It seems as though the UFC 123 headliner between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida has sparked many complaints about a fight being fixed and this seems to be because many believe Machida won the fight and because of Rampage’s exclamation that “Machida whipped my ass tonight.”
With that said let us look at the fight by the numbers provided by FightMetric.com:
Round 1: The fight metric scoring system scores the round for Rampage due to Rampage outstriking Lyoto 26-16 and zero grappling attempts by either fighter. Using the 10-point must system, this leads to a 10-9 round for Rampage.
Round 2: Fight metric scores the round 31-27 under their formula for Rampage, because he outstrikes Machida 28-11 and took Machida down while stuffing Machida’s takedown attempt. That said, Machida’s strikes were almost all power shots, which allowed him keep the round close. However, 31-27 is too close of a round under their formula (due to reasonable standard of error) so the round is given to neither fighter. This results in a 10-10 round.
Round 3: This round was a definitive round for Machida. Machida outstruck Rampage 26-16, landed a takedown, and then attempted an armbar, resulting in the round being given to Machida 10-9 and a 29-29 draw (which is also what MMAFrenzy.com scored the fight live)
Analysis: In the end, the bout went to a draw by the numbers. When you look at the total number of strikes landed Rampage lands 70 to Machida’s 53, but Machida won the significant strikes battle 33-16, which are not easy to judge in person. Rampage stopped two takedowns and gave up one to Machida, while Machida gave up one to Rampage. This made it so the takedown game favored Rampage due to the successful blocks. In addition, Machida attempted the only submission of the night with the third round armbar attempt. So it is easy to see how this fight could be a draw looking at it as a whole.
So why are there complaints about the Machida-Rampage fight being fixed? This could be attributed to something called the “recency effect.” The recency effect is a psychology term used to describe the fact that people remember the end of something more so than the middle. So basically, since the third round was a very decisive round in a fight marked by two close rounds early, people will be more apt to name Machida the “clear” winner. In reality, the numbers favored Rampage in each of the first two rounds (albeit the second was not a significant margin), which means it is easy to see how Machida lost two rounds to one. The recency effect also explains Rampage’s reaction at the end of the bout as well.
Ultimately, it is the perceptions of the three people who are at three different positions around the octagon and turn in their scores at the end of each round. I place special emphasis on “the end of each round,” because judges do not look at the entire fight and then decide how to score each round nor are their cards there in front of them to change a previous round later. I try this method when I watch fights at home and in all honesty, I was shocked by how much different things seem when you try it this way. That said, in a 10-point MUST system, judges seem to already be primed that they MUST award a winner of a round. This can discourage a judge from giving a 10-10 score in a round no matter how close it is. So at this point, it comes back to what the judges see. This presents a problem for a fighter who fights a more passive style, like Machida, in two of the first three rounds because aggression counts for a lot in a closely fought bout.
In the end, if anyone unfairly set the scales against a fighter in this bout it was Machida sabotaging himself, not some judging conspiracy.
Pictured: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida