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Worst Judging Decisions in UFC History

Tom Jones

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It’s widely accepted in the world of MMA that judging in the UFC is a problem that needs to be addressed. However, it is a problem that has been around for years. Looking through the history of the sport, there has been a long list of insulting decisions. There’s a reason why the saying “never leave it to the judges” is so popular amongst fighters. 

No one suggests judging a UFC fight is easy, but sometimes the outcome of a bout is so obvious that judges getting it wrong seems impossible. It also annoys fans.

MMA is one of the most popular betting sports, alongside boxing sportsbooks and online horsebooks. When a fan bets money on a winner and a judge gets the call wrong, the fan loses money. 

Even amongst the long line of bad judging decisions in the UFC, there are some that stand head and shoulders above the rest.

3 – UFC 20: Bas Rutten vs. Kevin Randleman

Way back in UFC 20, this heavyweight title fight between Bas Rutten and Kevin Randleman was written into the history of the sport for all the wrong reasons. Even today, fans debate the 1999 judge call with the general consensus it was incorrect. 

That result was based on the old debate in MMA, is the person defending or the person attacking winning the fight. Most people would go with the fighter on top is the one who is in control and winning the bout. 

It is worth noting that back then, scoring was different. Nevertheless, the idea of the fighter on top winning the fight was mostly the same. So, when the judges awarded in favor of Rutten when he was on the bottom, many were left confused. Judges argued Rutten was effectively striking from the bottom, but it was clear Randleman was on top for most the contest. 

The main event in UFC 20 is debated to this day: Rutten vs. Randleman, who deserved the nod.

2 – UFC 104: Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

Rua was quickly building a reputation as a tough target who fighters struggled to hit as he came into this fight against Machida. That soon changed as Machida set about Rua with some effective and direct shots that found their target, in this 2009 scrap.

That was surprising enough, but imagine the surprise when Machida was not named the new champion. Despite stifling his opponent and landing those shots, Machida was not awarded the victory. Instead, the judges called in favor or Shogun to the instant dismay of the booing and jeering crowd. 

Naturally, the fighters met again in a rematch that Rua won comfortably by TKO. However, that first fight remains one of the worst decisions in UFC history. 

1 – UFC 167: Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks

When UFC fans discuss the worst judging displays in MMA history, they usually end on this fight. This contest showed clearly how flawed the whole judging system in the UFC was then, and still is today. 

In this welterweight title fight, it was clear that Hendricks was the better fighter and won the contest. However, the judges decided to hand the victory to St-Pierre. It was a perplexing decision because Hendricks had inflicted significant damage on his opponent. 

It was by the book judging of a contest that did not reflect on what actually went on in the Octagon. It is worth noting this decision remains decisive and there are arguments on both sides. 

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