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Shots After The Bell: Judging the judges at UFC 222

Disgraced judge Adalaide Byrd made her return to the UFC, and it underscored a lot of the problems with judging in Nevada.

Esther Lin

It’s been a period of much consternation and navel gazing regarding the rules or apparent lack thereof in MMA, and that topic has dominated a lot of these Shots After The Bell columns. But we’re going to take a break from that this week, which is a bit ironic considering we’re passing up literal shots after the bell to talk about something else instead. This week, we’re going to talk about the return of controversial boxing judge Adalaide Byrd to our sport.

For those living under a rock, Byrd has spent the past several months without any judging appointments after turning in a borderline corrupt scorecard in the massive Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez boxing match. Her 118-110 score for Canelo just didn’t make any sense. But worse: when combined with 115-113 Golovkin and 114-114 scores, it resulted in the fight being declared a split draw. No one’s happy with a freakin’ draw, and Byrd was singled out and accused of trying to straight up rig the fight for Canelo.

Now it seems like her time ‘away’ is over, as she made her return to UFC judging in Nevada at UFC 222. Joe Rogan reacted in horror on the broadcast when he learned that, and over the course of the night the judges put forward a lot of not so great scores that resulted in the event tying the record for most split decisions in UFC history.

Byrd didn’t exactly give MMA fans a reason to cheer her return with the scores she delivered over the course of the night. She was the lone judge to score the Dern-Yoder fight for Yoder, and while she had Sal D’Amato on her side giving the Caraway-Stamann fight to Stamann, many felt it should have gone to Caraway. Neither fight was such a blowout that these scores could be considered egregious, but you could make the argument that they were objectively wrong. Or you could sigh and say ‘Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.’

Judging has a way of slipping under the radar so long as the right person ends up winning. For example, not a lot of people are talking about how crazy it is that Marcos Rosales scored the Zingano-Vieira fight for Zingano, because in the end Vieira won as she should have. But that’s a bad scorecard, one that shouldn’t be acceptable to the people who administrate the sport and the judges in it.

But considering Adalaide Byrd is still getting judging gigs after causing a straight up scandal in the most important boxing fight of 2017, you know these jobs are not being carefully reviewed to make sure the best people available are being used. That’s all the crazier considering this is Nevada we’re talking about. Las Vegas is one of the fight capitols of the world! Just through the sheer number of important events going down, you’d think the commission would have this figured out.

The judging issue came up during the UFC 222 post-fight press conference and Dana White spent some time sitting silently thinking about an appropriate answer before finally sighing and saying “I don’t know. I don’t even know what to say about that.” Everyone is pretty aware that the judging in Nevada doesn’t live up to its important position in the combat sports world, and there’s no sign things will change.

The issue in Nevada is much bigger than Adalaide Byrd. She’s just the perfect punching bag because she embodies the lack of consistent competency that makes judging in the state such a crapshoot.

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