The case for a draw in Overeem vs. Werdum

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fabricio Werdum lost a majority decision loss to Alistair Overeem on the main card of UFC 213 on Saturday night. One judge called Round 3 10-8 for Werdum, while the other two called it 10-9 for the Brazilian. All three judges gave the very close first round and the not dominant second round to Overeem 10-9. Werdum is protesting the decision. However, commissions will only overturn a decision if there was a math error, bribery, or if an official was unaware of the rules.

There was no math error or bribery, so Werdum’s case would have center on the judge’s not fully appreciating the new Unified Rules around the definition of a 10-8 and 10-9 round.

This is the case for Round 3 of Werdum vs. Overeem being 10-8.

In order to judge Round 3, it is necessary to understand the new ABC Unified Rules of MMA Definitions

10–8 Round
A 10 – 8 Round in MMA is where one fighter wins the round by a large margin. A 10 – 8 round in MMA is not the most common score a judge will render, but it is absolutely essential to the evolution of the sport and the fairness to the fighters that judges understand and effectively utilize the score of 10 – 8. A score of 10 – 8 does not require a fighter to dominate their opponent for 5 minutes of a round. The score of 10 – 8 is utilized by the judge when the judge sees verifiable actions on the part of either fighter. Judges shall ALWAYS give a score of 10 – 8 when the judge has established that one fighter has dominated the action of the round, had duration of the domination and also impacted their opponent with either effective strikes or effective grappling maneuvers that have diminished the abilities of their opponent.

Judges must CONSIDER giving the score of 10 – 8 when a fighter shows dominance in the round even though no impactful scoring against the opponent was achieved. MMA is an offensive based sport. No scoring is given for defensive maneuvers. Using smart, tactically sound defensive maneuvers allows the fighter to stay in the fight and to be competitive. Dominance of a round can be seen in striking when the losing fighter continually attempts to defend, with no counters or reaction taken when openings present themselves. Dominance in the grappling phase can be seen by fighters taking DOMINANT POSITIONS in the fight and utilizing those positions to attempt fight ending submissions or attacks. If a fighter has little to no offensive output during a 5 minute round, it should be normal for the judge to consider awarding the losing fighter 8 points instead of 9.

Judges must CONSIDER giving the score of 10 – 8 when a fighter IMPACTS their opponent significantly in a round even though they do not dominate the action. Effectiveness in striking or grappling which leads to a diminishing of a fighter’s energy, confidence, abilities, and spirit. All of these come as a direct result of negative impact. When a fighter is hurt with strikes, showing a lack of control or ability, these can be defining moments in the fight. If a judge sees that a fighter has been significantly damaged in the round the judge should CONSIDER the score of 10 – 8.

A judge shall assess if a fighter impacts their opponent significantly in the round, even though they may not have dominated the action. Impact includes visible evidence such as swelling and lacerations. Impact shall also be assessed when a fighter’s actions, using striking and/or grappling, lead to a diminishing of their opponents’ energy, confidence, abilities, and spirit. All of these come as a direct result of impact. When a fighter is impacted with strikes, by lack of control and/or ability, this can create defining moments in the round and shall be assessed with great value.

As MMA is an offensive based sport, dominance of a round can be seen in striking when the losing fighter is forced to continually defend, with no counters or reaction taken when openings present themselves. Dominance in the grappling phase can be seen by fighters taking dominant positions in the fight and utilizing those positions to attempt fight ending submissions or attacks. Merely holding a dominant position(s) shall not be a primary factor in assessing dominance. What the fighter does with those positions is what must be assessed.

Duration is defined by the time spent by one fighter effectively attacking, controlling and impacting their opponent; while the opponent offers little to no offensive output. A judge shall assess duration by recognizing the relative time in a round when one fighter takes and maintains full control of the effective offense. This can be assessed both standing and grounded.

Once the new definition of a 10-8 round is understood, the next step is applying it to Round 3 of Overeeem vs. Werdum, second by second.

“Doesn’t this highlight the problems with the 10-9 system?” asked commentator Joe Rogan as Round 3 opened. Maybe, maybe not, maybe the 10-9 system wasn’t applied ideally.

The Timeline
•The first fifty seconds of the round was spent with both fighters feeling each other out and Overeem swinging and missing.
•The next 10 seconds of the round Werdum connected with a few punches and missed with a knee that he attempted while clinching Overeem’s Head.
•The next 10 seconds saw Overeem barely connect with some punches.
•At 1:39 (3:21 left in the round) Overeem throws a jab that may have hit, but probably missed. This would be the last strike Overeem lands in the round.
•At about 1:45 (3:15 left in the round) Werdum connects with a kick followed by a one, one, two combination followed by a very strong power leg knee that knocks Overeem down.
•At about 1:54 (3:06 left in the round) Werdum attempts a Guillotine Choke but misses and winds up in Guard with Overeem on top. Werdum is actively attacking from the bottom Guard. Overeem gets off no offense in this exchange. Overeem stands up to take the fight back to standing.
•At about 2:13 (2:47 left in the round) of the round Werdum opens up on Overeem standing, hitting him with a jab, right hand, and then a short uppercut. Werdum then throws an overhand right and misses. Overeem is trying to block and moving backwards, Overeem throws a jab and it hits nothing. Werdum backs Overeem to the fence and hits him with several more punches.
•At about 2:28 (2:32 left in the round) of the round, Werdum initiates a takedown on Overeem and is successful.
•From 2:31 left in the round until the finality of the round, Werdum was in top position punching Overeem while Overeem defended.
•Werdum winds up in the top position of Overeem’s guard. Werdum is hitting Overeem with rather weak body shots, while Overeem is holding on trying to keep Werdum from posturing up. Werdrum gets loose and postures up and hits Overeem with a big elbow from the top guard. Werdum is continuing to punch the body with weak punches. Werdum is posturing up pushing on Overeem’s face to initiate posture and proceeds to hit him with more weak body punches and weak to moderate hammerfists to the face. Werdum gets posture and hits him with another right elbow. At about 3:23, Overeem is warned to not grab the fence. Werdum continues to try and posture and continues hammerfisting Overeem in the face. Werdum then is using body, body, head, striking techniques from the top of the guard. Werdum continues to punch with hammerfists and any punch he can get off. Overeem is trying his best to defend and keep Werdum from hitting him. At 3:58, Werdum strikes Overeem with a significant body shot.
•At about 4:28, Werdum initiates a guard pass while Overeem is trying to defend. Werdum winds up in Half Guard where he continues to hit Overeem with weak body punches followed by one head shot for good measure to end the round.

Fabricio Werdum won the third round by a large margin. Before the definition was changed, it would not have been a 10-8 round, because it was not an overwhelming round for Werdum, but it was a large margin round. Not only did Werdum get the only knockdown, the only takedown, and go for a submission, but he initiated the best and most damaging combination of the fight, the double jab, power hand, power knee combo at 1:45 of the third round, and then proceeded to control and by definition dominate the action for the rest of the round from that point. By contrast, Overeem connected with no strikes and initiated no offensive grappling techniques after 1:19 seconds into the round (and he missed that last strike). Werdum initiated both a standing and ground attack with absolutely no offensive maneuvers from Overeem for 3:21 seconds of the round. That is 67% of the round. That is the very definition of duration. That is a 10-8 round.

The judge scoring Round 3 by 10-8 (and therefore the fight a draw) got it right, and the two judges who called Round 3 a 10-9 got it wrong under the new definition.