Judging is currently one of the most heated subjects of debate in the world of mixed martial arts. This past weekend’s UFC 131 in Vancouver only served to fan the flames.

Darren Elkins and Michihiro Omigawa at UFC 131

Darren Elkins and Michihiro Omigawa at UFC 131

There were several decisions brought into question at Rogers Arena, but none that rivaled the backlash over the night’s opening bout between Darren Elkins and Michihiro Omigawa, which aired live on Facebook and YouTube.

It was a back-and-forth fight with both fighters getting in their licks, though most people watching felt Omigawa had bested his opponent. In the end, however, all three judges scored the bout in Elkins’ favor, two of them 29-28, the third 30-27.

As soon as Elkins was declared the winner the backlash began. The online forums and, of course, Twitter, blew up with comments decrying the decision. Not easily missed among those incredulous over the decision was UFC president Dana White.

“Then you’ve got the Omigawa fight, where this guy loses the fight and Joe Silva said he was pulling a (Kazushi) Sakuraba and wasn’t going to leave the Octagon. He was going to stay in there, Joe had to beg him to leave,” said White after the post-fight press conference, discussing his criticism of the state of MMA judging.

“We’re going to pay him his win money. I don’t care what the judge said; he won the fight. I say he won, overruled.”

That of course takes care of Omigawa’s pocketbook, but it doesn’t change his official record, which now reflects back-to-back losses in the Octagon following a five-fight winning streak.

The backlash over the decision was strong enough that the Vancouver Athletic Commission decided to comment on the scoring of the fight.

“In the first round, Elkins backed Omigawa up with punches the entire round. He controlled the center of the cage. He was throwing a lot more shots, and landing more — and in combination,” Commissioner Jonathan Tweedale told MMAWeekly.com via email, commenting on behalf of the commission.

“If there is any controversy as to the outcome of the fight it must be because of the second round. That was a very challenging round to score. An argument can be made in favor of either fighter.

“Elkins landed more punches. At one point, when Omigawa came forward, he was stopped dead in his tracks by Elkins’ combination punches, and at another point he was slightly buckled. Due to Omigawa’s unusual stance and balance, it was difficult to tell exactly whether he was rocked by some of these shots. However, you could see Omigawa’s leg bend, and the control shift to Elkins as he landed the combo, stopping Omigawa in his tracks, taking the center of the cage, and going on the attack again.

“These sequences, as well as the total effective strikes landed, could reasonably warrant awarding the round to Elkins. Elkins didn’t land many more than Omigawa, but he did land more.  (The Fightmetric numbers agree.) As to the blood – it represents something, but a cut can be caused by a glancing blow, and some fighters just cut more readily than others.

“That’s a round about which reasonable people can disagree. Close rounds like Round 2 of Omigawa vs. Elkins serve as useful examples for discussion, to assist in refining and evolving the community’s understanding of the scoring criteria, generally. And that is a good thing for the sport.”

Tweedale fell short of giving his personal opinion on the decision, but more or less opened the floor for debate over the criteria used in the 10-point must system of scoring that has been carried over from the boxing world.

The official Elkins vs. Omigawa scorecard. (Click to enlarge)

Under the 10-point must system that most people are used to, a fighter is awarded scores per round then those scores are added up at the end of the fight to declare a winner.

There isn’t much separation in scoring, however. For instance, Fighter A could win two very close rounds by executing a couple more techniques in each round than Fighter B. The score for those rounds would be 10-9 in Fighter A’s favor, giving him a 20-18 lead going into the third stanza. Fighter B could then dominate the third round from bell to bell, maybe causing Fighter A to bleed profusely, but not necessarily put Fighter A in extreme danger of being finished. Fighter B, in such an instance, is often awarded a 10-9 round, thus losing the fight 29-28.

That’s when the backlash begins because of Fighter B’s strong finish, leaving the final impression in people’s minds that he dominated the fight. But under the 10-point must system, Fighter B loses the fight.

Is the Elkins vs. Omigawa decision that type of situation? Or did Omigawa get robbed?

The floor is obviously wide open to debate on that fight and the subject of scoring in general. And it’s a debate that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.

Got something to say? Weigh in with a thought of your own in the comments section below.

Ken Pishna is the managing editor of MMAWeekly.com.
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@KenPishna on Twitter or e-mail Ken a question or comment.

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