even former Bellator champion Ben Askren (though Askren certainly won his fair share of decisions that were light on damage as well). There are levels to this and while Storley deserves credit for fighting his fight and convincing the judges that he did enough to win, he’s lucky that only one of the judges properly adhered to the criteria.
The final verdict
Was Logan Storley’s win over Michael Page a robbery?
This poll is closed