Anik’s Column: Scoring the main event of UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Strickland

Anik’s Column: Scoring the main event of UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Strickland

2022 has been a historic year of upsets in mixed martial arts. Unfortunately, the distrust of judges scoring the fights is overshadowing the end of the year.

At Bellator 289, a judge scored the main event 50-45 for Danny Sabatello, while the other two scored it 48-47 for the winner and interim bantamweight champion, Raufeon Stots. At UFC 282, a card filled with violent finishes was ruined by the judges’ scoring of the co-main and main event. Most of the media and fans scored Jared Gordon a clear winner in the co-main event. However, all three judges scored a 29-28 unanimous decision, giving opponent Paddy Pimblett the victory.

The criteria in which judges score fights are questioned, as shocking scorecards are sometimes turned in. In the UFC’s final event last weekend, the judges awarded #3 ranked middleweight Jared Cannonier a split decision victory (49-46, 49-46, 46-49) over #7 ranked Sean Strickland.

Here is how I scored the fight:

Round 1: Cannonier landed good leg kicks and the threat of his right hand kept Strickland back, but very few significant strikes connected. Strickland’s volume of jabs resulted in slightly more touches to Cannonier’s face, and he also landed some strikes in the clinch. In a very close and low-output round, Strickland’s connecting jabs, clinch strikes, and takedown were the deciders for me. 10-9 Strickland

Round 2: Strickland started off the round accurately snapping his jab and landing a few short flurries of punches. However, Cannonier’s heavy leg kicks and the threat of his overhand right kept Strickland at a distance. He did land a few power punches, one of which caused Strickland’s nose to bleed. In an almost even round, Cannonier’s power punches seemed to have slightly more impact than Strickland’s combinations of jabs. 10-9 Cannonier; 19-19

Round 3: Once again, Strickland started off the round by pumping his jab, but Cannonier landed a couple of big right hands and one right hook as the round went on, while Strickland’s output decreased. This round was slightly clearer for me because Cannonier controlled the pace throughout the second half of it. 10-9 Cannonier; 29-28 Cannonier

Round 4: Cannonier ended the round with one big left hand. Other than that, Strickland threw more combinations, primarily his left jab and left hook which landed more frequently on Cannonier. He controlled the pace most of the round. 10-9 Strickland; 38-38

Round 5: Strickland frequently hit Cannonier clean with his left hook, including wobbling him at the beginning of the round. Cannonier did land a few big right hands, one of which caused Strickland’s nose to bleed again. However, Strickland routinely hit Cannonier more with combinations. Strickland 10-9; 48-47 Strickland

In a fight where one judge gave it four rounds to one in favor of Strickland, and the other two gave it four rounds to one in favor of Cannonier, many would wonder if they scored the same fight. After watching it myself, I believe every round except the third was razor thin. I had Strickland as the winner, but based on viewing, I am content with a 49-46 scorecard going either way.

However, based on a statistics perspective, how could Strickland lose a fight by decision, where he landed over double the significant head strikes? He had 126 to Cannonier’s 57. Cannonier did dominate the leg kick department, but are leg kicks now more important than head strikes?

The fight was very close and not at all a robbery from a viewing perspective, but it was the opposite from a statistical standpoint. What should be weighted more: Strickland’s great defense and volume punches or Cannonier’s few but thunderous right hands and leg kicks?

Consistency is necessary from the judges; however, it is a tough ask when it is not clear what is valued more: power or volume.


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