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What Does It Mean To Beat The Champion?

(Photo courtesy of Sherdog)

Juanito Ibarro is mad. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s trainer told Sherdog that his fighter “was robbed” on Saturday night. He even plans to protest the decision — one of those great and entirely symbolic acts on par with kicking dirt on the umpire’s shoes or voting for a third party presidential candidate.

At the heart of Ibarra’s complaints, it seems, are two points: 1) the first round should have belonged to Jackson on every judge’s scorecard, perhaps even as a 10-8 round, since the most significant action of the round was a knockdown from his right uppercut, and 2) you have to beat the champion.

On the first point, Ibarra has something of a case. Calling it 10-8 for Jackson is a stretch, but knocking Griffin down in a round that saw no other major action should be enough to win the opening frame. On the second point, well, this is where it begins to get tricky.

The conventional wisdom in the fight game says that you can’t win the title with a close decision. You have to go out and really take it away from the champion, either by finishing him or absolutely dominating him. Griffin didn’t do that. Whether you think the decision was the right one or not, the fight was certainly very close. But should the title change hands via razor-thin decision?

The question really asks us to consider whether there should be a different judging criteria for championship fights than the one we use in non-title bouts. This would mean that as they sit watching the fight at cageside, judges would be expected to take into account that there’s a belt on the line. As a result the challenger would need to do more to win than in any other fight.

It’s a strange logic, and one that privileges the champion a little too much. It’s easy to see where it comes from. Watching the title change hands on a close decision is always going to be unsatisfying, mainly because any close decision is going to upset someone.

But that doesn’t mean that the champion should necessarily get the advantage in any close contest. That makes him an incumbent who can hang on to his title as long he doesn’t get demolished. That will lead to champs who fight not to lose. It will also lead to challengers who are forced to fight with a sense of desperation.

The irony is that the champion is the guy who should require the least help from the judges. He’s supposed to be the best in the division, so why can’t he win on a level playing field?

As much as I can understand Ibarra’s frustration with how the bout was scored, the outcome seems justified, though the scoring of it also seems like a good indicator that MMA judges don’t always know how to translate what they see in the cage onto their ten-point must system score cards. When no one knows for sure what a 10-8 round really looks like in MMA, trouble is always right around the corner. Asking judges to take into account who is the champion and who the challenger is essentially asking them to change the rules based on the situation.

It may feel right to insist that you have to really take the title from the champ, but I don’t think it’s something we really want to see in practice. A bad decision will always be a bad decision, no matter who benefits from it. Just like a close decision will always leave someone feeling like they were robbed.

(-Ben Fowlkes)

Cagepotato Comments

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Rob- July 7, 2008 at 1:28 pm
Gotta disagree FOF, I think Forrest did do damage from the top. Those short elbows are no fun and could have opened up a cut. He was active throwing shots, he wasn't looking for a fight ending shot he was just trying to be annoying so that Rampage would block and give him an Americana (which he was working for) or turn and give him a choke.

I just don't see how you can equate one punch that wasn't even strong enough to end the fight, with one guy dominating an entire round. In the first round Forrest landed numerous punches and leg kicks, in the second round I don't think Rampage landed a single offensive blow.
FOF Athletics- July 7, 2008 at 1:13 pm
Good for Juanito. I agree that he knows Rampage lost, any honest fan can say that I think (and I've been down with Rampage since Pride, he's still my #1 guy). The argument for a 10-8 first round is only credible if you scored the second 10-8 for Forrest. Yeah he controlled, but he didn't do any damage (should've been stood up) after the take down. I score both 10-9 myself, can't see it any other way. Juanito has a point with the second stance as well, but it is just not feasible to judge that way and have consistency (the #1 problem with judges already). I think he is just saying these things to prove how close it was (it should've been a split) and b/c Rampage is more than a fighter to him, their relationship is grounded in almost a father and son role. If your son (or daughter) barely lost a fight, wouldn't you rationalize out loud too? He's biased, you would be too, that's all I'm trying to say. If you disagree with his statements say so respectfully, don't hurl insults at this guy. Juanito is one of the best trainers/coaches out there and has paid more dues in the game than many would care to or even been around long enough to pay.

Great Fight, Rematch in January -- RESPECT!
Rob- July 7, 2008 at 1:10 pm
With regard to the first round, while I initially thought Rampage took that round I understand giving it to Forrest. People tend to overvalue the big knockout style punch.

Assume for a second that in the second round Forrest gets that take down, works to the mount for the whole round, but then in the last 30 seconds rampage slips a leg in to get half guard and then gets a triangle. Forrest slips out, takes a second to recover and then the round ends. Would anybody give that round to Rampage. I've seen tons of fights where one guy is on top, he's controling the actions, he's landing shots but he's not really threatening to end the fight with his ground and pound, the guy on the bottom throws up a few submission which come close, but they lose it and end up in the same bad position. I have never once heard anyone complain after a round like that, that the guy who threw up one submission (which had it been perfect would have won the fight) should get the round.

