(Dana White called UFC 169 a “10-decision, record-breaking catastrophe.” / Photo via Getty)
By Matt Saccaro
To say the UFC had an off night with UFC 169 would be an understatement. True, the card was record-breaking, but in the worst way possible. It featured more fights ending in a decision than any other fight card in UFC history. So many fights going to the judges isn’t a result of just bad luck. There are a few factors at play when a fight goes to a decision.
First, the fighters could be so evenly matched they either complement or negate one another. The former can result in a match like Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua or, to delve further into MMA’s past, Tyson Griffin vs. Clay Guida. The latter kind a fight—one between negating styles of equally matched fighters—results in any dime-a-dozen decision that features long bouts of stalling against the cage or ineffective, listless striking. The kind of fights the UFC presented to us in spades last night, and have been peddling on prelims (and even main cards) for a while now.
An aside: Some might say an evenly matched fight is the pinnacle of booking and Joe Silva should be commended every time we get a decision. In title fights and other circumstances, that’s fair enough. Prelims are a different matter. Putting two, equally mediocre guys together—who were both ripped from the regional teat too early in order to fill an ever-expanding schedule—resulting in a piss-poor decision does nothing in terms of booking. Fans won’t remember the fighter who won a 15-minute sparring match or clinch-fest, and if they do, they probably won’t want to see them fight again.
Second, the fighters could be risk-averse. Dana White admitted the UFC roster is bloated. Along with the ballooning roster came surprising cuts like Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami. Top ten fighters get canned like the lowliest of one-and-done jobbers. Under such circumstances, it’s no surprise that the UFC’s athletes would rather fight the safe fight and take as few risks as possible, which usually means a forgetful decision win that doesn’t please the fans.
Third, and this might be controversial to the meat-headed “WHY DON’T YOU STEP INTO THE CAGE, BRO” fans, the fighters might not be very good. They might be C-level fighters that were called up to the big leagues way to soon—fighters that are too green and put on performances that belong at a local show, not the “Super Bowl of MMA.” These fighters go into the Octagon and put on graceless performances akin to awkward middle school photos.
Decisions aren’t inherently inferior though. We shouldn’t malign a fight for going to the judges. Some of the greatest fights in MMA history were decisions. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson went to a decision, as did Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua, Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez, and “the fight that saved the UFC,” Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar I, as well as many others.
Instead, we should malign the booking, or the fighting style(s), or the UFC’s insistence on polluting their cards with sub-UFC level fighters.