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Robbery? Taking a closer look at the scorecards from UFC 268

UFC 268 just wrapped up from Madison Square Garden in New York City and it was a card that lived up to the hype. After a somewhat slow start, the event saw fighters reel off six knockout finishes in the “Prelims” before moving on to Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler, a fight that’s definitely worth arguing for when “Fight of the Year” discussions start next month.

Both title fights delivered, with Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington engaging in a more technical battle than their first wild back-and-forth ride (highlights here). And Zhang Weili got to show off all her skills this time in an extremely close five-round fight that ended in a somewhat controversial split decision (check those highlights here). And that’s what we’re going to dig into here, because you can’t have a big fight like Rose vs. Zhang 2 ending so tight that it isn’t going to result in a lot of people screaming screw job.

But, a closer look at the judges’ scorecards tell a pretty reasonable tale in the end. Take a look:

Based on media scores and social media reactions, a lot of people had it 49-48 Rose and 49-48 Zhang, scores reflected by Doug Crosby and Mike Bell, respectively. Eric Colon’s 49-46 though ... well, that seems pretty whack. But, if you’re willing to accept that we can disagree on who won the second round, there’s nothing wrong with Colon scoring it for Namajunas. His crime was giving “Thug Rose” round three, and it’s not like that particular round was a blowout for either fighter by any means.

So, while the score ends up looking whack, the controversy boils down to one judge getting one round objectively wrong in the general public’s opinion. Honestly, that’s about as good as you can expect to get in the world of combat sports.

The other controversy coming out of UFC 268’s scoring is the lack of 10-8s in the Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington fight. In 2017, the Unified Rules were modified to encourage more 10-8 scoring. And while we’re down with that in theory, in practice it’s never really been that great because some judges still won’t hand them out even if a fighter practically knocks their opponent’s head off.

Like, say, Kamaru Usman did to Colby Covington in the second round of their rematch. Take a look at that scorecard:

We don’t really know what to say about this. Based on the scoring criteria, round two should have been a 10-8 round. But, living in our imperfect reality as we unfortunately do, we all understand that 10-8s are extremely rare, especially outside of Nevada where they’re often used poorly. Remember the 10-8s in the Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya fight?

Yeah, that happened.

There’s definite issues with judging in mixed martial arts (MMA), and we shouldn’t just have to say “suck it up” or “be thankful it isn’t as bad as boxing” when outrages happen. But, we should also be able to look objectively at close rounds and recognize that even if we think one fighter edged another, the judges sitting cageside with no monitor (for some reason) might see it slightly differently.

There were no outrages at UFC 268, as far as we’re concerned. Just some close fights and a continued refusal to score anything short of a murder as a 10-8 round.


For complete UFC 268 results and coverage click here.