Its the same thing with the knockout punch (which had it been perfect would have won the fight). If the other fighter escapes it and recovers should that really erase the entire round where they had the better position and were more aggresive.
Anonymous- July 7, 2008 at 4:58 am
lmao I can't tell the people genuinely criticizing the decision with the trolls.

1. Rampage landed more punches, but Forrest returned and landed alot of his own, it was probably a 3 to 4 ratio for rampage in punches.

2. Rampage didn't look damaged, but Forrest is notorious for looking damaged. He's clumsy and cuts easy as hell. Also "Battle Damage" isn't something that the judges score on, sorry.

3. Forrest probably landed more kicks than Rampage landed punches.

4. Forrest landed like 6 standing knees on Rampages head, another thing Rampage wasn't able to respond to.

5. Forrest was pushing the pace and being aggressive, Rampage spent most of the fight tentatively stepping backwards with occasional bull rushes with haymakers in the later rounds.

6. Rampage lost legitimately, but they both fought a good fight, stop crying you pussies.
Harry Triangle- July 7, 2008 at 1:46 am
So I guess some leg kicks and a sub attempt are enough to win a title in Eliteufc. Any decision was obviosly going to forrest no matter what happened in the fight. forrest is the ufcs kimbo.
BLS1919- July 7, 2008 at 1:13 am
Forrest was the man on that night. Page i love hime but he fought like he was scared of Forrest. Undoubtable Forrest did more damage , with his sick leg kicks in the first , third and las round. I wouldnt doubt Rampage has MCL?ACL damage after that fight. His knee buckled twice in the first. IMO Page didnt fight like a champ and Forrest made the best and gutted out a well deserved UD
Ryan R- July 6, 2008 at 11:27 pm
Ryan R- July 6, 2008 at 11:26 pm
Ok so everyone is saying jackson should of beat the hell outta griffin to keep the belt..But did griffin beat the hell outta jackson to win the belt?? I don't fucking thing so....look at the end of the match, jackson's face was CLEAN
ufc sucks- July 6, 2008 at 10:01 pm
funny how many people are defending the fact that the ufc isn't fixed. remember the good old days in pride, elbows on the ground are gay they just cut ban the ground elbows
Rick furious- July 6, 2008 at 9:50 pm
Y is every one saying rampage won the first round forrest was the pusher the whole round yea he got caught but just for a slit second and then recoverd in seconds to control jackson in the guard...I was only able to see rounds 1 2 and 5 and forrest one them i havent seen the the other yet...And also look at jacksons face when the were waiting for the word he new he lost that says it...
PhiGam25- July 6, 2008 at 9:37 pm
All I know is...

Dana and the Fertittas are engaging in mutual masterbation in the fact that they have a legit... YES LEGIT, Griffin won that fight... Champion from the Ultimate Fighter show.

Also, the 10-must system is a crock for MMA. If there is no knockdown a fight is typically called 10-9... rarely called 10-10. 10-8's are for if a knockdown occurs. Considering many a takedown happen in MMA, you can't just keep reducing points or make a call on a 10-8. If you want to give Rampage that credit for the knockdown in the first, which I do, I would have called that first round 9-8 Griffin or even potentially since Forrest was dominating him striking that first round a 9-9 round.

It's over and pointless sounding off on a message board. Griffin is champ. There will be a rematch and you guys can complain about Griffin getting screwed that time. Then we can have everyone's favorite Rubber match even further down the line.
KG- July 6, 2008 at 8:35 pm
If someone actually spends the time to read the post above me (Jared) you need to get a life
Mike- July 6, 2008 at 8:31 pm
We must continue to pound out the words of Ibarra in respect to his retirement if Rampage lost to Griffin. he must retire now, but of course he wont. It would be nice though to rid the cage of that guy and his ulgy ass hat.
Ronnie Dobbs- July 6, 2008 at 8:01 pm
I like the basketball analogy, Rob.

We're all preaching to the choir on the 10pt system, it's a crock. A misjudged round in boxing is nowhere near as influential as a misjudged round in mma.

On topic, do people really think the UFC is better off with Forrest as champ? Quinton was tailor-made to be the UFC posterboy, I can't see Dana wanting him out.
Rob- July 6, 2008 at 7:52 pm
I agree you really can't call a 10-8 round for a knockdown because then after one fighter gets a decent shot they can just retreat and avoid for the rest of the round, then as long as they don't get knocked down during the fight they are garunteed not to lose.

Personally I just feel that if your not moving forward you should never complain about losing a decision. If both fighters are pushing the action at every opportunity then we wouldn't have to worry about decisions.
Who Cares- July 6, 2008 at 7:44 pm
This isn't boxing you can't call its a 10 - 8 round for just a knockdown. I really do think they need to get a more stable way for calling the fights Because i don't think round 2 was a 10 - 8 round for Forrest either.

