By Hal Estep
At UFC 247, the latest case in a long line of bad judging occurred.
For the second straight light heavyweight title fight, Jon Jones benefitted from going to a decision. Despite many saying that Thiago Santos beat Jones at UFC 239, winning rounds 1, 2 and 5 in their minds, that was debatable. Santos’ furious flurries of punches didn’t land consistently. Jon Jones did just enough to win that fight.
However, he certainly did not do enough against Dominick Reyes.
Dominick Reyes beat Jon Jones. Going into Round 5, Dana White had Reyes up 3-1. Daniel Cormier had Reyes up 3-1. Brett Okamoto had Reyes up 3-1. Big John McCarthy, the man who created the unified rules of MMA and set up the criteria by which fights are judged, had Reyes up 3-1. A small minority of fans had the fight 2-2 going into the 5th. Yet, somehow this didn’t translate to the judges’ scorecards.
Two of the three judges had it 2-2 going into round 5. The third judge inexplicably had Jones up 3-1.
Anyone watching the event accepted that four of the rounds couldn’t be argued. Rounds 1 and 2 belonged to Dominick Reyes. Reyes outstruck Jones in both rounds and knocked Jones down with a body punch in round 1.
And rounds 4 and 5 belonged to Jon Jones. Reyes had expended his energy in the first 3 rounds. It was his first time fighting into the championship rounds. Jon Jones is no stranger to five round fights, so he knew he could capitalize in the later rounds.
The third round is the only toss-up. Watching it live, I knew it was a round that could possibly go to Jones. Reyes outstruck Jon Jones in the third round. Looking at the judging criteria in place, this should take precedent. Damage is supposed to be the top consideration while scoring. Reyes stunned Jones early in the third round, and Jones did not stun Reyes at any point in the round.
What Jones did was control the octagon. He was always the one moving forward. However, this should only be considered if the round is even considering all of the other criteria. Reyes did more damage, Reyes landed more punches, and Jones couldn’t take him down in round 3. By all standards, this should have been a round given to Dominick Reyes.
The only reason I saw this round going to Jones is that the striking differential wasn’t massive and the champion usually gets the nod in close rounds. Unfortunately, that’s the way judging has typically gone. When the fight initially happened, I said that it wasn’t a robbery. I said I could see people going with Jon Jones winning the fight with a 48-47 score. I can’t see it anymore.
And I didn’t and still can’t see a 49-46 score. Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz were on point with their criticism of Joe Solis’ scorecard. There is not a universe in which Jon Jones won round 2. Yet somehow, two judges gave it to him. You would think that having the upper hand in striking in a round with no grappling would win the round, but apparently that’s not the case in Texas.
As Bruce Buffer announced the decision, Dominick Reyes exemplified the confusion of defeat while Jon Jones wore the surprise of victory. Jones said that his two takedowns won him the fight. However, those takedowns occurred well past the third round, the only round in which they would have truly made a difference in scoring. Not to mention that he did nothing with those takedowns.
There are two things clear after UFC 247. MMA judging needs to be repaired. And the solution isn’t open scoring. That will just make commentators and fans more hostile to judges during the fight. Hostility will make judges more prone to “make-up rounds” in the same way an NFL ref will have a “make-up call” after a controversial penalty.
The other thing that’s clear is that whoever fights Jon Jones next for the light heavyweight championship is going to have to either knock him out or make him tap. That’s easier said than done, but it’s clear that winning three rounds won’t be enough to defeat Jon Jones. Dominick Reyes should get a rematch, but more importantly, Dominick Reyes should be the UFC Light Heavyweight champion.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org