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5 All-time most controversial decisions in UFC title fights

Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 12 Feb 2020, 23:15 IST

Should Dominick Reyes have been awarded a win over Jon Jones?
Should Dominick Reyes have been awarded a win over Jon Jones?

Jon Jones’ recent UFC Light-Heavyweight title defense against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 ended in controversy, as many fans and observers believed that the challenger deserved to take the title, feeling that ‘The Devastator’ had done enough to take the first, second and third rounds of the fight.

The judges, however, saw the fight going in the opposite direction – with one somehow awarding ‘Bones’ 4 of the 5 rounds, including a second-round that definitely appeared to belong to Reyes. Was the decision amongst the worst in the history of UFC title fights? Perhaps, but then again, there have been some massively questionable ones in the past, too.

Here are 5 UFC title fights that saw controversial judges’ decisions.


#1 Bas Rutten vs. Kevin Randleman – UFC Heavyweight title, UFC 20

Kevin Randleman dominated Bas Rutten but came out on the wrong end of the decision
Kevin Randleman dominated Bas Rutten but came out on the wrong end of the decision

The UFC was a very different promotion to the one we know and love today back in 1999, and while the UFC Heavyweight title had been in existence for a few years, a lot of the rules and regulations of modern-day MMA had yet to be introduced.

There were no five-minute rounds, for instance, and UFC title fights took place with a single fifteen-minute round, with two three-minute overtime rounds if required. And there was no ten-point must system, either; instead, three judges simply selected the fighter they thought had won the bout.

That system caused a ton of controversy at UFC 20, as Kevin Randleman and Bas Rutten did battle for the vacant UFC Heavyweight crown. On paper, the fight appeared to be a classic clash of styles; the flashy kickboxer Rutten against the hard-nosed wrestler Randleman, and sure enough, that was exactly how things played out inside the Octagon.

‘The Monster’ hit a takedown on Rutten almost immediately and began to work the Dutchman over from the top with hammer fists and punches. After a few minutes, ‘El Guapo’ was badly busted up by Randleman’s assault, and midway through the fifteen-minute round, referee John McCarthy called a time out to check Rutten’s cuts.

Rutten refused to quit despite suffering a broken nose but soon ended up being taken down again. Randleman was beginning to slow down at this point, but the only offense that Rutten was able to put together were some hard elbows from the bottom, shots that opened up a cut on the head of ‘The Monster’.

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Neither man was able to finish the fight and so after the two mandatory overtime periods – which again saw Randleman secure takedowns and control his Dutch opponent on the ground – the judges were required. And somehow, despite Randleman completely controlling the fight practically from start to finish, all three – Skip Hall, Tim Catalfo and Dan Miragliotta – scored the fight in favor of Rutten, making him the new champion.

Even now – over 20 years later – this decision remains baffling to anyone who watches this fight. It’s true that Rutten did some damage from the bottom, but essentially, he was controlled and beaten up for a total of 21 minutes. Quite how the judges – all of whom were respected in the world of MMA – came to the conclusion that ‘El Guapo’ had won is anyone’s guess. 

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Published 12 Feb 2020, 23:15 IST
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