“There is and there isn’t (controversy),” UFC President Dana White said in an interview with MMAJunkie following UFC 161’s main event between Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson in Winnipeg on Saturday. “The fight could’ve gone either way. If they said Dan won, I wouldn’t have been shocked, either. It’s just one of those fights that was so close it could’ve gone either way.”
I’d wager most would agree. Go ahead, watch the fight, and give Evans vs. Henderson whatever judging criteria you like. Count all the effective strikes, subtract the blows received, give a little more credit for aggressiveness, divide by two, carry the one… go “old-school” and consider the ten kg. rule (okay, maybe not), use Shooto’s old “catch” call, allow for Pancrase rope breaks, eh, whatever. You’ve still got a “toss-up” of a fight. It wasn’t the most dramatic, but it was certainly a competitive main event.
At the same time, it’s not too hard to see where the judges are coming from. Fight Metric, the official statistics provider of the UFC, offered a helpful graphic. Evans out-struck Henderson by a total margin of 66 to 53. He was credited with 49 of 75 attempts at his jab to the head against Henderson’s 28 of 61. He landed more jabs than Henderson at an almost two-to-one clip in the critical second round. However, Henderson landed four power shots in that second round to Evans’ two. Henderson punctuated the performance with a nasty elbow to the head which ended the stanza.
In addition, Evans attempted the only takedowns of the bout. He failed with all eight, and the bout was entirely contested in stand up – but it speaks to his aggressiveness, anyway.
You’ve got a worthy victor in Evans, or at you can at least build an argument for him.
But, more importantly, did you really have a fight worth buying?
Well, not really. Sadly, you can use whatever criteria you like on that question, too.
Look, I don’t want to sound like a spoiled brat. MMA is everywhere now and I should be happy about it. But with UFC now showing its wares on more affordable venues like Fuel, FX, and Fox, this show was just not PPV-worthy. The sheer amount of shows these days is staggering and there’s just not enough of the “big fights” to go around.
Evans and Henderson are quality wrestlers whose ability cancels out one another’s best attribute. If you’re excited for standup fighting, HBO had a bout Saturday between Mikey Garcia and Juan Manuel Lopez – a rising young star against a former pound-for-pound entrant. The night prior, most with cable could watch World Series of Fighting and get a decent MMA fix. Heck, on the night of UFC 161, game two of the Stanley Cup Finals was vying for your attention, too.
Take all this into account and maybe the decision from the judges probably isn’t the one White should be concerned about. I’ll agree that decision was reasonable. It’s really any fans decision to pay — or not pay — for this product which is questionable. If the UFC can’t schedule a title bout each time they make a claim at your $60 (?), then they should offer several fights with major title implications. This had one bout – and it failed to impress.