UFC president Dana White is famous for saying - “Never leave it in the hands of the judges.”
This is because there have been countless examples of the judges getting it wrong in combat sports history. The UFC is no different, with a number of controversial outcomes in fights coming via split decisions.
A split decision (SD) is a winning judgement in full-contact combat sports, in which two of the three judges score one particular competitor as the winner, while the third judge scores for the other competitor.
Let’s take a look at 5 controversial split decision wins in the UFC.
#5 UFC 150 - Benson Henderson vs Frankie Edgar 2
Benson Henderson won the UFC lightweight championship when he defeated Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision at UFC 144. The bout was very close so an immediate rematch was set to headline UFC 150 in August of 2012.
The second fight proved to be even closer than the first, with Benson Henderson squeaking out a split decision to retain his title.
Edgar landed slightly more significant strikes (66 v 64). He was also able to secure 2 takedowns with over 3 minutes of control time on the ground. while the champion Henderson only attempted 1 unsuccessful takedown.
At MMA Decisions, 5/6 media members scored the fight for the former champ, Frankie Edgar.
However, the official scores were - Dave Hagen and Mark Van Tine 48-47 for Henderson, Tony Weeks 49-46 for Edgar.
#4 UFC Fight Night 63 - Al Iaquinta vs Jorge Masvidal
One of the most infamous split decisions in UFC history took place at UFC Fight Night 63 in Virginia in April of 2015. The co-main of the event featured a lightweight fight between ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta and Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal. Masvidal effortlessly outstruck Iaquinta 86 to 55 and stuffed all 9 of Iaquinta’s takedown attempts.
It looked like a comprehensive win for Masvidal, however, the judges disagreed, awarding ‘Raging’ Al a split decision victory.
During his post-fight interview, Iaquinta was booed by the crowd and responded with the now-famous line - “Are you guys booing me? You better not boo me!”
At MMA Decisions, 13/15 media members scored the fight for Masvidal.
The official scores contracted this- Cardo Urso and Dave Tirelli 29-28 for Iaquinta, Doug Crosby 29-28 for Masvidal.
#3 UFC 251 - Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway 2
At UFC 251 on Fight Island in July 2020, Alex Volkanovski and Max Holloway were a part of one of the closest championship fights in UFC history.
The challenger, Max Holloway, started fast and dominated the first two rounds, dropping Volkanovski twice. The Australian UFC featherweight champion fought back in the final 3 rounds while securing multiple takedowns.
Volkanovski outstruck Holloway 137 v 102 in total significant strikes and combined with his 3 takedowns in rounds 4 and 5, this was enough for the judges to award him the victory.
At MMA Decisions, 18/27 media members scored the fight for Holloway.
However, the official scores read - Mark Collett and Clemens Werner 48-47 for Volkanovski, David Lethaby 48-47 for Holloway.
#2 UFC Fight Night 42 - Diego Sanchez vs Ross Pearson
One of the worst decisions in the history of the sport was scored at UFC Fight Night 42 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. England’s Ross Pearson faced the hometown favorite Diego Sanchez in a lightweight bout during the event.
Pearson dominated all three rounds, out-striking ‘The Nightmare’ Diego Sanchez 51 to 33. However, in what can only be described as a horrendous decision, Sanchez was judged to be the winner via split decision.
At MMA Decisions, 10/10 media members scored the fight for Pearson.
Official scores contracted this - Jeff Collins had it 30-27 for Sanchez and Chris Tellez 29-28 for Sanchez, Marcos Rosales 30-27 for Pearson.
#1 UFC 167 - Georges St-Pierre vs Johny Hendricks
UFC 167 in November of 2013 played host to one of the most controversial title fights in UFC history. Longtime welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre took on number one contender Johny Hendricks in the main event on the card.
GSP started the fight well but he was hurt badly by Hendricks in the second round and battered in the following rounds.
Hendricks landed 142 total strikes compared to 125 by GSP while St-Pierre manager 3 takedowns to the challengers' 2.
At MMA Decisions, 16/16 media members scored the fight for Hendricks.
However, the official scores read - Sal D’amato had it 48-47 and Tony Weeks 48-47 for St-Pierre, Glen Trowbridge 48-47 for Hendricks.
All scoring and judging information from MMADecisions.com