Tonight at UFC: Sanchez vs. Kampmann we saw Diego Sanchez once again at Welterweight against Martin Kampmann. Kampmann, a Danish Muay Thai fighter-turned-MMA fighter who has rounded out his game considerably in MMA. Diego Sanchez saw mixed results at Lightweight, making his way to a fight with BJ Penn and being decimated, so badly that he refused to fight at Lightweight again. His return to Welterweight did him no favors, but he came into this fight with a win over Paulo Thiago and an uncertain future.
Kampmann came into the fight calm, collected and with a game plan. He was able to drop Diego Sanchez in the first round and in the second round was able to continually stuff Diego's takedown attempts and keep him at a distance with his jabs. Everything from his composure to stance were exactly what he needed to do in this fight.
Diego came into the fight looking soft, as UFC President Dana White so aptly pointed out on Twitter (how'd you like your boss with a million plus followers calling you fat?) and slow. He had next to no defense for Kampmann's striking and due to Kampmann's stance of keeping his front leg heavy, was nearly impossible to get a takedown, which he needed.
In the third round Kampmann broke his hand and was unable to piece together combinations, which meant Diego was able to swarm Kampmann with wild, looping hooks, connecting once in a while. The problem was, whenever he backed off, after maybe connecting a wild shot or two, Kampmann was able to score at will against Diego. This was the story of the night. Kampmann won all of the exchanges with crisp striking while Diego simply threw like Leonard Garcia.
Amazingly enough, the judges all scored the fight 29-28 for Diego Sanchez. The question is; why? Ariel Helwani on the post-fight show makes the point that many of us were making on Twitter, that judges see the aggression and think that means they are winning the fight. We've seen Leonard Garcia get a few "gifted" decisions, and now this fight falls right in line.
As an avid kickboxing fan, this fight was very cut and dry; a knockdown as well as clear connections against wild shots that were being deflected. As a MMA fan, it was even more cut and dry; a knockdown as well as clear connections and stuffing every takedown. It doesn't help that Dana White on Twitter after the fight says that Diego "clearly" won the fight. This was the second decision against Kampmann in a row that was disputed by fans and analysts. To me, that speaks volumes about the mythical bad MMA judging that we all often speak about.
The argument used to define poor MMA judging has usually been that judges do not understand grappling and come from a boxing background. At this point, I argue that they also do not understand striking. The criteria for the judging is fine, it is the lack of knowledge that holds the sport back and gives us piss poor decisions. The amount of times I hear Joe Rogan quote poor judging on UFC shows is just astounding.
I'll toss this out here; if you are a professional judge and want to learn more about striking, contact me, and I'll help you as well as point you in the direction of those that can help you. I'm being serious.