ByThe Naked Gambler, writer at
MMA hierophant. Follow me on Twitter at @NakedGambling for mostly nonsense with some analysis mixed in.
The Naked Gambler

UFC 209 is behind us, and while there was plenty to enjoy — and spectacular KOs, as well as David Teymur’s war with — the evening ended on a sour note.

and engaged in yet another 25-minute bout. And while Woodley was declared the winner via majority decision, the fight was met with near-universal apathy (or straight disdain) from viewers.

Rather than looking at this kind of fight from a conventional angle, let's shift perspectives and examine Woodley vs. Thompson (both fights, combined) through the lens of scoring.

"PRIDE rules" is often referenced by those who believe that the winner of the fight should be the winner of the contest. The classic Stockton mentality; aggression, landing strikes, and threatening with submissions should score considerably more than control positions or stalling tactics.

There's a reason for this; while PRIDE scoring wasn't quite so simplistic, it did, in practice, come down to which man out-violence'd the other. Some see this, even still, as the purest form of MMA, while others see it as an antiquated relic of the sport's past.

Both opinions are fine, but PRIDE rules can offer a hypothetical perspective where the unified rules fail us. Each of Woodley & Thompson's championship fights were virtual coin flips, with either man winning, or a draw, feeling appropriate in both. But who won the fights? Who would score them for? That's an easier question to answer.

Under PRIDE rules, fights are judged as a whole, rather than round by round, and the effort made to finish a fight is the primary criteria, followed by damage, and even without addressing the tertiary criteria, PRIDE's scoring system would have produced a clear winner in both bouts. Examining each fight independently isn't the PRIDE way, so instead, let's evaluate their duology as one 10-round bout.

Conveniently, under PRIDE scoring, the same man happens to be the likely winner of each fight, and also of the 50-minute affair when judged as a whole.

The first five minutes were in Woodley's favor, as he held "Wonderboy" down for most of the round while Thompson did little of consequence. The next five minutes belonged to Thompson, who absorbed not a single head strike for the entire period, while landing four of his own.

The third stanza was close, perhaps slightly favoring Thompson, but neither man had executed any truly fight-altering offense until the fourth round, when Woodley finally hit the mark with his murderous lightning bolt of a right hand.

A wobbling Thompson went reeling across the cage, and eventually slumped against the fence. He edged perilously close to a stoppage as the champion's follow-up punches went uncontested, until he pulled guard into a very tight guillotine, which Thompson, eventually, escaped. The karateka dropped elbows from top position to close out the round before going on to win the fifth convincingly, but did nothing to compensate for the disparity in fight-changing offense.

Minutes 26-50 are more easily summarized. Rounds six and seven were Thompson's, who was slightly less tentative than the champion, but nothing of any real merit occurred. Woodley took their eighth round in the cage on the strength of some top control, and lost their ninth on inactivity, while, again, not much happened.

Their tenth, and presumably final, round saw the only real moment of danger for either fighter, as Woodley badly hurt Thompson in the final minute of the contest, not quite prolonged enough to warrant a 10-8 under the unified rules, but a decisive scoring moment under PRIDE's system.

The result was a virtual draw, with Woodley picking up a majority decision, but in each of his bouts with Stephen Thompson, and in their totality, the welterweight champion was able to impose his offense in a much more significant way than the challenger, and came closest to finishing the bout on both occasions.

If the difference in demonstrable damage is not convincing enough, it is important to look at the spirit of their performances, and what judges were taught to value. Inaction was death in PRIDE, where even a stalemate favors the more aggressive man.

While each had his fair share of inactivity, Thompson's approach was consistent and formulated to win rounds, his passivity a direct result of this strategy. Woodley's inactivity was geared towards imposing highly valued offense on his opponent.

Under PRIDE scoring, Woodley was the clear winner. In reality, who knows. The unified rules are tricky sometimes. But if you're a PRIDE diehard, or even if you roll with the 209, then you probably thought that the right man walked away with the belt on Saturday night.

PRIDE Scoring Rules (as per Wikipedia):

If the match reaches its time limit then the outcome of the bout is determined by the three judges. The fight is scored in its entirety and not round-by-round. (In Pride events staged in the United States, however, the fights were scored round by round.) After the third round, each judge must decide a winner. Matches cannot end in a draw. A decision is made according to the following criteria in this order of priority:

  • The effort made to finish the fight via KO or submission
  • Damage given to the opponent
  • Standing combinations and ground control
  • Takedowns and takedown defense
  • Aggressiveness
  • Weight (in the case that the weight difference is 10 kg/22 lb or more)

If a fight was stopped on advice of the ring doctor after an accidental but illegal action, e.g. a clash of heads, and the contest is in its second or third round, the match was decided by the judges using the same criteria.


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