When Judges Disappoint: MMA’s Most Disputed Decisions

April 10, 2023
From: Spartacus
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One of the most crucial elements of an MMA fight is the judges’ decision, which determines the winner and loser of the bout. A fair and accurate judgment is vital in maintaining the integrity of the sport, as it can impact the careers and reputations of the fighters. A controversial or unfair decision can lead to frustration and outrage from fans, fighters, and the MMA community as a whole. Therefore, the role of judges in MMA is critical, and their decisions must be based on a thorough understanding of the rules, techniques, and performance of each fighter. The impact of judges’ decisions can be felt long after the fight, and their importance cannot be overstated in the context of MMA.

When it comes to MMA, there have been some controversial decisions made across various promotions, not just the UFC. So, in this article, we’re going to expand our scope and take a look at the top 10 worst judges’ decisions in MMA history, regardless of the promotion. From Bellator to Pride, we’ll cover the most shocking, controversial, and downright baffling calls made by MMA judges over the years. The goal here is to shed light on the importance of fair and accurate judging in all MMA promotions and to showcase that poor decisions can happen anywhere, not just in the UFC. So, let’s get started and see what made the cut for the top 10 worst judges’ decisions in MMA history!

#1 Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida – UFC 123

 

At UFC 123, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson faced off against Lyoto Machida in a highly anticipated light heavyweight bout. The fight went the full three rounds, with both fighters displaying their skills and putting on an exciting show for the fans. However, when it came time for the judges to render their decision, many were left scratching their heads.

Despite Machida appearing to have landed more strikes and being more active throughout the fight, two of the three judges scored the fight in favour of Jackson, giving him the split decision victory. This decision was met with disbelief and outrage from fans and analysts alike, who felt that Machida had clearly won the fight.

In the aftermath of the fight, many theories were put forth as to why the judges had made such a controversial decision. Some felt that Jackson’s aggressive style and ability to control the centre of the octagon had swayed the judges, while others suggested that they may have been biassed towards the popular fighter. Whatever the reason, there was no denying that the decision was one of the worst in MMA history and had deprived Machida of a well-deserved victory.

Despite the controversy, both Jackson and Machida went on to have successful careers in the sport, with Jackson retiring in 2019 and Machida still competing in the UFC. However, the memory of their controversial bout at UFC 123 will always be a reminder of the importance of fair and accurate judging in the sport of MMA.

#2 Benson Henderson vs. Michael Chandler – Bellator 165

 

Benson Henderson and Michael Chandler faced off in a highly anticipated rematch at Bellator 165 in 2016. The two fighters had met in 2013, with Chandler emerging as the winner in a closely contested fight. The rematch was expected to be just as competitive, with both fighters being evenly matched in terms of skill and experience.

The fight was a back-and-forth battle that saw both fighters have their moments of dominance. However, when the judges’ decision was announced, it was met with widespread disbelief and criticism. Two of the three judges scored the fight 48-47 in favour of Chandler, while the third judge scored it 48-47 in favour of Henderson.

Many fans and analysts felt that Henderson had done enough to win the fight, as he had landed more strikes and appeared to be in control for much of the fight. Henderson also appeared to have done more damage to Chandler, including a submission attempt in the fourth round that nearly ended the fight.

This decision was widely criticized as one of the worst in MMA history because it appeared to go against the evidence of what had occurred in the octagon. Henderson had outstruck Chandler and had also come close to finishing the fight on several occasions. Furthermore, the judges’ scorecards were heavily lopsided in favour of Chandler, despite it being a close fight that could have gone either way.

The decision sparked outrage in the MMA community, and many felt that it was a clear example of poor judging. The outcome of this fight was a reminder of the need for fair and accurate judging in all MMA promotions and the importance of ensuring that fighters are judged based on their actual performance in the octagon.

#3 Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione – Bellator NYC

 

At Bellator NYC, Fedor Emelianenko faced off against Matt Mitrione in a highly anticipated heavyweight bout. The fight was expected to be a barnburner, with both fighters known for their knockout power and aggressive styles. However, when it came time for the judges to render their decision, many were left stunned.

After three rounds of back-and-forth action, Mitrione was declared the winner via majority decision. The decision was met with widespread criticism from fans and analysts, who felt that Emelianenko had done enough to win the fight. In particular, many pointed to the fact that Emelianenko had landed more significant strikes and had nearly finished the fight in the first round with a submission attempt.

The controversy surrounding the decision only intensified when it was revealed that one of the judges had made a critical error in tabulating the scorecards. The judge had incorrectly scored the first round in favour of Mitrione, despite Emelianenko having clearly dominated the round. This error likely played a significant role in the final decision, and many felt that it had robbed Emelianenko of a victory.

