MMA referee’s are required to take a judging course. Thus, as opinions on the way a decision goes they have another front-row perspective on fights.
Mario Yamasaki, the referee of the controversial UFC 167 event between Georges St. Pierre v. Johny Hndricks, gave his view of who won. Considering his experience in the game and proximity to the action, his opinion may be the closest thing fans can get to a judge’s official explanation.
In comments reported by MMA Fighting, Yamasaki saw it all Hendricks. In fact, he described Hendricks as having ‘dominated’.
“I’m inside the cage so I can’t see the fight as the judge sees it, but I thought Hendricks won the fight. I thought Hendricks dominated the fight, it was brutal, and I was surprised when they gave St-Pierre the win. But I’m not the judge. I look at the fight with different eyes.”
Yamasaki’s comments are not far off from those of many experts who feel Hendricks simply hurt GSP with a ton of power shots and conversely was never threatened by the champion in similar fashion. Except, further explanation draws an interesting parallel to why St. Pierre was awarded the fight.
“The first round was slow and could have gone either way. Hendricks dominated the second one. The third was close and could also go either way, and the judges gave it to St-Pierre. When the fight was over, I thought Hendricks won every round except the last one,” he said. “But I have to watch the fight again to analyze it as a judge.”
As The FD explained, via a breakdown on the scorecards provided by Bleacher Report, this is exactly the way the judges saw it in favor of the champion. Yamasaki said the first round could have gone either way – close as it was, two judges scored GSP as winning the first thus giving him the round. The third was close as well, bu the judges again gave it to GSP. Then Yamasaki admits that he felt GSP won the fifth, which the judges did as well. That makes three rounds for GSP – razor-thin or not – to Hendricks’ two.
Therefore, losing two close rounds does not make up for two dominating ones, unfortunately for Hendricks. It all draws more controversy towards the state of MMA judging whereby razor-thin mathematics can stump a great fight.
While most will tell you Hendricks won the fight, it’s hardly that definitive.
An extensive breakdown by Steven Rondina of Bleacher Report, details how the fight ultimately was far closer than many fans are willing to admit as the reaction was overwhelmingly pro-Hendricks.
GSP out-struck Hendricks only in one round, the third. If you were to look at that number, Hendricks controlled the fight on the feet. However, throughout the entire fight, GSP landed far more significant strikes – 101 to 85. In that sense, GSP controlled the fight on the feet. Cumulatively, then, the two fighters split the fight.
By virtue of out striking Hendricks in the third and taking him down twice in the fifth (while controlling those rounds in most facets), GSP won two rounds. Hendricks, meanwhile, out struck the champ in round two and round four which also included a controlling top game, which won him those rounds.
Based on scoring, ultimately it came down to the first round. Hendricks only landed one more strike (27 to 26) but one fewer significant strike (18 to 19). Each fighter scored a takedown. It appears, if we want to go by numbers, that the tipping point may have been GSP’s ever-so-brief guillotine attempt. By that distinction, two judges saw round one in favor of the champion.
Many fans will point to how much physically stronger Hendricks appeared at times. If we were to award a bout to the stronger guy every time what would be the point in having them fight? Because conversely GSP was far quicker in his movement. So why wouldn’t we as fans score it that way? The easy answer is because it doesn’t matter how athletic fighters appear during a fight.
Another talking point was the visible damage apparent on GSP’s face compared to Hendricks. Visible damage is misleading. Bruising and cuts differ from person to person. Some fighters eventually take so many hits to the face they develop scar tissue which causes cuts easier. GSP’s face has shown more bruising in his most previous fights as the years go by. Punishing a fighter in a fight for damage that is inasmuch caused by previous fights doesn’t make sense.
The scoring system is what it is. Hendricks did better in the rounds scored in his favor than GSP did in his. The issue is that Hendricks never did so well to earn a decisive 10-8 score, thus, the scoring system will show that each fighter is awarded two rounds by equal measure of 10-9. When dealing in black-and-white, it doesn’t matter if one competitor’s 10-9 is a superior 10-9 to the others’. They appear equal on a scorecard.It’s the opinion of The FD that like Ric Flair always said, if you want to be the man, you got to beat the man.
Yesterday night, Hendricks never proved that he was better than a fighter with the most wins in UFC history, title wins, etc. While GSP’s history should not necessarily come into play, the fact is on fight night he was not out-fought, beat up, controlled, or any connotation that would point to him being thoroughly defeated. This was not Junior Dos Santos v. Cain Velasquez II, in which Velasquez did all the above from start to finish to retain his belt.
You know when Chael Sonnen opens his mouth (or gets his typing fingers going a la Twitter), something interesting is going to emerge.
Cue Mr. Sonnen. Via MMAMania.com, Sonnen spoke on TapouT Radio on SiriusXM yesterday and commented about the job his bosses at the UFC have done promoting UFC 167:
“…outside of my fight and St. Pierre’s, I don’t know who else is fighting that night. The card as a whole has not been promoted. I think when you have Georges St. Pierre on a card, that at times they view that as enough. And it appears that that’s the case.”
Sonnen makes a great point. But without the strength of a union, it is a moot one for most fighters.
This is nothing new for the UFC. They often leverage the power of a single fighter for PPV cards. It is the individual fighter who people are there to watch. If the UFC felt a huge name such as GSP, Anderson Silva or Jon Jones is all it takes to win the derby, then they ride that horse. In the case of UFC 167, the UFC appears to think GSP is enough to sell it.
Conversely, this top-heavy tactic is often use by the UFC to promote weak cards, leveraging a name fighter to draw in the PPV numbers. Check the cards that Jones had headlined in the past and you will notice how incredibly weak they are. So in a way a lot of less known fighters benefit when a big name like Jones headlines their card because he draws them in.
The issue is this tactic is more often a disservice to the other fighters. The individual brand of each fighter who isn’t promoted suffers without the hype the UFC can provide. Fighters raise the issue about the lack of visibility they earn for their sponsors all the time – and this is directly tied to how well the UFC can promote that individual, as well. The FD thinks Sonnen is coming from. He says as much.
While it appears Sonnen is railing for his own purposes, he is voicing a majority concern. Sonnen – unlike most fighters – is a master of self-promotion. Not being given the chance to do his thing to its full potential irks him. Except he has a great ability to do it without the UFC anyways. Most other fighters do not have his charisma and self-promoting powers.
It is certainly an issue how a fight card is promoted. While it can be used to help a lot of fighters get eyeballs on their fights, it more often stunts their potential exposure through pre-fight hype. Unfortunately, it’s another thing for fighters they cannot control.
For your perusal, here is a look at how stacked the UFC 167 card actually is:
Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks – for welterweight title
Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen
Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald
Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley
Ali Bagautinov vs. Timothy Elliott
Donald Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham
Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites
Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story
Edwin Figueroa vs. Erik Perez
Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley
Vaughan Lee vs. Sergio Pettis
Cody Donovan vs. Gian Villante