(Apparently, leaving your face open for repeated blows means you’re “dictating the action.” Photo courtesy of UFC.com)
So another Leonard Garcia fight is in the books, which means it’s time to ask the judges, once again: Are you guys totally blind, or just legally blind, so that, you know, you can make out shapes and degrees of light, that kind of thing?
Garcia’s split-decision victory over Nam Phan at Saturday’s TUF 12 Finale elicited immediate chants of “Bullshit!” from the Las Vegas fans, as well as a lengthy anti-NSAC rant from Joe Rogan. Did the judges see something we didn’t? Am I just biased by the fact that Phan is a likable underdog, and Garcia’s striking is an aesthetic nightmare that I can’t stand watching?
Well, no, as it turns out. According to FightMetric’s report on Phan/Garcia, the match should have been scored a 30-27 for Phan based solely on statistical effectiveness. Phan landed more “significant strikes” in every round, with only the first round being close (33-30 significant strikes in Phan’s favor). The second round was an obvious runaway for Phan (34-13 in the s.s. department, with a brief knockdown via side-kick) and the third was also a clear win for Phan (35-21). The only advantage Garcia had was his two takedowns (one apiece in rounds 2 and 3), neither of which led to any real damage.
But in the end, only one judge, Junichiro Kamijo, gave all three rounds to Phan. Adalaide Byrd and Tony Weeks saw it 29-28 for Garcia, meaning they both gave rounds 1 and 3 to Bad Boy, which is absolutely insane. One brief takedown in round three surpasses getting picked apart for the majority of the period? (By the way, Adalaide Bryd’s previous career highlights include scoring the Akiyama/Belcher fight at UFC 100 a 30-27 shutout for Akiyama.)
Yesterday, Sherdog’s Jason Probst did his best to defend the Garcia/Phan decision, which even Leonard Garcia seemed to disagree with at the time:
“While it was a close fight, there was no clear reason for giving Phan the first round, where Garcia out-landed him 3-to-1 and dictated most of the action. The second round was clearly Phan’s, and the third was pretty much a pick-‘em.”
Okay, first of all, the numbers clearly show that Garcia did not out-land Phan 3-to-1 in the first round — just LOL at that shit — and the third round was absolutely not a “pick-’em.” Most of us didn’t need a stats report to figure that out. But more important, I think, is Garcia’s history of consistently winning decisions like this. Against Phan, Chan Sung Jung, and his earlier split-decision win over Jameel Massouh, Garcia has fought through many rounds that could have “gone either way,” as lazy analysts might tell you. And yet the vast majority of those coin-flip rounds go to Garcia. Even when he was dominated by Mark Hominick at WEC 51, one judge actually called the fight for Leonard.
Now why is that? What are MMA judges really looking for when they judge fights, if they’re not looking at striking totals, effective grappling, and overall offensive efficiency? Specifically, why do they love Leonard Garcia so goddamned much? Is it because he throws everything into every one of his shots? Is it because he smiles at his opponents between rounds, pushes forward in the face of abuse, and seems generally unfazed by most of the strikes that land across his chin? Is it because of the loud noises he makes when whiffing those horrible left hooks of his? Do they appreciate that he usually enters round 3 completely gassed, but manages to stagger through to the last bell?
I think the judges in Garcia’s fights see a guy standing in the middle of the Octagon launching power-shot after power-shot and figure that he’s actively trying to finish the fight, no matter if those shots are landing or not. Jabs and body shots just aren’t dramatic enough for the judges, even when they are landing. It’s the new evolution of Stockton Rules — scoring the fight not by who would have won if the fight went on indefinitely, but who would have won if his punches actually landed, hypothetically speaking. Yes, that’s ridiculous, but I don’t know any other way to explain it.