Georges St. Pierre benefited from a controversial decision. | Photo: Stephen Albanese
There have been a number of decisions rendered in prizefighting over the years that have left the masses angry, bewildered and suspicious. Boxing has long been labeled the black sheep of the professional sports world because of such verdicts, and now, sadly, mixed martial arts seems to be stumbling down the same path.
UFC President Dana White was furious in the aftermath of welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre’s split decision over Johny Hendricks in the UFC 167 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. St. Pierre was carried to his 12th straight victory on the strength of scorecards submitted by judges Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks.
I felt Hendricks did enough to defeat St. Pierre and wrest the 170-pound title from around his waist. On my own unofficial scorecard, I had “Bigg Rigg” winning rounds one, two and four to earn a 48-47 win. Admittedly, there was some disappointment when Bruce Buffer read the official decision. I felt Hendricks deserved to have his hand raised, but the fight was too close to be labeled a robbery.
Hendricks clearly won the second round, where he nearly put “Rush” in a strike-induced slumber. He also won the fourth, where he battered and bloodied the champion for much of the frame. However, St. Pierre undoubtedly took the third round, where he picked up his lateral movement and got his jab in gear. He also nailed down the fifth, where Hendricks seemed to cruise, believing the victory was already his.
That leaves round one as the tipping point. Hendricks was takedown down early in the stanza and forced to defend a guillotine choke, but he returned to his feet and attacked St. Pierre with damaging elbows when the champion moved for a second takedown. GSP seemed understandably uncomfortable with the challenger’s punching power. By the time it was over, Hendricks appeared to have won the first round, but it was competitive enough that you have to admit it could have gone either way.
If judging was based solely on damage, then Hendricks would have flown home with the UFC welterweight championship in tow. However, fights are scored on a round-by-round basis, making the opening frame critical; and this is the state of Nevada and its athletic commission we are talking about here. I remember a time not too long ago when the Nevada Athletic Commission was hailed as the standard for governing bodies in professional sports. Other states often deferred to Nevada for guidance, but considering all that has happened over the past few years, it is becoming less and less of an authority on how a sport should be run. Remember the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez judging debacle in September?
MMA seems to be sliding into the same slimy pit that swallowed boxing, and if something is not done soon, I fear a far more dubious judgment than the one that decided St. Pierre-Hendricks will wind up painting the sport in the most negative light. It is clear that far too many of these cageside judges have no clue what they are watching.
Honesty compels us all to admit Hendricks made a significant tactical error by all but handing the fifth round to St. Pierre on a silver platter. Whether his coaches encouraged him to coast or he elected to do so on his own, hopefully he will never make the same mistake again. Still, even with giving away the fifth, Hendricks deserved to be declared the winner.
Was it the worst decision ever rendered? No, not even close, but the ball was dropped by D’Amato and Weeks. As a result, the Nevada Athletic Commission once again finds itself under fire from fans, media and the UFC. My concern is that nothing will be done until too much damage has already been done.
It is a sad indictment on the situation when an important fight within the Octagon goes the distance and we all let out a collective groan and say, “I hope they get it right.” Fighters, fans and the sport of mixed martial arts deserves better.
Follow Mike Sloan at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19.