A wide range of opinions have been voiced on the decision in the Ryan Bader vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira fight. Though I've read many logical explanations for both fighters deserving the win, I always consult with the one source that is unquestionably correct: the unified rules of MMA.
I've been whining that simply following the suggestions in the unified scoring criteria would elicit the quickest, easiest, and most lucrative change possible. The only change would be to stop deviating from the rules and just follow them as they're written. Rounds two and three of the Nog vs. Bader fight perfectly illustrate my point and epitomizes why judges are over-valuing the takedown -- and in the process -- insolently defying their instructions of how to properly score a mixed martial arts contest.
Round One was all Bader. He scored a takedown and showered down meaningful ground-n-pound that bounced Nogueira's head off the canvas. However, the remaining rounds demonstrate a three-pronged, joint effort to completely ignore the verbiage in the unified scoring criteria.
At UFC 119, I scored the fight cageside 29-28 for Nogueira. Because I was also furiously typing a play-by-play, I re-watched the affair again, and this is my synopsis of significant events from the second and third rounds.
All striking until 2:50 (with no clear advantage or superiority shown by either fighter)
ROUND TWO SUMMARY:
1. Nog stopped four TD’s and countered with striking
2. Bader landed two TD's; one was insignificant because Nog got right back to his feet, he was able to maintain top-position for approx. 30 seconds for the other, but no meaningful offense was mounted on the mat by either fighter)
3. 30 seconds of the fight took place on the ground, meaning that "effective striking" is prioritized over "effective grappling", and should determine the round winner
4. Striking was close, there was arguably a slight advantage to Nog, but objectively, there was no clear winner
ROUND THREE SUMMARY:
1. Approximately one minute of ground time in the round (55 seconds plus 6 seconds), meaning that "effective striking" is prioritized over "effective grappling", and should determine the round winner
2. Nog stuffed five TD’s and countered with striking
3. Bader landed two TD's (one that Nog gets right back up from, another where top position was maintained for one minute with no dominance shown by either fighter on the ground, both throwing and landing insignificant strikes)
4. Nog out-struck Bader with the more effective / significant strikes, landed more combinations, and slipped / defended more of Bader's punches
Here is how my friend, who is always right, says to interpret who won the round:
Effective striking is judged by determining the number of legal strikes landed by a contestant and the significance of such legal strikes.
Effective grappling is judged by considering the amount of successful executions of a legal takedown and reversals. Examples of factors to consider are take downs from standing position to mount position, passing the guard to mount position, and bottom position fighters using an active, threatening guard.
Fighting area control is judged by determining who is dictating the pace, location and position of the bout. Examples of factors to consider are countering a grappler’s attempt at takedown by remaining standing and legally striking; taking down an opponent to force a ground fight; creating threatening submission attempts, passing the guard to achieve mount, and creating striking opportunities.
Effective aggressiveness means moving forward and landing a legal strike or takedown.
Effective defense means avoiding being struck, taken down or reversed while countering with offensive attacks.
The fact that effective striking takes priority over effective grappling and control in rounds two and three seems to be lost on everyone. Since the vast majority of the round was spent standing, striking dictates the winner. If there is no clear winner in effective striking or effective grappling, the control category is referenced to sway the vote. Since "countering a grappler's attempt at a takedown by remaining standing and legally striking" is designated along with achieving that takedown, nullifying takedowns are counted as control.
In rounds two and three, Nogueira outworked Bader in the takedown war by double: it was 4-2 in the first, and 5-2 in the 2nd; and since one takedown in each round offered no advantage to Bader and no offense was mounted because Nogueira got back to his feet, the real tally for effective takedowns versus stuffs is 4-1 and 5-1.
This means in Round Two, the striking was fairly even, so control is referenced, followed by defense and aggression. Nogueira easily wins the control section by better dictating the pace and location of the bout by imposing his will 4-1. If that's not slanted enough, he was moving forward more on the feet (aggression) and embodying the description for effective defense ("avoiding being struck, taken down or reversed while countering with offensive attacks").
According to the unified rules, Nogueira wins Round 2 through control, aggression, and defense.
This also means in Round Three, where I think it was evident that Nogueria out-struck Bader, he should simply win the round on that alone. Let's say you want to argue that both landed some strikes and neither really showed clear dominance. Though I would disagree, Nogueira would still win by better imposing his will by winning the takedown war 5-1. If you really want to be a pain in the ass and say Bader got two takedowns; fine, it was 5-2, and absolutely no advantage was gained or effective offense was mounted on the ground in either soiree on the canvas.
When adhering to the unified rules, the only potential argument is that Bader won effective grappling because he landed any amount of takedowns, but that blurb behind "successful executions of a legal takedown" reading "and reversals" would completely negate any advantage for Bader, as Nogueira reversed the position and got back to his feet in each round for each takedown Bader was successful with.
And ladies and gentlemen, it's that simple. I would highly encourage those convinced that I'm incorrect to argue against me, of course, citing the absolute truths in the scoring criteria to support your opposing stance. I am quite open to consider any mistakes or misinterpretations I've made. I would like to add that the proactive thrust of attacking with a takedown is weighed slightly higher in the lower category of aggression, where the reactive nature of stuffing a takedown is mildly inferior by getting credit for defense, but you must justify why that miniscule advantage warrants awarding a fighter with a 25% (Round Two) and 20% (Round Three) success rate with takedowns as the round winner (while ignoring that striking trumps everything else).
Until someone can, what we have is three official judges implementing the unified rules in a way that I can't conceivably understand or logically translate from the way they're written ... and chaotic decisions and judging controversy will remain prevalent as long as this continues.
NOTE: I have a list of questions out to influential New Jersy athletic commissioner Nick Lembo on the specifics of this subject, and will publish them shortly.