Griffin's UFC 86 win brings gratification, gripes

Publish date:

The debate hasn't stopped since Saturday. Did Forrest Griffin really do enough to take Quinton Jackson's UFC light heavyweight belt by unanimous decision?

I offered my scores following the fight, but readers chimed in with thoughts on both sides of the argument.

I scored the fight 48-46 for Griffin, with the third round being the deciding round. That seems to be the only round you and I disagree on. What did you see that made you score it for Rampage?-- Terry Michaels

You can make a case either way on Round 3, which is why I haven't taken too hard a stance against judge Nelson Hamilton's 48-46 score for Griffin. Hamilton had the first and the fourth for Jackson. Swap the third and you've got a draw.

For my money, Rampage's power shots in the third were worth more than Griffin's high output. Jackson finally found himself in the middle round. He moved his head well, defended the majority of Griffin's strikes and created angles to connect on several stiff combinations. Though Griffin never backed away, he didn't do anything to hurt Jackson.

Griffin's stats showed a high work-rate from the challenger in the third -- 91 strikes compared to Jackson's 37 -- but the new champ only landed eight more shots than his opponent overall. And the power strikes went the other way: Griffin connected on nine while Rampage tallied 14.

Aside from the second round, which Griffin dominated, stats don't tell the story of this fight.

I had the contest as a victory for Rampage, or at least a draw. In my eyes, Forrest did not do enough to win the title. At the end of the fight, Rampage didn't even have a scratch on him! It smelled fishy as Dana [White] said to Forrest, "I'm so proud of you." And this occurred seconds before the winner was announced? I need to hear your view. Even giving Forrest the 10-8 round, I still didn't see him victorious. Also, how did a judge see the fight four-rounds-to-one for Forrest? This poor, uneducated judging needs to stop. I've always backed MMA, but these type of things are turning me off fast.-- David, Chicago

My card after five was 47-47 -- the first, third and fourth rounds to Jackson.The second (10-8) and fifth rounds I gave to Griffin. So, I'm with you. The fight was a draw.

There's not a doubt in my mind that the second round was worthy of a 10-8 score. Jackson didn't land anything, he was hurt with low kicks and a submission forced him into a bad position. Griffin passed the guard and spent most of the round in the mount. At that point, nearly finishing an opponent wasn't even needed for Griffin to earn that score.

Forget conspiracy theories. Yes, White said he was proud of Griffin. He also told Jackson how tough he was for continuing to fight on a damaged leg. MMA has a hard enough time dealing with incompetent judges without speculation of manufactured results causing additional damage.

In May, I focused on the need for MMA judges to understand all of the many aspects of the sport, and, on June 7, Ben Fowlkes wrote about the sport's currently flawed system of judging. While we disagree on the 10-point must -- Ben thinks it isn't right for MMA while I feel it's fine -- we both agree that the key to any scoring criteria would reside with judges understanding what it is they're watching.

More than anything else, questionable decisions hurt boxing's reputation among casual fans. Of course, judging isn't an exact science. Disagreements happen. What troubles me, though, is this pattern of inconsistent scoring.

No matter what anyone thinks of the decision, Forrest Griffin is the new UFC light heavyweight champion. I love how Forrest fights. He's my favorite fighter and I hope he stays on top for a long time. Do you think he'll hold onto the belt for a while, or will there be a revolving door of titleholders at light heavyweight?-- Alex S., Cerritos, Calif.

With the talent at 205 pounds, it would be tough for anyone to hold onto the title for an extended period of time. Say this about Griffin: He won't give away the belt. A challenger who defeats the new champ will have his work cut out for him to earn it.

Well Josh, I was right about the leg kicks from Forrest. I fear now, though, that Juanito Ibarra has turned Rampage into a one-dimensional fighter. He basically looks like a boxer out there? He hasn't even looked for a takedown.-- DJ

Jackson's training camps under Ibarra focus on all aspects of the fight game. Zach Light heads the wrestling department and Chris Reilly focuses on Muay Thai. A contingent of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts prepare Rampage in applying and, mostly, defending submissions. That said, Rampage is a striker/brawler first. If takedowns materialize, they tend to come as a counter or off a scramble. I can't remember the last time I saw him shoot a double.

With wins over [Mauricio] "Shogun" [Rua] and Rampage, and now holding the most important belt in the UFC, where do you rank Forrest pound-for-pound? Shogun was at the top of some lists at the time Forrest beat him, and Rampage was in the top five. Is Forrest that good? How do you see it?-- Phil H.

Depending on how you rank them, Forrest easily cracks the top 10 and even the top five. I say he's around four or five. He's probably not in the top three, but he definitely belongs in the discussion. He'll need to avenge a loss to Keith Jardine and brush off some of the inconsistency that marked his early career. But Griffin has plenty of heart and a number of quality wins to be ranked high on anyone's pound-for-pound list.

What do you make of this protest from Ibarra over the Griffin decision? Has this happened before, and what are the chances it can make any difference? As far as I'm concerned, Ibarra shouldn't have told Rampage that he was in control of the fight heading into the fifth. If he told Rampage to push the fight, I think he could have taken the round and still have the belt.-- Peter, Richmond, Va.

It doesn't look like Ibarra's gripes mean much. Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, told me Monday that the decision can be overturned for one of four reasons: (a) a winner tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs; (b) judges' scorecards were added incorrectly; (c) collusion between a judge and one of the fighters (which has never happened in the state); or, (d), a catastrophic refereeing error.

Yes, two of the judges scored the first for Griffin when it seemed clear Jackson deserved the 10-9 call. But Rounds 3 and 5 were so tight that either fighter could make a claim to winning.

I don't disagree with you regarding Ibarra's instructions between the fourth and fifth. The fight was very close at that point. It would have been reasonable to assume the champ was down based on Griffin's dominant second round, but Ibarra told Jackson he was in control. And that might have prompted the champion to let off the gas.

In the rematch, Jackson needs to pressure Griffin. Enough power shots connected, so Jackson knows he can hurt Griffin. I don't think Rampage can match Griffin's output, but the former champ should be more active. If he is, I bet he'll regain the belt.