(Photo courtesy of FightMagazine.com)
This morning I woke up, fed the dog his usual breakfast of Golden Grahams and uncooked bacon, made myself some coffee, and then sat down to watch the Tom Lawlor-Aaron Simpson fight once again, this time without furiously typing as it was happening. I didn’t do this because I necessarily felt that it was a horrible decision. You let a fight stay that close while also gassing out down the stretch, it’s like running your ancient space heater next to your collection of oily rags — sympathy is going to be hard to come by when something bad happens.
I went back and watched the fight again only because I wanted to see if my initial assessment of the first frame as a 10-8 round for Lawlor held up under closer scrutiny. The verdict? Absolutely. Which is why it might be worth having a discussion about what a 10-8 round really looks like.
Less than thirty seconds into the fight Lawlor first stung Simpson with a straight left/right uppercut combo. Less than a minute later he put Simpson in serious trouble for the first time, battering him with a barrage of punches. Simpson would get rocked badly at least two more times in the round. Perhaps more importantly, he never offered any effective offense of his own. All he did was survive.
There’s something to be said for surviving. Sometimes it’s the best you can do. But if we look at the 10-9 score the judges gave Lawlor for that first round, and then we look at the 10-9 score that two of the three judges gave Simpson for round 2, well, that’s when we have to admit to ourselves that something is wrong here.
The reason you score a round 10-8 is to give appropriate credit to one fighter for thoroughly dominating his opponent. The reason you give a 10-9 is to indicate that it was at least somewhat close, but one guy had a distinct edge. If there’s no distinct edge? 10-10. This is, at least in theory, the way it’s supposed to work.
For some reason MMA judges like to act like 10-9 is the only score they know how to write down. That’s not to say that a 10-8 first round would have kept the Virginia fans from booing their heads off once the decision was announced. If you give Lawlor a 10-8 first, and then Simpson a 10-9 second and third, what you have there is a draw, which will make even the tamest audience irate.
But if we’re not distinguishing between a dominant round and a close round, what’s the point of judging individual rounds? If nearly finishing a guy and taking no damage in response counts for the same as doing just slightly better than a guy, we might as well be using an applause-o-meter to decide the winner. At least then almost finishing a fight might count for something.