Lyoto Machida’s victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was easily one of the most, if not the most, controversial decision of the year. Seemingly everyone who watched it live thought Shogun slayed the Dragon at UFC 104 except for the three people whose opinions actually counted for the official record. Well, make that two people because Nelson “Doc” Hamilton now realizes he made a mistake giving Machida round four.
Hamilton was one of the three judges who controversially scored that fight 48-47 in favor of Machida. Yet after watching tape of the fight, Hamilton now believes Rua was the winner.
“There was a round in that fight [Round 4] where my line of sight while they were standing was blocked,” said Hamilton, who feels TV monitors for judges would solve the problem. “Because of the angle where most of the round was fought, I couldn’t see the punches and whether they were landing. If the fight had been on the ground, I could look at the big screens, but this was a fight where the blows were coming one at a time and you don’t want to look away and miss an important blow.”
When Hamilton saw the fight again, he noted that viewers saw Round 4 from a completely different perspective that he did. He also added that the live commentary may have swayed viewers into thinking Rua won decisively. So, based on what he couldn’t see from his cageside vantage point, he believes Rua won the round.
Even if Nelson’s score could be officially reversed it would still be split decision in favor of Machida, but it is nice to see a judge admit he made a mistake for a change.
In addition to his belief that judges should have TV monitors, Nelson also says the ten-point must system in it’s current form for MMA is flawed. He’s in favor of a system using half points instead.
Hamilton proposes a scoring system based on breaking the scoring down to half-points, where a close round, a solid win, a dominant win and having the opponent on the verge of defeat could all be differentiated.
Under this system, if a fighter wins a round that’s difficult to call, it gets scored 10-9.5. When it’s clear that one fighter won the round, it’s 10-9. When a fighter dominates the round but doesn’t have his opponent in bad shape during the round, or if a fighter does major damage but the opponent gets a degree of offense in, that would be a 10-8.5. A 10-8 round or lower would be similar to how things are scored today.
“To a man, every judge I’ve spoken with favors this system,” Hamilton said.
NSAC head Keith Kizer, however, has a counter argument for both.
“The reason we have judges in three different positions is to get three different vantage points,” said Kizer. “If all three judges are watching a monitor, they are all getting the same vantage point – the television camera angle.”
“The problem is you will start getting arguments about a 10-9 vs. a 10-8.5. Do we then go to quarter-points, or go like gymnastics with tenths of a point,” said Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission.
Mixed martial arts has come a long way in the past decade, but clearly there’s still problems with the most important aspect of any sport — determining the appropriate winner. It sounds ridiculous, but unlike other sports like football, baseball or soccer, there’s a large degree of subjectivity, so no matter what changes are made it will never be perfect.
What’s critical is placing highly trained individuals who understand mixed martial arts inside and out in the best possible position to see the action and giving them a simple, yet effective method to determine the winner, which is why I’m all for monitors but not too crazy about adding half points which would complicate the system we already have in place.