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Judging controversies take center stage at UFC 282

Updated December 11, 2022 - 3:31 pm

Former champion Jan Blachowicz interrupted Magomed Ankalaev’s post-fight tirade about the judges calling their fight a split draw to say he agreed that he didn’t win and that Ankalaev should be awarded the vacant belt.

And that might not have even been the most controversial decision the judges handed down on the pay-per-view card of UFC 282 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.

Rising superstar Paddy Pimblett’s unanimous decision over Jared Gordon was met with widespread cynicism in the arena and across social media platforms in the only other bout on the 12-fight card to go to the judges.

“I was robbed and everyone knows it,” Gordon, who did not attend the post-fight news conference, posted on Twitter. “I can cry about it but I’ve been back from worse and God’s plan is the best plan, so I know there’s something big to come from it.”

The judging controversy comes at a time when there is an ongoing federal investigation into the outcome of a November UFC bout having been potentially compromised.

There have been no accusations of impropriety by judges in that case, but the optics aren’t ideal.

“I don’t see any correlation at all between what happened with the incident currently being investigated,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “Questionable judging, refereeing and calls are just part of betting on sports in general. Those things are all subject to interpretation.

“I’m sure there are a lot of people who bet Paddy Pimblett who thought it was a good decision. I don’t agree with those people, but it’s a matter of opinion.”

Two Canadian provinces banned betting on UFC events in response to the investigation. Alberta decided to reverse the ban and allow wagering on the organization’s events Friday after the UFC took proactive steps toward ensuring their integrity. Ontario’s ban remains in place, though a spokesperson said the gaming commission was encouraged by the progress.

On Saturday, 23 of 24 media members who scored the fight at MMADecisions.com had it for Gordon. Pimblett dismissed any controversy, insisting he had clearly outclassed Gordon over the first two rounds.

“I don’t care what anyone says,” Pimblett quipped. “When you look back on the history books, I’ve got the little green mark next to my name with a ‘W.’ So everyone else can (expletive). Everyone’s got an opinion. I know I won the fight. It was unanimous. Look at his face and look at mine.”

Pimblett said he was so convinced he had won the first two rounds that he simply allowed Gordon to control the final five minutes. He had also injured his ankle early in the fight and was more than content to let Gordon grind him against the cage for the final five minutes.

UFC president Dana White said Gordon had nobody to blame but himself for not trying to finish the fight.

“He had a horrible game plan in the third round,” White said. “How do you know you won the first two? Why go in there and throw away the third round instead of fighting your (expletive) off and trying to win? To go out there and act like you’ve already won the fight, if you think you know who won what round, you’re crazy. I’ve been doing this for 23 years and I have no idea what (the judges) are ever going to do.

“He threw the fight away. He was doing great in the fight. He should have fought the third round.”

Gordon won the third round on two of the three scorecards.

White didn’t have as strong an opinion on the main event, which featured Blachowicz scoring early with leg kicks before Ankalaev seized total control of the fight over the last two rounds of the five-round affair.

“I just thought the fight was terrible,” White said. “What are you going to do? I started to zone out after like three rounds. I heard Ankalaev is upset or whatever. What are you going to do? You got beat up for two rounds. We’ve seen this. This is nothing new.”

New title match

In the cage, Ankalaev suggested he may be done fighting in Nevada as a result of what he saw as an egregious decision. He was a bit more measured when given some time to gather his thoughts backstage.

“The judges made their decision, but anyone who saw the fight knows who won the fight and who should have the title,” he said. “I think I did everything I had to do to become champion. I got the victory, but the judges did what they did. I’m an uncrowned champion, so I’ll come back and take what’s rightfully mine.”

While a rematch was presumed because of the outcome, White said he is moving on from Blachowicz and Ankalaev.

Jamahal Hill and Glover Teixeira will now fight for the vacant title on the UFC 283 card in Rio de Janeiro on Jan. 21. Jiri Prochazka vacated the belt when he suffered a shoulder injury last month that could have him sidelined up to a year.

The UFC does not assign judges for events. That is a task of the governing body in each jurisdiction, which on Saturday was the Nevada Athletic Commission.

White said questionable judging is not the exclusive domain of the NAC. It’s an issue the sport has dealt with for many years, but he does believe there has been improvement.

“I haven’t said this in a long time, so things must be better,” he said. “But don’t leave fights in the hands of the judges.”

Doug Crosby, a longtime subject of ire for questionable decisions in MMA fights, was one of three judges to give Saturday’s fight to Pimblett. On Friday, Crosby worked a Bellator card in Connecticut and turned in a 50-45 scorecard in favor of Danny Sabatello over Raufeon Stots. The other two judges scored the fight 48-47 in favor of Stots.

No investigation updates

White didn’t have any updates on the federal investigation, which involves suspicious line movement in a Nov. 5 bout between Darrick Minner and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke. Minner and his coach, James Krause, have been suspended by the NAC pending the outcome of the investigation. Krause is a noted MMA bettor.

That situation is very different from what happened Saturday night.

“Questionable judging in combat sports existed long before the James Krause scandal, and it will be a part of it long after we even remember James Krause’s name,” Murray said.

White said he wants to allow the facts to play out before discussing the case.

“There’s literally nothing I can say about that,” White said. “It is what it is. There’s an investigation going on, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

White said he remains fully confident in the integrity of the UFC’s fights.

“We let these guys know not to bet on fights,” he said. “Do you know what the outcome of this is? If I penalize them, they get cut. With this, they’re going to go to federal (expletive) prison. Federal prison. If you’re that stupid and someone else wants to do that, then knock yourself out. There’s not enough money in it, to ruin your life and, not go to jail, go to federal prison.”

He said he has not been informed of a timeline for the investigation.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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