Few things infuriate MMA fans more than incorrectly recording a fight, though the term “stealing” tends to be thrown carelessly and often steeped in bias. With the Robbery Review, we’ll look at the controversial fights and determine if the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if critics need to examine their quick reactions.
Holly Holm’s fights that go to the judges are usually free of controversy, but her loss to Caitlin Vieira sparked a storm of comments and criticism on social media.
The former bantamweight champ dropped a split decision for Vieira in the UFC Vegas 55 main event, the first time Holm has lost a decision in over four years and only the second time that Holm has lost a non-title fight (the other non-title fight loss was Valentina Shevchenko , one of the best women ever to compete in MMA). It was definitely a rare sight which is made even more appealing given the fact that Holm lost despite executing her usual plan of playing on a tee.
Vieira undoubtedly put in a solid performance to make back-to-back wins over former UFC champions, but was she the beneficiary of some questionable judgments? Or were the referees recording an incredibly close fight?
People seem really upset about this, so let’s go to the robbery review lab and see if we can bring some peace and quiet back to the land of MMA.
What was the official result?
Caitlin Vieira def. Holly Holm via split decision.
How did the fight go?
The focus here should be on the third round as we later find out that was the deciding framework for the competition, but let’s also see how Holm and Viera got two rounds unanimously.
In the first round, Holm scored an early goal with leg kicks, eventually prompting Vieira to shoot and ending up in what would become the first of several decider trades throughout the match. Holm seemed to score and keep busy with short punches and knees to the inside of Vieira’s thigh. Vieira knelt back, but didn’t land on anything of much impact. Holm spent about four minutes of this round carrying Vieira over the fence.
The second round saw Vieira come closest than either of the two Bantams to ending the fight. Vieira was already doing well with her right hand and a successful trip before taking advantage of Holm’s overly aggressive attempt. Holm left her neck open and hit Viera a triangle-arm choke that made Holm turn a shade of red, but she escaped and made it to the fateful third round.
Let’s move on to the play-by-play format directly for this format:
Vieira emanates Holm with his direct right to start with third and this is certainly where one can begin to wonder if 40-year-old Holm is finally starting to lose a stride, particularly in defence. Hulme throws a mostly misspelled combo, which Vieira catches with a lightning head kick while Hulme steps in to obtain the body lock. Back to the fence they go. More knees to thigh than holm. Contrary to what happened in Round 1, Vieira escapes from the center and returns the action to the center. Holm takes a side kick and slips away to avoid Vieira’s punch set. Then Holm makes mistakes with the combo. Push kick to body scores for Holm. There is a Viera with another clean right. Vieira hits his left hand off the counter while Holm charges inside. Holm brings the fight back to the fence. Holm’s left hand is free to throw punches, but Vieira returns the fire with some sharp knees to the body. Holm did not allow Vieira to create any space until about 30 seconds left when Vieira was free and connected directly to the splitter. Lift the body via Vieira, elbow into the nearby lands firmly, then clip another right Holm right on the chin.
There is a lot to be tackled there. We will return to him.
In the fourth round, Holm wanted to use kicks to control the range as she had done so many times in the past, but continued to catch her at the end of Vieira’s punches. She got a high front kick to land right on Vieira’s chin. Vieira was landing tons of punches to the head this round and as much as Holm has been busy in this fight, it’s hard to ignore how clean she was hit. Holm’s best moment of the tour is a side kick that places Vieira on her butt. Definitely a push down rather than a knockout though. In the commentary, Daniel Cormier called that “the biggest moment of the tour,” which…no. Soon, Vieira again grabbed Holm with his right hand. Holm walked straight to Vieira’s uppercut and then avoided Vieira’s grab attempt. He supported Viera Holm with his other right hand. Holm landed on her legs and body, but Vieira made her push with shots in the head over and over again.
As the final round approached, Vieira coach Andre Pederneras was excited, telling Vieira that she had lost the fourth round and was down 3 to 1 on the cards. Vieira’s reaction to this motivational tactic was somewhat mixed as she came out hot with a high kick and elbow spin, but it didn’t seem to match the previous round’s score. Holm is credited for continuing to fight for her patented snatch and even taping it with a minute left hand to set up an attempt. Holm also hit two more forehand kicks in the face. Vieira responded with a powerful counter blow, sending Holm back to the side and kicking her on her way to safety. Holm took some time off the clock with a successful grab against the fence. She later countered Vieira’s removal and turned that into another snatching opportunity, this time landing powerful punches inside.
