Posted by: Jon Luther on Dec 06, 2010
If Leonard Garcia wasn’t religious before Saturday night, he certainly should be now. Garcia’s controversial split decision victory over Nam Phan at The Ultimate Fighter 12 finale seemingly spoke more to divine intervention than it did to competent judging. The decision sent MMA fans everywhere into a frenzy, feeling that Phan, although less ‘aggressive’ throughout the bout, did considerably more damage than Garcia. Moreover, this is the latest in a long line of split decision victories that many fans feel Garcia has unfairly won.
With pitch forks raised and torches lit, MMA fans proceeded to sound off through any outlet available to them. There is no doubt that their anger was guided by UFC announcer Joe Rogan, claiming that the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), the overseeing body employing the judges who produced such controversial score cards, needed to “clean house.” Joe Rogan accused the commission of “incompetence” and leading fans to believe that the sport of mixed martial arts is corrupt through judging failure.
“If Joe Rogan wants to get on the air and call people names, that’s his business. I’m not going waste my time responding to that.” says Keith Kizer, head of the NSAC.
Briefly addressing Rogan’s criticism, Kizer points to hypocrisy on Rogan and the UFC’s part:
“They always say that ‘the UFC has nothing to do with judging.’ Well guess what, they’ve got a big fight coming up in Canada called Koscheck vs. Georges St. Pierre - the UFC and Marc Ratner are flying Tony Weeks up there as a judge. C’mon, Joe. How about some honesty? They’ve taken 90% of our officials with them overseas, as they should. That’s not a knock on Dana [White] and Marc [Ratner]; they know what they’re doing.”
Although Keith feels strongly that Joe Rogan addressed the issue in an inappropriate way, he does acknowledge that there are fair criticisms to be made of the score cards presented by NSAC-appointed judges Tony Weeks and Adelaide Byrd who scored the fight 29-28 for Garcia.
“Yeah, I have a problem with how they scored the third round. Definitely. I mean, they’re both very good judges which makes it all the more surprising.”
Kizer himself attended the event and scored the fight 30-27 for Nam Phan.
Addressing the suggestion to “clean house” that Joe Rogan put forth, Kizer insists that judges have been terminated by the NSAC based on poor overall performance.
“There have been judges that we’ve had here who we’ve sent packing. It didn’t work out. Every judge needs to stay sharp, but everyone makes mistakes.”
But Kizer claims that fans have overreacted on more than one occasion.
“You hear so many people cry ‘robbery’ about this and that. I get emails about it all of the time. I go back and watch the fight, and you say to yourself, ‘What? That wasn’t a robbery. The judges got it right!’”
“A lot of people were saying that about the Rampage vs. Machida fight. Even Dana White said that. You get people who love to overreact. Obviously there are people who want to feel superior than others, trash others. Maybe they are full of some self-hate, some self-pity… maybe that’s Rogan’s piece as well."
Kizer also thinks the tone of the outrage is unacceptable.
“There are ways to criticize professionally, ethically, effectively and legitimately. But then there are ways where you are just trying to make yourself look better.”
Kizer revealed that he approaches evaluating his judges on overall performance. He feels strongly that judges Weeks and Byrd have performed well overall.
“You treat it like a batting average. Say that you score the first 11 rounds of a boxing match right and you get the last round wrong. Sure, you should have gotten it 100% right, but you’ve got a 94% batting average and that’s not bad. But more often than not, when people complain about the judges, they’re just wrong. They are either wrong in the sense that the judges did in fact get it right, or they are wrong in the sense that it wasn’t a robbery and it could have gone either way.”
Although Kizer himself scored all rounds for Nam Phan and finds the criticism difficult to defend this time, he sees an argument that could be put forth for a Garcia victory:
“I’ve been getting all of these e-mails saying ‘What’s wrong with you? Phan dominated every round!’ and they’re wrong. You can give Phan that round but you can’t say he dominated. I think MMAWeekly scored that round to Garcia. I think MMAJunkie scored the third round for Garcia. You can’t tell me he ‘dominated’ those rounds.”
One thing is clear: Kizer defends Tony Weeks and Adelaide Byrd’s position at the NSAC:
“It’s like that one umpire who ruined that perfect game in baseball. You can’t be more wrong than that. But you ask the players and they think that, other than that, he’s one of the best umpires in the sport. He’s a top-5 umpire. You can’t screw up much worse than that, but you don’t get rid of him either.”