Judging in mixed martial arts is one of the most controversial topics in the sport. Every fan, media member and fighter has a strong opinion, and most agree that something needs to change. This topic goes to the forefront when a bad decision takes place in a huge main-event fight or when a fighter is clearly robbed. However, if you look deeper, the problem in judging is widespread and is even there when the right fighter wins the fight.

Last weekend at Bellator, one of the worst judges’ scorecards in history was handed in, yet no one is really talking about it.

The fight was the opening bout of the main card between Terry Etim and Patrick Cenoble. The fight wasn’t the most action-packed by any means, but Etim absolutely dominated Cenoble and earned a unanimous decision victory. The right guy won the fight, but all three judges had different scores. One scored the fight 30-27, another 30-26, and the final judge scored it 29-28 for Etim. Inconsistency abounded in all of those scores, but the more-than-troubling one was the 29-28 score.

No one in their right mind could have scored that fight for Cenoble. I even had my 47-year-old mother, who has never watched an entire fight before, watch that contest. She said that Etim won pretty much every second of that fight. If you combine the sentiments of people that are really knowledgeable about the sport with some that really don’t know much and they agree, the decision shouldn’t be up in the air. The fact that a man whose job is to judge fights scored one of those rounds for Cenoble is a huge problem.

All of this goes to show that we need to be even more critical of MMA judging than we already are. We can’t just scream bloody murder and call for change when Johny Hendricks gets robbed of a title. We have to pay more attention, and athletic commissions need to do a better job of monitoring the scores that their judges turn in.

It’s time that at the end of the night—not necessarily the end of the fight, because of the lack of time—judges should have to offer explanations for their decisions. This needs to be especially true when they submit a sketchy card. If the judge cannot substantially justify why he scored the fight differently than what is widely regarded as the right decision, that judge should be reprimanded. Whether it is a suspension, making the judge go to seminars, or sending that judge back down to the amateur ranks to get more experience, something must be done.

It isn’t always the judges’ faults. The scoring system is a convoluted mess of vagueness as it is and, quite frankly, commissions put guys in there to judge big fights that simply have no business in doing so. The fact that damage is not one of the deciding factors when it comes to determining who wins a fight is absolute blasphemy. I don’t necessarily think that the 10-point must system is the source of the problem. The problem is the criteria that the judges are supposed to follow to get to that point. The criteria are the first thing that needs to change.

With all of that being said, it was the fault of the judge for scoring a round for Cenoble. Even with the criteria that are now in place, Etim wins every round of that fight easily. The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission should have pulled that judge aside immediately following the event and yanked him from any upcoming gigs until he could adequately score a fight. If the athletic commissions aren’t paying close enough attention, we as media members and fans should be. We should pay attention to every scorecard that is handed in, and if something as crazy happens as what took place in that Etim fight, then we should throw a fit about it. The 10 minutes of complaining on Twitter certainly wasn’t enough. We should continue to dwell on it and pester the athletic commission until real change happens.

Photo: Terry Etim (L) battle Patrick Cenoble (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.