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.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
Believe it or not, this is the first Robbery Review of 2023 and I’m taking it as a positive sign that it’s taken four and a half months to get here. Though we still see weekly complaints about judging, I remain of the opinion that the vast majority of fights are scored correctly and, just as importantly, our collective understanding of why these fights are scored the way they are has improved.
Our last official review took place in December 2022 for a matchup that was a tad controversial: Paddy Pimblett vs. Jared Gordon at UFC 282. This week’s offering likely won’t reach the same level of discourse, but if social media comments are any indication, everyone who watched it had the same reaction.
Of course, I’m talking about Joselyne Edwards earning a split nod over Lucie Pudilova in the opening bout of UFC Kansas City.
Daniel Cormier was on commentary duty and before the scorecards were read he was already talking about Pudilova as the winner due to her controlling much of the fight with her grappling. He was shocked by the result and said as much on Twitter immediately afterwards:
That’s really bad! What a bad start to the night with Judging. Holy shit— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) April 15, 2023
Fellow UFC women’s fighters Jasmine Jasudavicius, Casey O’Neill, and Nina Ansaroff all decried the decision, with Jasudavicius questioning whether the judges even watched the fight.
So judges don’t actually watch fights… right? ♀️ #UFCKansasCity— Jasmine Jasudavicius (@JasJasudavicius) April 15, 2023
There have been a few calls to get the Robbery Review equipment running this year, so now is as good a time as any to head back to the lab.
What was the official result?
Joselyne Edwards def. Lucie Pudilova via split decision.
How did the fight go?
With Lucie Pudilova’s showing a renewed focus on wrestling in her successful return to the UFC this past August, it was expected that this would be a grappler vs. striker matchup and that’s certainly how it played out. Pudilova immediately charged in for a takedown, forcing Edwards to back up and counter with straight punches. Another takedown was stuffed by Edwards and answered with a solid knee to the body before Pudilova just tackled her a little over a minute into Round 1.
Pudilova didn’t land any huge shots from top control, but the ground-and-pound was noticeable as she threw punches and hammerfists from inside Edwards’ guard. Edwards saw an encouraging end to the opening round as she took advantage of Pudilova aggressively passing to side control by slipping out and landing some punches on Pudilova as they stood up along the fence.
Round 2 got off to a similar start, with Edwards answering Pudilova’s advances by striking her with knees to the body. Again, it wasn’t long before Pudilova scored a takedown and went to work on the mat. Pudilova successfully advanced to side control this time, leading to a weird moment where referee Dwayne Bess told her that she needed to work. She just advanced to side control!
Edwards defended well against Pudilova’s ground-and-pound attempts, but Pudilova was unrelenting as she briefly advanced to back control and then ended Round 2 with heavy elbows from mount.
In Round 3, Edwards defended takedowns with urgency and Pudilova couldn’t get much going other than pushing Edwards to the fence. They exchanged pitter-patter shots while exchanging positions until Pudilova backed off while landing a glancing left hand. Amusingly, Edwards faked a takedown attempt before getting back to throwing leg and body kicks from distance. She got her left hand going and even scored a nice right with a little over a minute to go. The remainder of the fight saw them trade jabs and engage in aimless grappling.
What did the judges say?
#UFCKansasCity Official Scorecard: Joselyn Edwards (@JoselyneMma29) vs Lucie Pudilova— UFC News (@UFCNews) April 15, 2023
See every scorecard from Fight Night here ➡️: https://t.co/nxcHo6EnUA pic.twitter.com/zDivLH1bDD
Ross Swanberg scored it 29-28 Edwards.
Henry Guery scored it 29-28 Pudilova.
David Huyette scored it 29-28 Edwards.
The third round was the decider as the judges split the first two rounds, with all three giving Edwards Round 1 and Pudilova Round 2. Swanberg and Huyette both gave Round 3 to Edwards.
And before you ask, no, I’m not particularly familiar with Swanberg and Huyette and apparently there’s good reason for that:
This was the first time that both judges who scored the bout for Edwards have submitted a completed scorecard for a UFC bout per @MMADecisions https://t.co/COLYTPLIvm— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) April 15, 2023
Swanberg and Guery do have plenty of experience judging for Invicta FC, which has regularly run events in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., in the past, if that counts for anything.
What did the numbers say?
(Statistics per UFC Stats)
Remember when we said this was grappler vs. striker? Well, Pudilova dominated the control time (7:29), while Edwards handily won the significant strikes battle (R1: 17-8, R2: 12-12, R3: 27-19). As always, these stats only tell a fraction of the story of the fight and should not be considered hard evidence as to who deserved the decision.
What’s more important is what Pudilova did with the control time. In my eyes, she seemed to land plenty of ground strikes, but curiously, she was only credited with two in the opening round (the stats say she landed nine in Round 2, which sounds about right). If the judges saw her ground work the same way as the stat keepers, that may explain why they leaned towards Edwards’ early standup work in Round 1.
One more stat of note is that Pudilova out-landed Edwards in head strikes 12-7 in the final round, which is usually a good indicator of who is closer to finishing the fight, but Edwards’ fine leg kick work (16-2) gave her the overall advantage there.
What did the media say?
This one felt bad when it happened and the media was right on top of it. All 15 of the media scores logged on MMA Decisions were in Pudilova’s favor, with WrestlingObserver.com and The Scrap News going as far as to have it 30-27 for Pudilova.
What did the people say?
Fans scoring the bout on MMA Decisions were in agreement with the fighters and media, with a combined 87.4 percent scoring it either 29-28 Pudilova (55.8 percent) or 30-27 Pudilova (31.6 percent). There is a small 29-28 Edwards contingent at 8.8 percent.
The opening round, which all three judges scored for Edwards, saw 83.7 percent of voters score it for Pudilova. Round 2 is clear cut (96.7 percent) and Round 3 is slightly in Edwards’ favor (59.1 percent).
How did I score it?
Count me among the majority as I have it 29-28 Pudilova.
Had Edwards done more on the feet or landed a few more shots that truly stood out, I’d have no problem rewarding her the fight based on damage over control. But Pudilova’s ground work was convincing enough for me to give her the first two rounds without hesitation, and you could make the case that she took Round 3 as neither woman really pulled away on the feet, stats aside (I’d even entertain discussion of a 10-10 there).
I’m still not sure how Pudilova wasn’t credited with more ground strikes in Round 1, but I have to believe it looked different to the judges’ cageside. And there’s no case for Edwards to have won Round 2, so this was Pudilova’s fight.
Was it a robbery?
As I said at the top, it’s been four months since we’ve done a Robbery Review and during that time there does seem to be a growing sentiment that striking has almost become too highly prioritized over grappling. That’s not the judges’ fault as the criteria heavily stresses immediate impact over everything else, so a methodical ground game doesn’t rack up the points quite like it used to.
But we’ve got to find some kind of middle ground and while I’m not advocating for non-damaging position changes to start leading to 10-8s, there has to be more credit given when someone like Pudilova is having success with ground strikes. How can the judges argue that Edwards’ occasionally effective distance striking should weigh more on the cards than Pudilova throwing punches from top position? That’s sketchy to me.
I’ve been consistent with crediting fighters for ground work in rounds where there was little substantial striking on the feet (there were moments like this in a couple of recent high-profile fights, Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan 2 and Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski, both decisions I agreed with), so I can’t help but disagree with how the judges handled this one.
The final verdict
Was Joselyne Edwards’ win over Lucie Pudilova a robbery?
This poll is closed