Edson Barboza and Dan Ige at UFC on ESPN 8 in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday | Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.
Like UFC 249, the card that happened a week prior, UFC on ESPN 8 had a trio of controversial bouts and the uproar surrounding them was so immediate and loud that we’re going to take a look at all three of them this week.
Before we get to Claudia Gadelha vs. Angela Hill and Song Yadong vs. Marlon Vera, we’ll start with a fight that saw a veteran having to deal with a disappointing result in a new weight class, Dan Ige vs. Edson Barboza.
A longtime lightweight contender, Barboza was a slight favorite heading into his matchup with Ige, winner of five straight. Barboza was not given a layup in his first fight at 145 pounds, nor was Ige given an easy name for him to continue his win streak. These two had a lot to prove on Saturday and it showed.
Ige came out with the split nod. Barboza protested on social media and his manager Alex Davis considered filing an appeal. For what it’s worth, UFC President Dana White saw the fight in Barboza’s favor as well. Was Barboza robbed or was he simply on the wrong end of a close fight again?
What was the official result?
Dan Ige def. Edson Barboza via split decision.
How did the fight go?
One important thing that Ige did was he took the fight to Barboza from the start. You cannot let someone like Barboza set the tone for the fight otherwise you are a dead duck. Ige showed a ton of confidence in his standup game here. He’s winging haymakers and looking for the finish.
Barboza knows all about finishes and he almost got one less than a minute into the fight, cracking Ige with right hook that banged off the side of Ige’s head and sent him to the mat. Ige immediately put Barboza in his guard when the Brazilian pounced on him, buying himself valuable time to recover. Barboza still found success with heavy hammerfists. The rest of the round was more even, but Barboza’s early advantage made it a clear 10-9 round for him.
Again, to Ige’s credit, he came forward non-stop. He’s walking right through Barboza’s leg and body kicks, which is impressive, but keep in mind those are still points for Barboza. Even when Ige was in Barboza’s Thai clinch, he just tried to punch his way out of it (and it kind of worked!). It’s worth mentioning that at this point in the fight, it was hard to tell how many of Ige’s punches were landing cleanly. Barboza always does a great job of keeping his hands up and here it seemed like Ige’s gloves caught a lot of arm and shoulder.
The most significant blow of round two was a stiff kick to the liver that Barboza landed late in the round that appeared to briefly stun Ige. Barboza also ended round two in top position after stopping a takedown and that made a close frame even murkier.
It’s unclear if Ige thought he was down in the fight going into round three. He certainly fought like it, keeping up the pressure and hunting for that finish. His punches were starting to land harder, either because he’d figured out Barboza’s rhythm or Barboza was fading. After a big takedown and ground-and-pound to close out the fight, it looked like Ige took at least one round.
The second had to be the decider.
What did the judges say?
Derek Cleary scored it 29-28 Ige.
Sal D’Amato scored it 29-28 Ige.
Troy Wincapaw scored it 29-28 Barboza.
As expected, rounds one (10-9 Barboza) and three (10-9) Ige were the same across the board, while Cleary and D’Amato scored round two for Ige to give him the edge.
What did the numbers say?
(Statistics per UFC Stats)
Ige supporters need only point to the stats to endorse the closeness of the fight.
The significant strike stats were about even, with Barboza landing 80 to Ige’s 79. Ige had a larger advantage in total strikes, 100-87.
Barboza scored the lone knockdown of the fight in round one and Ige scored the lone takedown in round three. However, Barboza ended up in top position off of the knockdown in round one and a stuffed takedown in round two, and that’s reflected in his 18-7 ground strike advantage.
Ige landed more significant strikes in rounds two (31-30) and three (25-19), while Barboza won the first convincingly 31-23.
Both fighters did a fantastic job of varying their attacks, with Ige landing 54 head strikes to Barboza’s 40, and Barboza having the lead in body (25-17) and leg strikes (15-8).
What did the media say?
The media outlets tallied on MMA Decisions were heavily in favor of a 29-28 Barboza score. Sixteen media members picked Barboza, while two had it 29-28 Ige.
What did the people say?
(Data derived from MMA Decisions and Verdict MMA)
Fans and media are on the same page with this one, according to MMA Decisions. As of this writing, 72.5 percent of fans on that site voted that the score should have been 29-28 Barboza. The 29-28 Ige verdict only garnered 13.9 percent of the vote.
Add in the 30-27 voters (6.9 percent) and that’s almost 80 percent in favor of Barboza.
Voters on the Verdict MMA app also saw it for Barboza, but the scoring became more difficult as the fight progressed.
— Verdict (@VerdictMMA) May 17, 2020
That scoring system takes the cumulative total of every submitted fan score (filtering out aberrant scores like random 10-7s if they comprise less than one percent of the total) in every round and divides by the amount of submitted scores to determine the winner of each round and also in totality.
Verdict users were unanimous in giving Barboza the first round, but the second was essentially a toss-up, with Barboza only winning by 14 points. Ige won the third round by 53 points to make the final score a close one.
In MMA Fighting’s own poll that asked for thoughts on the decision, an overwhelming 77.8 percent thought Barboza was the victor.
What a stunning striking battle between Ige and Barboza. You almost hate to have to pick a winner. And yet…
Make the call #UFCFL
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) May 17, 2020
How did I score it?
The impressive effort of Ige wasn’t enough for me to overlook the precision of Barboza.
There’s no question Ige came to win, but there were few moments where it seemed like Barboza was truly in danger. Yes, he was busted up after, but so was Ige. It was Barboza who landed the fight’s most telling blows, the knockdown-inducing right hook in round one and a kick to the body in round two that gave Ige pause. Add to that the damage Barboza did from top control and giving him rounds one and two were an easy call for me.
As mentioned above, I also felt like a lot of Ige’s punches in rounds one and two weren’t landing as clearly as they looked. Call it foolish to disagree with the official stats, but not all significant strikes are created equal and Barboza’s underrated defense shined against Ige.
Was it a robbery?
With respect to Ige, he benefited from the Diego Sanchez approach here. Lots of forward movement, an emphasis on head shots, and leave nothing in the gas tank in round three. It’s a formula that has led to several questionable decisions in the past and you can add this one to the list.
Another factor to consider here is the empty arena, which amplified the sound of Ige’s punches. Even if he wasn’t getting all of Barboza’s head with his strikes, he was hitting something and his combinations made for some great audio. Did this fool the judges? One could argue that a rowdy crowd would have had the same effect.
If you want to simplify things even more, a fighter who spends more time on top usually wins the fight when they’re able to land strikes on the ground and Barboza made the most of his time in top position, landing some showy punches from there. Somehow, that didn’t work out for him, despite it seemingly being the difference maker in a back-and-forth second round.
It was a great fight and not the easiest to evaluate, but Barboza shouldn’t have to score a knockdown every round for the judges to figure out when he’s out-struck his opponent.
The final verdict