"Asian brother can't get no love!"
So said Nam Phan, magnanimous and self-effacing after Leonard Garcia received an early Christmas gift following their bout last night at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale in Las Vegas. It has little to do with his ethnicity, however, as he could've been Eminem or Lil' Wayne and still got "No Love" from those judges scoring the first ever televised featherweight contest in UFC history.
What should have been a moment celebrating the arrival of the exciting lighter weight classes to national prominence was instead a brutal exhibition of institutionalized incompetence. For most in attendance and every spectator at home, Phan clearly dominated Garcia with pinpoint combination-striking that battered his opponent's midsection and often connected cleanly to the head. By every measure of damage incurred and points scored while standing, Phan should've run away with a decision.
An unpolished product of Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque, Garcia is no stranger to controversial decisions. Earlier this year he was the recipient of a decision victory over Chan Sung Jung that was universally viewed as a clear win for the Korean, except in the eyes of the judges. Against Phan, Garcia landed a few looping hooks and a couple of takedowns throughout the fight, but never connected as solid or as often as Phan. As always, Garcia was constantly throwing punches and that likely won him the fight despite being wildly inactive. I must admit that although I was dismayed by the split decision nod for Garcia, I wasn't exactly stunned; again, it has become institutionalized incompetence.
Speaking with Joe Rogan after the fight, the former WEC title contender agreed with the discontent of the crowd in attendance.
Later in the broadcast, Joe Rogan touched on the plight he considers to be "ruining MMA", imploring viewers to pressure athletic commissions to "clean house" by wiping out inept judges. While that would certainly alleviate some of the problems, bringing in judges who understand and will enforce the Unified Rules of Combat simply isn't enough to rid the sport of egregious decisions.
As Nelson "Doc" Hamilton has admitted, judges are crippled by poor vantage points around the Octagon. Even from a relatively high perspective I had difficulty following the action when I attended UFC 88 in Atlanta. From the floor seats of the arena, I can only imagine how murkily the in-ring action is conveyed.
That's why I think a set of monitors with fixed angles, out of the hands of a television director, should by set up by each sanctioning body so that judges - inept or not - are presented with a clear, high-definition perspective of the action. Opponents to this idea will consider it costly. I say to them, if athletic commissions are unable or unwilling to provide the best possible officiating for the sport, they don't deserve to govern it.
Fighters train under highly demanding schedules and sacrifice their bodies for our entertainment, often with little financial reward. The least they deserve is to know whether or not they truly won. Furthermore, it undermines the incremental gains of the sport to have its credibility questioned. Joe Rogan says a lot of controversial things, but he's damn right in saying that we have to nip in the bud any notion that MMA's flagship promotion is corrupt.