Following each UFC event, The MMA Corner will dive into the decision victories on the card and grade the performance of the event’s official judges. In this edition, we look at UFC 174, which featured a questionable split-decision call in a heavyweight bout between Andrei Arlovski and Brendan Schaub.

No matter how hard fans hope for a world where judges’ decisions don’t frustrate the masses, the simple fact is that controversial decisions come with the territory. Judges, much like referees, can only operate from their own standpoint and call it the way they see it from where they sit, but there come times when they slip up and either miss the obvious, seem to not pay attention or ultimately prove their inexperience by awarding the fight to the wrong individual.

UFC 174 delivered a total of seven decisions. For the most part, the judges were on point with this past Saturday’s scores in Vancouver. In fact, the brunt of the decisions on the card were unanimous verdicts, leaving little room for controversy. Even a split decision between Valérie Létourneau and Elizabeth Phillips in the FX-televised prelims appeared to turn in something of a fair call, with Letourneau emerging as the victor. However, there was the questionable call by the judges in awarding Andrei Arlovski the nod over Brendan Schaub.

What happened exactly? Things started off looking like they might go in Arlovski’s favor. He landed 18 of his strikes against Schaub’s total of six landed within the first round. The second round saw Schaub execute a takedown attempt to no avail, but he did land a higher percentage of strikes. Both men scored 10 strikes in the second round, but all 10 of Schaub’s strikes landed were factored in as significant strikes, whereas only six of Arlovski’s 10 held the same distinction.

The third round seemed like an absolute no-brainer in terms of scoring. Schaub threw 91 total strikes and landed 49 of them. Of the 91 he threw, only 44 were considered to be significant strikes, and Schaub landed just 15 of those. Schaub still delivered on 34 percent of his significant strikes, plus he secured a solid takedown. In comparison, Arlovski threw a total of 27 strikes and landed 12 of them. Out of those totals, only 14 of those 27 strikes thrown counted as significant strikes, and Arlovski only landed one of those 14 attempted significant strikes.

In terms of those statistics, Schaub should have earned a 29-28 score, but he only got it from Tony Weeks, one of the three cageside judges that scored the bout. Arlovski, on the other hand, received scores of 29-28 from judges Sal D’Amato and David Therien, thus granting him the win. D’Amato and Therien both gave Arlovski the first two rounds and only gave Schaub the third round.

As much as Arlovski has grown from the man whose chin had been rocked and cracked by the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Sergei Kharitonov and Brett Rogers outside of the UFC, the 29-28 scores in his favor make no sense. Outside of Arlovski defending the takedown, it was Schaub who took control of the round and delivered on what he aimed to do. He landed more significant strikes in the second frame—10, compared to Arlovski’s six—and a higher percent of total strikes.

At best, Arlovski took the first round, but could not keep it up in the second and third stanzas. The stats prove how much more effectively Schaub battled in that fight in contrast to Arlovski, even if the bout did not deliver on the promises of a heavyweight slugfest that many predicted before the card kicked off.

We dug deep into the judging backgrounds of the guys who brought the MMA world the outright miscarriage of justice that was the Diego Sanchez vs. Ross Pearson decision, and so we will allow for the same with Weeks, D’Amato and Therien.

D’Amato has scored the likes of Joseph Benavidez vs. Dominick Cruz I at WEC 42, the infamous UFC 112 headliner of Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia, and the Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson lightweight tilt from UFC on Fox 10 earlier this year. In fact, D’Amato was one of the two men who actually scored Henderson-Thomson in favor of the former WEC and UFC lightweight champion.

Weeks, the one judge who awarded the fight to Schaub, may have been the most experienced judge at UFC 174. His record of major fights judged dates back to UFC 33 in 2001, before the beginning of the Zuffa era of the UFC. Weeks serves as no stranger to controversy in his own right. He scored the first encounter between Leonard Garcia and Nam Phan in favor of Garcia, and Frankie Edgar’s UFC 150 clash with “Bendo” in favor of Edgar.

Therien’s first decisions within the UFC came at UFC 113 in 2010. He had not submitted a dissenting opinion in a split verdict until UFC 174, when he scored the Létourneau-Phillips bout in favor of Phillips. He may have landed in the majority in awarding the split decision to Arlovski, but it counts as another questionable score on his record.

Most of the media agreed that Schaub earned the 29-28 score, though some dissented. Sherdog scored the bout in favor of Schaub, with TJ DeSantis and Tristen Critchfield seeing it at 29-28 and Chris Nelson giving Schaub a 30-28. Meanwhile, MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas had the bout as a 30-27 for Schaub, and the people at Cage Pages had the bout as a draw. Of the media members who scored the bout, only Jesse Holland of MMA Mania concurred with the 29-28 scores that went Arlovski’s way. The MMA Corner’s own Rob Tatum scored the bout 29-28 for Schaub, in what looked like a clear, albeit very ugly showing.

Needless to say, Schaub’s loss to Arlovski was not the only fight to end in a split-decision outcome, and it certainly was not the only bout on the card that had the judges divided. The FX-televised prelim of Elizabeth Phillips and Valérie Létourneau. In a bout that saw all three rounds of action on the feet, Létourneau and Phillips battled valiantly to turn the tide in their favor. Phillips definitely threw a higher total in terms of both head shots and distance shots, while Létourneau controlled the distance in round one, then excelled in round two by landing more than Phillips in every realm, save for the leg kick department. Létourneau finally sealed the deal with a performance in the third round that mirrored that of her second round.

Still, the judges disagreed. D’Amato and Therien, along with John Cooper, judged this bout. This was Cooper’s first decision at the UFC level. D’Amato and Cooper scored the bout at 29-28 in favor of Létourneau, just as most of the media did, but Therien scored the bout 29-28 for Phillips. D’Amato and Cooper gave Phillips the first round, scoring the second and third rounds for Létourneau. Meanwhile, Therien inexplicably gave Phillips the second round in addition to the first frame. Phillips definitely deserves the 10-9 score in the first round, but her punches began to gradually do less damage to Létourneau as the fight progressed through the last two rounds. Létourneau delivered a higher output in terms of strikes and significant strikes landed compared to Phillips in the second and third periods.

D’Amato and Therien would go on to score Rory MacDonald’s win over Tyron Woodley at 30-27 in favor of MacDonald, and both judges had UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson’s victory over Ali Bagautinov as a 50-45 score for the champ.

We can give D’Amato an overall grade of a C. No controversy should ever surround the top two bouts on the bill, and D’Amato’s scores for the MacDonald-Woodley and Johnson-Bagautinov match-ups accurately reflected how MacDonald and Johnson performed. We cannot cut D’Amato much leeway, though, for the way he scored Arlovski-Schaub, but he did get Létourneau-Phillips correct.

Therien scored the top two bouts on the card accurately as well, but the guy cannot get much leeway for the score that he gave Arlovski. Furthermore, his notion that Phillips took two rounds against Létourneau makes equally little sense. With that in mind, it makes sense to peg the guy with a D, solely because, once again, he did not try to claim a case for either Woodley or Bagautinov winning their respective fights.

Weeks, of course, will get a solid A for this card, partially for seeing what the MMA world saw in Arlovski-Schaub. He also scored Saturday bouts in favor of three men—Ryan Bader, Michinori Tanaka and Yves Jabouin—who swept their fights on the scorecards.

Judges’ Grades

Richard Bertrand: A
John Cooper: A
Sal D’Amato: C
David Therien: D
Tony Weeks: A
Tony Williamson: A

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.