Mixed martial arts (MMA) judges have always had difficulty scoring fights, which has caused controversy and confusion. However, over the weekend, there was a bizarre example of poor scoring, where the majority of fans, fighters, journalists, and pundits questioned the decision’s legitimacy.
Cory Sandhagen won a unanimous decision over Marlon “Chito” Vera at UFC San Antonio with Sal D’Amato scoring the bout 50-45 and Chris Lee scoring it 49-46 in favor of Sandhagen. The third judge, Joel Ojeda, bizarrely awarded Vera the final three rounds, which resulted in Sandhagen only winning via split decision.
After the fight, criticisms about Ojeda and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) surfaced. Some, including welterweight Matt Brown, criticized the decision and called for Ojeda to lose his job, stating that the decision was the most egregious that he had ever seen.
The most confusing part of the fight was how Ojeda managed to give Vera the third, fourth, and fifth rounds, while D’Amato and Lee gave those same rounds to Sandhagen. Brown, who has previously been on the wrong end of bad scorecards, was shocked by the decision, arguing that there was simply no way anyone could see Vera winning the bout.
While Brown has long been calling for better MMA scoring criteria, he could not even blame that as a reason why Ojeda scored the fight how he did. Brown argued that one cannot justify awarding Vera even a single round, let alone three. The fighter claimed that the judges must have seen a different fight or had questionable motives.
Although Sandhagen won the fight, the fact that the decision came down to just one judge could have resulted in him losing. Brown says it highlights a larger problem with MMA judging and scoring, and it should not be ignored just because the right person won in the end. Discussions need to be had about how to better score fights and stop these controversies from happening in the future.