Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, although the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.
A fast-rising contender with a polarizing personality. An important test in a high-profile pay-per-view spot. A controversial decision.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
No, Paddy Pimblett and Jared Gordon aren’t Sean O’Malley and Petr Yan as far as the rankings go, nor did their UFC 282 fight have nearly the same stakes as that UFC 280 contest, but the verdict for both fights sparked a similar storm of outrage and an immediate call for a Robbery Review.
A call I answer with vigor.
Before we get into it, let’s see what some of the best and brightest in the MMA community had to say about Pimblett getting the nod over Gordon.
Anyone else confused right now? I thought Jared 100 percent one but more shocking than that decision is paddy’s confidence that it wasn’t even a close fight ♂️ what’s happening??
— Chris Weidman (@chrisweidman) December 11, 2022
Yikes. Pretty damning stuff.
Post-fight, Pimblett told Joe Rogan that the fight wasn’t close and later added that he was “baffled” by all the robbery talk; Gordon has since said he was flat-out robbed. UFC President Dana White blasted Gordon for what he viewed as an ineffective strategy in Round 3, saying “he threw the fight away.”
I know who is right? Let’s go to the lab.
What was the official result?
Paddy Pimblett def. Jared Gordon via unanimous decision.
How did the fight go?
In the first round, Gordon showed his experience, not letting Pimblett walk him down and repeatedly cracking him with hard left hands. Pimblett’s strategy was to advance while firing straight punches and high kicks, but it’s unclear how many of those strikes actually landed with any impact. He did start to find success with his uppercut in the second half of Round 1.
Gordon really mixed his strikes well, firing that left up top and adding in a few body shots. When Gordon got too adventurous, Pimblett was able to make him pay with hooks that banged against the side of Gordon’s head. The round ended with Gordon stuffing a Pimblett takedown and riding out top position.
Pimblett came out aggressive in Round 2, but Gordon kept a tight defense. Even so, you could see that Pimblett made adjustments after a difficult first round and was doing a better job of countering Gordon’s advances. Gordon fired off a sequence of hooks at one point, but — with the benefit of replay — it looked like Pimblett evaded or deflected them. Similarly, shortly after Gordon scored a takedown, Pimblett went to squeeze Gordon’s head and shoulder, drawing an excited reaction from commentator Joe Rogan even though Gordon was in no immediate danger.
When they separated, Gordon continued to land that left hand and put Pimblett’s chin to the test. Pimblett circled away and caught Gordon with a big right, leading to a few wild swings from both fighters and Gordon backing Pimblett up with another left hand. Gordon attacked with confidence, landing a pair of right hands as he narrowly avoided a Pimblett uppercut. Grappling wasn’t much of a factor in Round 2 as we saw more striking exchanges before an eye poke brought a brief pause to the action. Once they restarted, Pimblett scored with a couple of rights, ate a body kick from Gordon, and then answered back with punches that were mostly blocked.
Then we heard this curious exchange from Gordon’s corner between rounds on the broadcast:
“Am I losing?” Gordon asked.
“It’s a very close fight,” one cornerman said. “I do believe it’s very close. I don’t know, I think you lost maybe the first one.”
“We need this round big,” another cornerman said before the start of Round 3.
This is where the fight gets funky as Gordon landed a body shot and then immediately went to hold Pimblett against the cage, leading to a stalemate for most of the round. Gordon simply held a body lock while Pimblett focused on maintaining his base. There wasn’t a lot to score here outside of Pimblett landing some high knees and Gordon throwing short punches in close. It’s actually Pimblett who turned the tables after Gordon scored a successful takedown, as he quickly shook Gordon off his back and then took Gordon’s back. Still, with only 30 seconds left to work, Pimblett couldn’t do much with the position other than hop up and hang off of Gordon.
What did the judges say?
All three judges, Doug Crosby, Chris Lee, and Ron McCarthy scored the fight 29-28 Pimblett, although Lee’s card differed from the other two.
While Crosby and McCarthy agreed that the first two rounds belonged to Pimblett, Lee scored Round 1 for Gordon and the final two rounds for Pimblett.
What did the numbers say?
(Statistics for UFC Stats)
In totality or round-by-round, the official stats paint the picture of a close fight, which goes against both Pimblett’s assertion that he clearly won and the notion that the fight was a blatant robbery.
Pimblett has the slight edge in significant strikes at 63-58, with Gordon taking Round 1 (30-29), and Pimblett taking Round 2 (28-24) and Round 3 (6-4). As you can see, there wasn’t much to score in Round 3 striking-wise, although Gordon had 3:53 of control time that led to little noticeable offense.
