Controversy in Henderson-Melendez Judging: What Can We Take Away From Vierra’s Call? | UFC News

April 23, 2013 8:44 am by Nick Powers

This past weekend at UFC on FOX 7 in San Jose, CA, Benson “Smooth” Henderson edged out a close split decision victory to retain his UFC Lightweight Championship against Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez, the last fighter to hold the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship before the company was bought out by Zuffa.

Despite Henderson’s victory, many observes felt that the fight could have conceivably gone either way, which has been the dynamic of all Henderson’s championship fights in the UFC aside from his clash with Melendez’ teammate Nate Diaz. Therefore, it is not surprising that one judge scored the fight 47-48 in favor of Melendez, feeling that one-fourth of the self-proclaimed “Skrap Pack” had done enough to best Henderson and take his title.

What is surprising, however, was the revelation that judge Wade Vierra- who scored the fight in favor of Melendez- is an associate of Cesar Gracie’s Gracie Fighter camp under which Melendez, Jake Shields, Nick Diaz and his brother Nate all train.

Under different circumstances, the scoring of this fight for Melendez on one judge’s scorecard may seem arbitrary, but based on this new information it’s safe to say that the decision rendered on Saturday was probably for the best. If Melendez had been declared the victor against Henderson and this information had been published after Dana White put the UFC gold around his waist, there would have undoubtedly been a lot of backlash.

In mixed martial arts, we hear a lot of people claim that they’ll file complaints over a loss, based on scoring or how it happened, but very rarely is there a complaint that would hold as much water as this could in an appeal. Keep in mind this is all hypothetical hearsay as Henderson still holds the title, but the question still remains: how was Vierra given this assignment with his affiliation to Cesar Gracie’s camp?

It’s not as if Vierra scored the fight 50-45 in favor of Melendez, or is seen as an incompetent official who has previously come under fire based on a slew of bad decisions, but the fact remains that any sort of affiliation to a fighter-even if it’s just on Facebook– is enough to raise concern. In a world where we have so often heard fighters say they will never fight teammates, even if the bout were for a championship, it seemed improbable that an affiliate/teammate of a fighter judging their actual fight would fly so far under the radar.

The issue of team affiliation has been prominent in the world of competitive jiu-jitsu, where referees must be knowledgeable enough to know the rules, but are often times accused of favoring a competitor whose match they call based on affiliation or friendship. Now, it seems as if the issue has crept up again more prominently in MMA.

What do you think: is the decision to appoint Vierra a judge in Melendez’ bout with Henderson simply an oversight, or has the appointing of judges in MMA become such an issue that bad scoring could now be linked to favoritism?

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