The fallout from the decision was significant, with many calling for reforms to the judging system in MMA. The incident served as a reminder of the importance of fair and accurate judging in the sport and highlighted the need for judges to be properly trained and held accountable for their decisions.

Despite the controversy, both Emelianenko and Mitrione continued to compete in Bellator and have since retired from the sport. However, the memory of their controversial bout at Bellator NYC will always be a reminder of the importance of fair and accurate judging in MMA.

#4 Shogun Rua vs. Mark Coleman – Pride 31

 

At Pride 31 in 2006, former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman faced off against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a light heavyweight bout. This was a highly anticipated rematch, as Rua had won their first encounter by TKO.

In the first round, Rua landed a series of vicious knees to Coleman’s head, which caused the referee to step in and stop the fight. However, after the fight was stopped, the referee declared that the knees were illegal and therefore ruled the fight a no contest.

This decision was widely contested because the referee had made a clear mistake. The knees that Rua had landed were legal under Pride rules, and many fans and analysts felt that the fight should have been ruled as a TKO victory for Rua. The referee’s error not only cost Rua a well-deserved victory but also impacted his future prospects in the promotion. The decision also highlighted the need for referees to be knowledgeable about the rules of the promotion they are officiating in and to make accurate judgments in the heat of the moment. Despite the controversy, Rua would go on to have a successful career in both Pride and the UFC, becoming a fan favourite and a legend of the sport.

#5 Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 2 – UFC 125

 

Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard faced off for the second time at UFC 125 in 2011, with Edgar’s lightweight title on the line. The first fight between the two had ended in a draw.

The fight went the full five rounds, with both fighters having moments of dominance. Maynard had Edgar in trouble in the first round, almost finishing the fight, but Edgar managed to survive and came back strong in the later rounds. In the end, the judges scored the fight a draw, with two of the judges scoring it 48-46 in favour of Maynard and the other judge scoring it 48-46 in favour of Edgar.

This decision was widely criticised because it seemed to contradict what had happened in the octagon. While Maynard had a dominant first round, Edgar had clearly won the later rounds and had landed more significant strikes overall. Many fans and analysts felt that Edgar should have been awarded the victory, while others believed that the fight should have been scored a draw. The judges’ scorecards were heavily criticised, and the decision sparked a debate about the need for more transparency and accountability in MMA judging. Despite the controversy, Edgar and Maynard would go on to have successful careers in the UFC, with both fighters becoming fan favourites and earning multiple title shots.

#6 Wanderlei Silva vs. Mark Hunt – Pride Shockwave 2004

 

Wanderlei Silva and Mark Hunt faced off in a heavyweight bout at Pride Shockwave 2004. Silva was known for his aggressive fighting style and had already established himself as one of the top fighters in the promotion. Hunt, on the other hand, was a former kickboxer who had recently made the transition to MMA and was still relatively unknown.

The fight went the full three rounds, with both fighters having their moments of success. Silva was the more active fighter, landing more strikes and controlling the pace of the fight. Hunt, however, landed some significant strikes of his own and was able to defend against Silva’s takedown attempts. In the end, the judges awarded the fight to Hunt by split decision, with two judges scoring the fight 30-28 in favour of Hunt and one judge scoring it 30-28 in favour of Silva.

Silva had clearly been the more active and aggressive fighter, landing more significant strikes and controlling the pace of the fight. Hunt, on the other hand, had been mostly defensive and had not done enough to win the fight. Many fans and analysts felt that the judges had made a mistake and that Silva should have been awarded the victory. The decision sparked outrage in the MMA community, and many called for a more transparent and accountable judging system. Despite the controversy, both Silva and Hunt would go on to have successful careers in MMA, with Silva becoming a legend in the sport and Hunt earning a reputation as one of the toughest fighters in the world.

#7 Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks – UFC 167

 

Georges St-Pierre was one of the greatest fighters in UFC history and had held the welterweight title for several years. Johny Hendricks was a top-ranked contender with a powerful left hand and a reputation for knocking out his opponents. The two faced off in the main event of UFC 167 in what was expected to be a closely contested fight.

The fight went the full five rounds, with both fighters having their moments of success. Hendricks landed some heavy punches that seemed to hurt St-Pierre, while St-Pierre was able to take Hendricks down and control him on the ground. At the end of the fight, the judges awarded the victory to St-Pierre by split decision, with two judges scoring the fight 48-47 in favour of St-Pierre and one judge scoring it 48-47 in favour of Hendricks.

This decision was disputed because many fans and analysts felt that Hendricks had won the fight. Hendricks had landed more significant strikes and had done more damage to St-Pierre, who appeared to be exhausted and battered by the end of the fight. St-Pierre, on the other hand, had relied heavily on takedowns and had not been able to do much damage to Hendricks on the ground. Despite this, the judges had awarded the victory to St-Pierre, sparking outrage in the MMA community. Many felt that the decision was a clear example of poor judging and that Hendricks had been robbed of the victory. The controversy surrounding this decision would lead to calls for reform in the UFC’s judging system, and many would question the legitimacy of St-Pierre’s reign as welterweight champion.

