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 Fight Night 42, which featured an extremely controversial split decision in the co-headlining affair between Ross Pearson and Diego Sanchez.

Nobody likes a controversial decision, but in the sports world, they do happen from time to time. Sometimes, a play gets called incorrectly and forces one team to lose an advantage, while at other times, a foul gets called on a player that committed no infraction, forcing them out of a game completely. Ultimately, these decisions, right or wrong, fall on the officials who are responsible for calling events right down the middle, regardless of any outside factors such as home-field advantages or crowd preferences as they may relate to teams and/or players.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, long seen as the apex of professional MMA promotions, came to Albuquerque, N.M., to host UFC Fight Night 42, co-headlined by a lightweight bout featuring The Ultimate Fighter 1 middleweight winner Diego Sanchez against The Ultimate Fighter 9 lightweight winner Ross Pearson.

Pearson clearly outstruck Sanchez in every round, both in terms of significant strikes and total strikes landed. Furthermore, he also scored the only knockdown of the fight when he dropped Sanchez in the second round. To top it all off, both Pearson and Sanchez attempted takedowns in the second round, but only Pearson could complete his attempt.

When the judges submitted their scorecards, everyone expected a clear victory to go the way of “The Real Deal,” but, for whatever reason, the judges disagreed. Still, despite one judge thinking Sanchez won and the other thinking Pearson won, there appeared little chance of the third judge getting it wrong, didn’t there? After all, just because the fight went down in New Mexico, it didn’t mean that the judges would ignore Pearson’s output in the aforementioned aspects of the bout, right?

Alas, we all thought wrong on that front. Chris Tellez, whose only UFC judging entries in the archive came at the UFC Fight Night 42 event, scored the bout 29-28 for Sanchez, giving him the first and third frames in line with the 10-point must system. Longtime veteran Marcos Rosales, who has scored a multitude of bouts dating back to UFC 34 in 2001, scored the bout as a 30-27 sweep for Sanchez. The most baffling score of the night, which left many talking, came from Jeff Collins.

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Collins, allow for a moment to get brought up to speed. Collins has scored bouts for the UFC, WEC and Strikeforce in his day. The archive lists his first effort on a major show taking place in 2007. He is no stranger to scoring fights that actually appeared like close calls. He scored UFC 156’s headliner of Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar 48-47 in favor of Aldo, a UFC 132 tilt between Dennis Siver and Matt Wiman in favor of Siver, and Forrest Griffin-Tito Ortiz III, the co-main event of UFC 148, in favor of Griffin.

In that brief bit of knowledge is where Collins’ score becomes baffling. See, Collins scored the bout as a 30-27 sweep for Sanchez, not Pearson. This would suggest that all three rounds honestly could have gone either way, but the harsh reality of the situation reveals that Sanchez vs. Pearson proved about as one-sided as a three-round bout could get for Pearson. How one-sided of a fight could this bout have possibly been?

An avid MMA supporter can easily see the ridiculousness of the decision simply by looking around the MMA world and noting that every MMA media outlet and personality, from the folks at MMA Junkie to Adam Martin of MMA OddsBreaker, and even the Sherdog team of Jordan Breen, TJ DeSantis and Chris Nelson all scored the bout as a 30-27 sweep for Pearson. Credit Sanchez for coming to fight as he always does, but the official decision went in the wrong direction.

For once, that fact cannot be excused by simply saying “never leave it in the hands of the judges.” If it was not clear before, it’s clear now that a number of judges don’t know what they’re doing. They undergo training and education to learn exactly what to look for in bouts, but they cannot seem to get it correct on a consistent basis, and Collins’ score serves as an example of a downright miscarriage of justice, if ever a thing existed in this sport.

Had the bout actually turned in a close encounter for all three rounds, we could give that kind of score a letter grade of a “B” or a “C.” Either might make perfect sense, because, in that instance, one could at least say Sanchez definitely had an argument towards winning the fight. Obviously, in the event that Pearson had gotten a unanimous decision on Saturday, or even if the bout ended up being as clearly one-sided for Sanchez as that 30-27 score suggested, then an “A” would fit.

Still, we must slap an “F” on what must be, beyond a reasonable doubt, the most reprehensible score for what should’ve been one of the most clear decision wins in UFC lightweight history. Collins score helped assist an outcome which many have labeled as one of the worst decisions in the history of mixed martial arts, let alone the year or the UFC’s history. Unfortunately, this will not mark the final time we ever find ourselves enduring an atrocious case of MMA judging, but for the good of the sport, we must hope that judges like Collins will refrain from ever making mistakes like that again.

Thankfully, the card also featured three unanimous decision verdicts that made room for less controversy. Scott Jorgensen implemented his wrestling to defeat Danny Martinez in the first of the three, which would go on to win “Fight of The Night.” Lance Benoist outstruck and out-grappled Bobby Voelker in the second of the three, and the final unanimous verdict of the night saw Sergio Pettis defeat Yaotzin Meza in a bout that mostly took place on the feet, despite Meza’s ability to complete one of his takedowns.

Pettis-Meza and Benoist-Walker both saw Collins and Rosales in judging capacities, though both men would agree on the winners of those bouts. Veteran judge Sal D’Amato joined Collins and Rosales for both of the aforementioned preliminaries, and he agreed with Collins and Rosales on Pettis winning the first two rounds, with Meza winning the third, thanks in part to Meza landing a higher percentage of his strikes and completing one of his two takedown attempts of that round. However, D’Amato elected to give Benoist the second round against Voelker for a 30-27 sweep, whereas Collins and Rosales scored the frame for Voelker. Benoist’s case towards earning the second round does come from him completing a takedown attempt and landing a higher percentage of strikes, though Voelker certainly landed a higher volume.

Meanwhile, Tellez joined fellow Mark Sanchez and Levi Martinez in scoring Jorgensen vs. Danny Martinez, in which Jorgensen scored 10 total takedowns and passed his opponent’s guard at will. Whereas Tellez and Sanchez both scored the bout 29-28 for Jorgensen, due to Jorgensen’s takedowns and higher percentage of strikes landed in both the first and third rounds, Levi Martinez gave Jorgensen the second round. Danny Martinez scored a knockdown in round two and landed more strikes, but Jorgensen, to his credit, delivered on half of his takedown attempts and passed Martinez’s guard twice.

Judges’ Grades

Jeff Collins: F
Chris Tellez: D-
Marcos Rosales: A
Sal D’Amato: B
Mark Sanchez: B
Levi Martinez: B

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.