To Friend or Not to Friend: Social Media’s Effect on MMA Judging

By Jordan Breen Jan 31, 2013

It's been a few days since poor Hatsu Hioki got robbed blind in Chicago against local favorite Clay Guida. Certainly, much was made on Saturday night about judge Gabriel Sabaitis' 30-27 scorecard for Guida. Hometown cooking at its finest? You don't know the half of it.

First, Bleacher Report's Matt Molgaard uncovered that Mr. Sabaitis, an Illinois local, is Facebook friends with Guida. No big deal in this age of social media networking blah blah, right? Well, it at least shows that Sabaitis doesn't understand the appearance of impropriety.

Following that article, Sabaitis took to the infamous Underground to try to defend himself. and UG founder Kirik Jenness collected the judge's attempted self-defense over here.

Frankly, the response is staggering and embarrassing. Sabaitis' response reads like a well-intended newjack fan defending his personal scorecard on an MMA forum. He equivocates constantly ("But this fight was so close it could've been 29-28 Hioki, no doubt. I respect everyone who believes Hioki won!"), blames the "MMA judging criteria" and demonstrates he doesn't have a basic grasp on the system itself.

"I felt his aggression and TD out weighed (barely) Hioki's effective striking in the 1st," Sabaitis wrote. Nevermind stuff like "out weighted," he already conceded Hioki's striking was effective. Here is a link to the bizarre, backwoods version of MMA judging that the Illinois commission abides by. The first criterion? "Clean blows, not otherwise prohibited by this Part, in proportion to their damaging effects." In the first round, Hioki landed 26 of 56 significant strikes to Guida's 16 of 63 by FightMetric count. In total strikes, he outlanded Guida 31 to 16. Most galling is the fact that Guida landed virtually no clean, hard strikes in top position. This is why the word "effective" should never be removed from "aggression" in any MMA scoring paradigm, not that it would've actually helped poor Hatsu Hioki it would seem.

This dilemma is not unique to Sabaitis or the state of Illinois, of course. It's mostly just another disappointing drop in the bucket. However, since there is a natural tendency for these agencies to stick together and do their best to deflect flak, trying to turn the light on their shortcomings is the best I can offer. That and to stay off of Facebook.


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