Conspiracy Theories: Henderson vs. Shogun and the Suspiciously Absent 10-8 RoundAuthor : Jack Barrington
Nobody should welcome conspiracy theories. They’re often farfetched, generally implausible and, almost, invariably driven by a hidden agenda. But cast your doubts aside for the next six hundred words or so and hear this one out, because there has to be some reason why no judge awarded Shogun Rua a 10-8 score in the fifth round of his fight with Dan Henderson at UFC 139 – it might as well be a farfetched one.
After losing the first three rounds to Henderson last Saturday, Shogun showed an almost inhuman amount of heart and fortitude to come back to take the fourth round clearly and the fifth round by total domination. It’s rare that the statistics tell the whole tale of a round, but in this case the numbers really do speak for themselves.
Shogun landed 79 total strikes in the round, 26 of which were significant strikes. Henderson landed only 8 strikes in total, none of which were classed as significant. Shogun also scored 1 takedown from 1 attempt, and had Henderson mounted no fewer than 5 times in the round. In short, he overwhelmingly dominated Dan in that round. Now that’s an important distinction: he overwhelmingly dominated him. The scoring criteria state that a round is to be scored as a 10-8 round when a contestant overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round. Why wasn’t this one? Enter the conspiracy theory.
Prior to seeing the judges’ actual scorecards I was ready to put this down to the general judging ineptitude that we, as MMA fans, have been forced to endure and even accustom ourselves to over the last few years. It is true that 10-8 rounds are a rarity in MMA, but they are still given. When a fighter overwhelmingly dominates their opponent over a five minute period even Cecil Peoples will, occasionally, awaken from the clumsy, daydream laden coma I assume he subsists within to, somehow, mark down a number lower than nine in the round loser column on his scorecard. But not one judge did in this fight. Nobody did, because it would have resulted in a draw.
Now I know this is farfetched--it’s a conspiracy theory, what did you expect?--but it is generally accepted that, in combat sports especially, draws are never seen as a good thing. Draws are awkward, they are unsatisfying and, in a sport essentially centered and marketed around resolutions, they leave things unresolved.
I’m not claiming that each judge turned to see Dana White standing over their shoulders, breathing smoke out of his nose and generally doing his best to look like Leoluca Bagarella, as he warned them all, individually, about the consequences of this fight ending as a draw--as much as I would genuinely love to see that sight at least once before I die. But a reluctance to score the fight a draw must have at least crossed the judges’ minds. When 10-8 rounds are already rare then why not take the easy way out; why not leave that eight you were in the process of writing unfinished and stick to the standard, one winner-one loser method of scoring rounds in MMA; why not score the round 10-9?
Now, honestly, even after writing this and trying to buy into the usual conspiracy theorist logic, I still can’t say I’m fully convinced. But I’m sure I’ll sleep better tonight believing that the judges had our best interests at heart, and it was their subconscious commitment to resolution that made them score the fifth round 10-9, as opposed to the all too familiar sight of three men failing to do their job properly.
Oh, and what a fight that was, eh?