Matt Brown’s latest loss has only reinforced his belief that something has to be done about how MMA judging is handled.
After ending up on the wrong end of a split decision following a thrilling scrap with Bryan Barberena this past Saturday at UFC Columbus, Brown is confident that he did enough to win. He believes that most would agree and points the finger at the cageside judges for getting it wrong.
“I think my feelings are pretty obvious,” Brown said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “I definitely thought I won. I think the common consensus was that I won, and then these judges they just — what are we gonna do, right?”
The third round proved to be the deciding frame as all three judges agreed on Round 1 (Brown) and Round 2 (Barberena). Barberena earned a pair of 10-9s to take the split nod, and Brown is left to wonder if he could have done more to seal the deal.
More importantly, Brown thinks fighters shouldn’t have to make an educated guess as to where they stand in the contest and that open scoring should be implemented.
“I was very tired, as was Barberena,” he said. “No doubt about it, we were definitely tired. That was a grueling fight, we had a lot of fun. It was such a fun fight. It’s tough because you put all that into it and then the judges take it away. One thing that kind of bothers me, it’s always bothered me about this sport is I don’t know that the judges are taking it away. I walk into that third round thinking I got the first two rounds, I can play it safe, I can try to pick him apart, which is kind of what I was trying to do. Trying to pick him apart and not really take big chances, but also not be a b**** and run away.
“It’s kind of ridiculous. In any other sport you get to see the score, right? Other than boxing, I guess, not necessarily combat sports, but in wrestling or if you’re playing football and it’s the fourth quarter, you know that you’re down by a touchdown, you’ve got to go for it. You’ve got to throw the Hail Mary.”
On MMA Decisions, 15 media members scored the bout for Barberena, while four had it for Brown (two scored the bout a draw). In fan voting, 48.6 percent scored it 29-28 Barberena with 29-28 Brown behind at 37.1 percent.
When it was suggested that open scoring could result in fighters playing it safe to preserve a lead in the final round, Brown scoffed at the notion. Regardless of potential complications, he believes the pros of fighters having more information to work with outweigh the cons.
“That’s a really foolish argument,” Brown said. “If you watch wrestling, they know if they’re down. Now, I would also be in favor of some other things like maybe stalling [penalties] like they do in wrestling. Like, you can’t just run the entire third round if you’re up. But again, it’s very subjective.
“But as subjective as the scoring is already as we’ve seen in my fight, which everybody can make their own opinion about it, but it’s obvious that the fight was very close, and neither one of us knew where we truly stood. We were only going off our own intuition of where we stood. I thought it was very clear in my opinion, but obviously I was wrong. So why should we not get to know where we stand?”
This was the second loss in three appearances for Brown, the other being a unanimous decision loss to Carlos Condit in January 2021. Brown feels like he won that one as well, and he has questions about the state of judging that go beyond whether or not fighters should know the round-by-round scores.
“I think there’s a lot broken with the entire scoring system altogether,” Brown said. “I’ve watched my fight a few times. That’s just one example. I’ve had a couple of other fights that I’m very sure that I won a decision, but they gave it to the other guy. I don’t know exactly what they’re scoring. I’ve been in this sport for 20 years, I’ve been in the UFC 14 years now, I don’t know exactly what they’re scoring.
“For example, they gave the second round to Barberena. I won at least four minutes of that round I think pretty unquestionably. He rocked me once and won maybe the last 10 seconds, maybe the last minute, and they all gave him the round. But it’s like, dude, I just did four minutes of work. Why are you giving him the round based off one minute?
“So again, I don’t know what it is they’re scoring exactly. Of course, I could look it up and read about it, which I have, but I don’t know if these guys understand the sport well enough, and I don’t know if fighters [becoming judges] are the right solution either. Fighters are very biased, and that’s a difficult situation also.”
Asked whether he thinks his corner should be responsible for providing the proper read of the winning fighter, Brown stood up for his team.
“My corner told me I was up two rounds,” Brown said. “[I’m not mad at them] – they were right. The judges were wrong, not my corner.”