A Champion’s Decision: Truth or Fiction?

Following this past weekend’s UFC 150 event in Denver, there has been plenty discussion regarding the judge’s decision in the main event. Personally, I had Edgar winning the fight 49-46 and find it very odd two judges were able to give Henderson the nod 48-47. Although I feel for Edgar, the age old rhetoric from Dana White is “Don’t leave it in the judge’s hands.”

DW makes a very valid point and there are a handful of current and past champions who consistently let their fights go the full 5 rounds, namely: Dominick Cruz, Frankie Edgar, Benson Henderson and Georges St. Pierre.

So I wanted to do my best journalistic investigation and come up with some statistics regarding championship fights that go the distance. In order to articulate the most accurate research, I dated back 3 years to UFC 101 and calculated all championship fights, including interim championships, to see how many championship contests actually went the distance. Here’s what I found out.

Bantamweight:                                  3 Fights, 3 Decisions

Featherweight:                                   3 Fights, 2 Decisions

Lightweight:                                        8 Fights, 5 Decisions

Welterweight:                                    4 Fights, 4 Decisions

Middleweight:                                    5 Fights, 1 Decision

Light Heavyweight:                      6 Fights, 2 Decisions

Heavyweight:                                    5 Fights, 0 Decisions

Totals:                                                     34 Fights, 17 Decisions

As you can tell from the numbers above, over the last 3 years 50% of all title fights have ended in decision. Meaning, half of all championship matches are decided by KO, TKO or Submission. Based on this statistic you can surely see why UFC President Dana White constantly reminds his fighters not to leave it in the hands of the judges.

However if we dig even deeper into these numbers we are going to see an alarming statistic. Namely, by separating these divisions in two categories, lighter weight divisions and heavier weight divisions, I noticed a stark contrast in the final results.

In the lighter weight divisions (170lb and under) there have been 18 championship fights in the last 3 years. 14 of these fights have gone to a decision, for a dismal 22% finishing rate.

In the heavier weight divisions (185lbs and above) there have been 16 championship fights in the last 3 years.  3 of these fights have gone to a decision, for a whopping 81% finishing rate.

In conclusion, it’s all said and good to say real champions finish fights. However it sure helps to have that extra muscle behind your strikes and in your submissions. History shows us that an elite level lighter weight fighter is less likely to finish an elite level opponent within 5, 5 minute rounds.

If this is the case, perhaps we shouldn’t be as hard on the Frankie Edgars and Benson Hendersons of the world and should focus that criticism towards MMA judging. If history tells us anything, judges are going to determine the fate of the lighter weight championships for years to come.

As an MMA community, we need to be less critical of our lighter weight champions and more critical of MMA judging. We all have an opinion on whether the judges got it right at UFC 150. However I’m sure we can all agree if we were fighting to accomplish our dream of being the champion, each of us would want the judges to be 100% competent in scoring the fight. Especially if there was a 78% chance these judges would be determining our entire future.

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