Head-scratching decision can’t dim UFC appeal

It’s not guaranteed a new year will bring change. The Yankees still will win in 2011. The Pirates won’t. LeBron James still will speak in the third person. Clay Guida will have long hair and fight as if intravenously fed with sugar. Rex Ryan will prefer feet.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship also should continue its steady but certain growth beyond boxing. That won’t change.

Neither will this: Both sports always will have inconsistent judging.

It was the UFC’s turn at offering a major head-scratcher on Saturday night, when Gray Maynard should have departed the octagon at the MGM Grand Garden wearing a shiny new belt instead of a disgusted look.

That the main event at UFC 125 between lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and Maynard was scored in a way to produce a draw was just a tad more laughable than the thought of Floyd Mayweather Jr. going finger-to-finger with Paul Blart the Mall Cop.

Hand it to Edgar. Few fighters survive the kind of first-round beating the New Jersey native took. The guy was a human Weeble Wobble.

Yves Lavigne is the referee who refused to step in and stop the onslaught, either because he saw something in Edgar that said the champion wasn’t done or simply wanted to catch more glimpses of “Jersey Shore” star JWoww cheering on her fellow East Coaster.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

But to say Edgar then won Rounds 2 through 5 — which is how judge Marcos Rosales foolishly scored the fight — is to say Mayweather has been basking in good press of late. Patricia Jarman scored it a draw and Glenn Trowbridge 48-46 for Maynard.

Adam Hill, the mixed martial arts beat writer for the Review-Journal, also had it 48-46 for the Las Vegas challenger.

Adam knows his stuff. He’s no Marcos Rosales.

“I thought I won (Rounds) 1, 3 and 5,” Maynard told the crowd afterward. “That’s my opinion. I pushed the pace. I hope there is (a third fight against Edgar) … Las Vegas, I love you guys … Happy (bleeping) New Year, and let’s do this thing again in 2011.”

If not then, eventually. It would be yet another popular UFC event. Even on a night such as Saturday — when the main card included more talent than star power — there was a $2 million gate.

Even on a night when the marquee outside reminded those passing that tickets still were available and one of the more important unofficial decisions made by media members falling asleep during the Thiago Silva-Brandon Vera fight was that new ring card girl Brittney Palmer is an instant Hall of Famer, a UFC event drew.

They don’t sell out cards here repeatedly anymore like other cities the UFC ventures into, mainly because the ticket prices here are not what they are in Albany, N.Y.

But the continued fan support is a testament to a sport that last week had one of those who delivered the UFC into the mainstream retire. I’ll always remember Chuck Liddell for the prank he played on Johnny Drama.

It’s safe to say Liddell had a few other high points.

Comparisons get old, but facts don’t disappear. Bashing boxing is pointless. The average fan knows just this: The one fight they want to see — Manny Pacquiao against Mayweather Jr. — probably has as good a chance of happening as Roger Mayweather never again using profanity.

It’s a truth that has left Pacquiao to accept his fate as boxing’s best who now must search for the most viable opponent who will add to his already immense pay-per-view popularity and who he will beat like an old dusty rug (see Mosley, Shane on May 7 here).

The heavyweight division in boxing is such that we have reports saying the Klitschko brothers — Wladimir and Vitali — are offering WBA champion David Haye a choice as to which one he would rather fight.

How’s that for matchmaking?

UFC doesn’t have such an issue. It won’t again in 2011, or haven’t you seen the February lineup for UFC 126 here? Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort; Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin; Jake Ellenberger vs. Carlos Rocha; Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader.

The card is loaded.

The prospects for 2011 are bright.

Gray Maynard was robbed on Saturday night.

“Ending in a draw is bittersweet,” Edgar said. “You didn’t win, and you didn’t lose. As long as I have my team behind me, it doesn’t matter who else believes.”

The only exception being, he did lose.

But he does have JWoww behind him. There are worse fates.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM.

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