Gordon managed three successful takedowns in the fight, one in Round 2 and two in Round 3. Inexplicably, he was not credited with a single successful ground strike in the fight despite appearing to land at least two punches at the end of Round 1 as he scrambled into Pimblett’s guard.
Location-wise, Pimblett won the head strike battle at 33-30, with neither man having a sizeable advantage in any round (Round 1: 16-15 Pimblett, Round 2: 13-13, Round 3: 4-2 Pimblett). Gordon had the slight edge in body strikes at 14-13, with Pimblett winning the leg-strike battle 17-14.
Neither fighter was credited with a knockdown.
What did the media say?
Much like the O’Malley-Yan fight that had just one media member score the fight for the official winner, in this instance the scores on MMA Decisions are just as lopsided for the allegedly wronged fighter: 23 out of 24 media scores recorded have it for Gordon, with 11 giving him all three rounds.
In fairness to the judges, it’s unclear how many of the rounds could be considered toss-ups in the scorers’ eyes as we only see their final tally, although our own Shaun Al-Shatti has gone as far as to call Pimblett’s win the heist of the year.
What did the people say?
(Data derived from MMA Decisions and MMA Verdict)
The people are not having it when it comes to a Pimblett win.
The top two fan scores on MMA Decisions are both in Gordon’s favor coming in at a combined 88.46 percent (47.4 percent for 30-27 Gordon, 41.2 percent for 29-28 Gordon). A 29-28 score for Pimblett is a distant, distant third at 7.5 percent.
Round 1, which two of the actual judges scored for Pimblett, was scored 10-9 Gordon by 92.4 percent of the MMA Decisions community. They also heavily favored Gordon in Round 3, with 85.3 percent scoring that frame 10-9 Gordon.
Round 2 was the closest, with 10-9 Gordon garnering 57.8 percent of the vote.
Voting on the Verdict MMA app also indicates a strong robbery sentiment.
That scoring system takes the cumulative total of every submitted fan score (filtering out aberrant scores like random 10-7s if they comprise less than one percent of the total) in every round and divides by the amount of submitted scores to determine the winner of each round and also in totality.
Gordon won Rounds 1 and 3 on the app by wide margins (63 points in Round 1, 56 points in Round 3), while Pimblett only won the second round by two points. Overall, Gordon took the fight by 117 points, which certainly sounds like a robbery to me.
In MMA Fighting’s online poll, which asked only who won the fight, Gordon was again vindicated with 80.6 percent of voters giving him the nod.
How did I score it?
I had the pleasure of joining my best friend Mike Heck and the inimitable Conner Burks on MMA Fighting’s live UFC 282 watch party for Saturday’s co-main event (watch a replay of those shenanigans here) and I have to admit, my initial appraisal of the fight might have been influenced by Mike’s excited yelps every time Gordon landed a hard punch.
As soon as the fight was over, I tweeted this:
It didn’t take me long to think twice about that snap judgment, although it was obvious that a Robbery Review was needed.
I had it 30-27 Gordon on first viewing, and upon a second and third watch I still feel comfortable that he won the fight, although I’d have it 29-28 now with Pimblett taking Round 3.
In Round 1, I had Gordon landing the harder punches, and he also sealed the deal with those punches at the end when he won that scramble (again, I’m not sure why those punches didn’t register in the official stats). Round 2 was close and I’m surprised that’s the one all three judges agreed on. Round 3 was almost devoid of damaging offense, although I gave Gordon the edge for an opening body shot and whatever pitter-patter punches he managed while holding Pimblett against the cage wall.
Was it a robbery?
For the life of me, I don’t know how the judges could have scored Round 1 for Pimblett.
It’s common knowledge by now that just going by statistics is a poor way to judge a fight, and while I normally push back on that when doing these reviews as I think the numbers can add clarity to what we see with our own eyes, in this if they don’t tell the story. Gordon’s left hands to the head were the best punches of that round. He landed a few ground strikes at the end. The stats don’t reflect this, and if that’s the case, then the stats for this fight are wrong.
I watched the first round three times, once expressly focusing on Pimblett’s offensive output, and still couldn’t give him the round.
I’m less put off by the official scores for Rounds 2 and 3, because Gordon made a mistake trying to just hold Pimblett for the final five minutes of the fight. Again, even one of his own cornermen said that he may have lost one of the rounds (the first! how???), so there was at least some doubt from his team regarding the scores.
That said, if you’re asking me who was landing the more damaging punches throughout the fight, it was Gordon. It felt that way in the moment and replays have only reinforced my view on it (and actually lessened my opinion of some of Pimblett’s power punches). Even taking into account how subjective impact can be for those of us viewing from the comfort of our couches, the work Gordon did was clear enough for me.
Gordon is right, he did more than enough in the first two rounds to win this one.
The final verdict