The 2 leg kicks hurt jackson. but other then that what did forrest really do? A few sub attempts and he Hugged him even in the mount. He had the mount for 2 whole minutes and never once postured up to throw any hard punches he just rubbed his forarm in his face. If laying on someone for 4 minutes in a round gets you 10 - 8 then every Round Sean Sherk had against Florian should have been a 10 - 8

Bottom line i had it Jackson 48 - 47 but rounds 3 and 5 were so close i could live with someone having it 48 - 47 Forrest too.
the king- July 6, 2008 at 7:11 pm
Rampage didnt look good in the fight at all. I think the score went down like it should yeah it was close but if you had to give it one of em you give it to forest he clearly wanted it more and he HURT jackson not the other way around. The basic point is that Jackson fans are looking at this fight with a LOT of baggage. some of it is Race related which the stupidest thing I have heard, but most of it comes from they think every time he swings its a ko and it connects. Half the punches missed! they look great for a comicbook or a movie action scene but he MISSED thats why forest didnt get koed this Coach guy needs to grow a pair and just let it go you lost thats it this aint no crap ass cheap sport like boxing dont go and complain thats for all the weak ass boxers who cant fight a real fight if they had to
Armbreaker- July 6, 2008 at 7:10 pm
Ibarra needs to shut up and retire like he said he would if Rampage lost. Also, Rampage said during TUF that he guaranteed the fight with Forrest would not go to a decision. I guess Rampage and Ibarra aren't men of their word.
Rob- July 6, 2008 at 6:53 pm
Good point Wyatt, I'm not a fan of the 10 point must system either, we've seen fights before where one fighter will dominate a round, but be just shy of a 10-8 round and then next round the other guy wins the round by a razor thin margin and its tied, that makes no sense. Imagine an NBA game where at half time the road team is winning at the half 50 to 49, then the home team comes out in the second half and scores 75 points to the road teams 51 and the final is 125-100, but wait the game is a draw because one team won the first half and the other won the second half. It just wouldn't make any sense.

As for the Champ being given some advantage where the contender has to do more to take the belt thats only coming up because it was Rampage who is a very popular fighter. Imagine if it was Tim Sylvia with the belt not pushing the action, backing away, only occasionaly throwing a a few punches. I doubt then that people would be saying that the champion should always keep the belt in a close decision.

I agree with the outcome of the Griffin/Jackson fight because Griffing pressed the action and kept the fight at the temp he wanted. The guy moving forward, exposing himself by throwing punches is taking a risk, and I think that should continue to be rewarded on the judge's score cards.
Plain old Kevin- July 6, 2008 at 6:32 pm
In this case it looked as if the Champ needed to do more to retain the belt. Easily a draw. No way Griffin won the first, third, or fourth. Rampage is hard on himself so he thought he lost at first because he did not stop Griffin. Does not change the fact that the fight was scored incorrectly. The Champ should never get any special treatment, but should be treated equally. If it was a draw, which it should have been, a rematch would still be great to watch and get just as much attention.
Kingsac- July 6, 2008 at 6:09 pm
@ JustinD

Agreed the leg kicks took a lot out of Rampage.

But Rampage LOOKED unprepared prior to the fight even starting. He looked softer, less defined, less muscular, than he has in all of his previous fights.

I saw more of Rampage on TV shows, promoting video games, doing press than ever before. Yes he is a popular fighter now, yes he is a great entertainer, but in the end he is a fighter. You can't take your opponent lightly, which is what I belive Rampage did, through poor training and what seemed to be no game plan.

As a fight fan, I was disapointed to see Rampage show up unprepared, and look like he didn't train at all.

I don't want to make excuses for Rampage, Forrest showed up and did his thing. But I left that fight thinking Rampage didn't prepare for it at all, even his ho hum response to losing confirmed he didn't really care that much. Even his no more 9 mo. off break lead me to believe he wasn't fit at all.
johnnynormal- July 6, 2008 at 6:03 pm
Well written BF, as always. I didn't see the fight so I can't say much on that. But I will say this... it's completely rediculous (idiotic) to say you should have to destroy the champ to get the belt. Either competitor must win, based on a standard set of criteria, unfortunately the criteria (if it goes to decision) is up to subjective judgement in MMA, deal with it. Every fighter knows if you leave it in the judges hands it's a crap shoot, Rampage has no one to blame but himself for not taking the subjective decision making out of it. Congrats Forrest!
SilvaRampageIII- July 6, 2008 at 6:01 pm
I was definately rooting for rampage the entire time, but even I, a fan, knew tha ass soon as the bell ran after the fifth round, Rampage had lost to a far lesser fighter.
JustinD- July 6, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Yea Rampage looked like he was off his game, it was due to Forrest's leg kicks. Rampage lost alot of his striking speed and his ability to shoot for a takedown.

Rampage was also limping out of the ring.
Paulito25- July 6, 2008 at 5:50 pm
IM actually surprised to be reading a lot of these posts on here. Did you guys actually watch the same fight that I did? Forrest OUT FOUGHT Rampage. The only time Rampage looked better than Forrest was with the uppercut, and also when Forrest went to take Rampage down, but Rampage ended up on top.
Saturday night Forrest was a much better fighter and in my opinion completly out scored, and out fought Rampage.