#8 Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit – UFC 143

 

Nick Diaz was a popular fighter in the UFC known for his aggressive style and trash-talking, while Carlos Condit was a skilled striker and technical fighter. The two faced off in the main event of UFC 143 for the interim welterweight championship, with the winner expected to face Georges St-Pierre for the undisputed title.

The fight went the full five rounds, with Condit using his striking and movement to avoid Diaz’s pressure and land effective shots from the outside. Diaz had some moments of success, particularly in the later rounds when he was able to land some heavy shots and push Condit back against the cage. However, the judges ultimately awarded the victory to Condit by unanimous decision, with scores of 48-47, 49-46, and 49-46.

This decision sparked debate because many fans and analysts felt that Diaz had won the fight. Diaz had pushed the pace and appeared to be the aggressor for much of the fight, while Condit had relied on movement and counter-striking. Despite this, the judges had awarded the victory to Condit, sparking outrage in the MMA community. Many felt that the decision was a clear example of poor judging and that Diaz had been robbed of the victory. The controversy surrounding this decision would lead to calls for reform in the UFC’s judging system and would fuel the ongoing debate about what criteria should be used to score fights.

#9 Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin 2 – UFC 106

 

Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin were two of the biggest stars in the UFC at the time of their rematch at UFC 106. The two had fought to a split decision in their first encounter, and the rematch was highly anticipated. Ortiz was known for his ground and pound style, while Griffin was a skilled striker and a tough, durable fighter.

The fight went the full three rounds, with Ortiz appearing to dominate the first two rounds with his wrestling and ground and pound. However, in the third round, Griffin rallied and landed some heavy shots on Ortiz, nearly finishing the fight. Despite this, the judges awarded the victory to Ortiz by split decision, with scores of 29-28, 28-29, and 29-28.

This decision sparked debate because many felt that Griffin had done enough in the third round to win the fight. While Ortiz had controlled the first two rounds, Griffin’s comeback in the third was seen by many as enough to secure the victory. The split decision result also added to the controversy, with two of the three judges giving the fight to Ortiz by a narrow margin. Many fans and analysts felt that Griffin had been robbed of the victory, and the decision was seen as a clear example of poor judgement. The controversy surrounding this decision would lead to renewed calls for reform in the UFC’s judging system and a renewed focus on improving the accuracy and fairness of judges’ decisions.

#10 Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua – UFC 139

 

Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua were both legends in the sport of MMA when they faced off at UFC 139. The two had never fought before, and the anticipation for their matchup was high. Henderson was known for his powerful right hand and wrestling, while Rua was a skilled striker and submission artist.

The fight was an absolute war, with both fighters trading heavy shots and attempting submissions throughout. Henderson appeared to have the advantage in the first three rounds, landing several hard punches that wobbled Rua and nearly finishing the fight with a submission attempt. However, in the fourth and fifth rounds, Rua came back strong and landed several heavy shots of his own, nearly finishing the fight with a submission attempt of his own. Despite Rua’s late surge, Henderson was awarded the unanimous decision victory, with scores of 48-47, 48-47, and 48-47.

This decision was highly controversial because many felt that Rua had done enough in the final two rounds to win the fight. While Henderson had controlled the early part of the fight, Rua’s late surge was seen by many as enough to secure the victory. The judges’ scorecards were also heavily lopsided in favour of Henderson, despite it being a close fight that could have gone either way. The decision sparked outrage in the MMA community, and many felt that it was a clear example of poor judging. The controversy surrounding this decision would lead to renewed calls for reform in the UFC’s judging system and a renewed focus on improving the accuracy and fairness of judges’ decisions.

mma controversial decisions

Conclusion

The sport of MMA is one of the most exciting and unpredictable sports in the world, and the outcome of a fight can often hinge on the decision of the judges. The 10 worst judges’ decisions in MMA history serve as a reminder of the importance of fair and accurate judging in the sport. The decisions that went against the evidence of what had occurred in the octagon not only deprived fighters of well-deserved victories but also shook the faith of fans and fighters in the integrity of the sport.

While there have been improvements in the judging system over the years, the sport still has a long way to go in ensuring that fighters are judged based on their actual performance in the octagon. The MMA community must continue to push for better judging, and the UFC and other promotions must take steps to improve the accuracy and fairness of judges’ decisions.

In the end, the goal of MMA should always be to determine a clear and deserved winner based on the actual performance of the fighters. With fair and accurate judging, the sport can continue to grow and thrive, providing fans with the exciting and unpredictable action they crave while maintaining the integrity of the sport.

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