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Sam Caplan’s breakdown of UFC 78: Validation

UFC 78 is in the books and as the 2007 calendar year draws to a close, I don’t think anyone can make a strong case that the card will go down as one of the better shows of the year. In defense of UFC 78, I don’t think it was a bad card and I don’t think you can find anyone at fault as to why we didn’t get to see more excitement.

It’s not like a movie where you pay money and can critique the execution of how the film was produced. Despite the lack of a strong main event, the matchups on paper were solid. And as I’ve said many times before, this is a real sport and it isn’t scripted. It’s like going to a football game and watching two teams go three and out repeatedly — it’s sport and not theater and sometimes things just don’t come together.

In regard to MMA shows which don’t turn out to be great, there are isolated cases where in hindsight you can hold the matchmaker culpable for putting guys together who have styles that don’t mesh well. But how do you second guess Spencer Fisher vs. Frankie Edgar on paper? The two did not have a bad match last night but I think it’s safe to say it fell way short of expectations. Yes, you had a striker vs. a wrestler but these two guys have been in strong fights this year. How do you predict with certainty that Edgar was going to be able to control Fisher like he did?

And as it turns out, what was the weakest match on paper, Joe Doerksen vs. Ed Herman, just may have proved to be one of the best fights of the night, if not the best. Basically, I don’t think you can fault the UFC, the fighters, the judges, the referees, etc. for the fact that last night’s show was only two stars instead of four stars.

During last night’s card we also saw three fights from the main card go to a decision and I think the judges had the outcomes right. The only issue I have is with the one judge who scored the main event in favor of Bisping (was it an error?). There are some fights where there are rounds that could go either and I end up finding it hard to argue with a judge who scores it a different way than I saw it. However, when it came to last night’s scoring, how on Earth could you have given either rounds one or three to Bisping?

Aside from that one judge, I think last night proved that the 10-point must system works well for MMA. I realize many will disagree with that statement and a lot has been written recently to the contrary, but I haven’t seen anyone suggest a viable alternative. There have been some bad calls this year but any system you use that relies on humans is going to have imperfections. And for the amount of times bouts go to the judges, I think the percentage of controversial decisions is relatively small.

Scoring an MMA match is no easy task because you are combining different styles. How can you introduce a true points system when you have so many fighting disciplines being employed? Is a takedown worth more than a clean uppercut? Is a sweep worth more than a kick to the ribs? A true points system has been used in Olympic boxing to take it out of the judges hands. However, judges are still often needed to decide what punches register points. I remember that at one Olympics they used a computer scoring system but they still needed a human to register the punches into the system. I’ve been to several grappling tournaments now and they employ a points system that is pretty cut and try. There are defined point assignments for certain moves. However, the referee still has to use his judgment for when points should be awarded and there are still disputes.

If you’re not a fan of the 10-point must, that’s fine. But please offer a viable alternative. A lot of alternatives have been offered but none are viable in my opinion. To be frank, I find most of them to be Utopian in nature. Some of them sound good but simply aren’t applicable in a real-life situation.


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