What did the judges say?
Mike Bell scored 48-47 Vieira.
Derek Cleary scored 48-47 Vieira.
Sal D’Amato scored the goal 48-47 Holm.
All three judges scored in Rounds 1 and 5 for Holm and Rounds 2 and 4 for Vieira. The third round was the swing round, with D’Amato scoring for Holm.
What do the numbers say?
(Stats per UFC stats)
Going from round to round, the big hit count actually paints a somewhat contradictory picture. In three of the four rounds unanimously approved by the judges, the fighter who landed less significant hits won:
- Round 1: 19-6 Vieira (scoring for Holm)
- Round 2: 14-10 Holm (scored for Vieira)
- Round 4: 37-23 Holm (scored for Vieira)
Going deeper, we can see why the rounds are scored this way especially if we take into account the prioritization of headers. Holm had 3:36 of control time in the first round, which is secondary benchmarks, but is relevant here because Vieira only dropped three headshots and the rest of her important hits were knees to body and shin.
Vieira almost had a lead in the second round as well as a tight header advantage of 7-6, so one doesn’t need much of an explanation.
And although Vieira lost headers by a large margin in Round 4, she won headers by a similarly large 19-5 margin.
So there is some truth to the stats here if you look closely enough.
What did the media say?
We can’t just blame fan fuss for the controversy surrounding this fight because 18 of the 20 media scores presented in MMA decisions were in Holm’s favour, with outlets having 49-46 in her favour.
What did people say?
(Data drawn from MMA decisions and MMA referee)
Fans of MMA decisions were also in Holm’s corner where the top two voting scores were 48-47 Holm with 42.5 percent and 49-46 Holm with 32.7 percent. The official prevailing score of 48-47 Vieira is in third place with 18.4 percent.
Amazingly, nearly 71 percent gave Holm the third round and Vieira narrowly won the fourth round by 52 percent to 47.5 percent.
Voters on Verdict MMA saw this as a clear win for Holm.
Holly Holm defeated Caitlin Vieira in the scorecard and the event wasn’t even close.
– Referee (VerdictMMA) May 22 2022
This scoring system takes the cumulative total of each fan score submitted (filtering outliers like 10-7 random seconds if they make up less than one percent of the total) in each round and dividing by the amount of scores submitted to determine the winner in each round as well as in its entirety.
Four rounds were scored for Holm, with a difference of over 80 points in the first and fifth rounds. The final score from 48.57 Holm to 46.5 Vieira means that Holm is up by 207 points according to the users of the referee. For context, a 100-point difference usually indicates a clear winner, so most of those fans will likely see the actual decision as scandalous.
In an MMA Fighting poll that asked for only a winner, 80.2 percent scored the fight for Holm.
How did you register it?
On my first watch – and remember I wasn’t scoring with interest at the moment – I got a 48-47 holm. On second viewing, I have no idea that no one can give Vieira at least two rounds, so I toss Holm’s 49-46 scores in the trash.
Simply put, Vieira crushed Holm in Round 4. I don’t care how many hits I am and I don’t care about the kick to the body that pushed Vieira down (it wasn’t a knockout and it’s not recorded as one in the official stats). Watch that tour again. Vieira’s punches to the head were more damaging and relevant to the round scoring than Holm’s rangefinding kicks. I’m sure Vieira doesn’t enjoy kicking the ribs, but if you can’t distinguish between those shots and Vieira backing Holm over and over with powerful punches, you have no business in judging. The actual judges scored that round perfectly.
Round three is definitely close and I don’t have much of a problem with people scoring that goal for Holm, but it actually ran similarly to round four; Which means Vieira punched Holm in the head and face a lot!
Except for the first round where I think it’s only fair to take into account Holm’s wrestling hold because neither fighter fell much off a hitch, Holm’s wrestling should be largely ignored as it rarely results in any major insult. Control alone does not win the rounds and certainly not heavier than Vieira’s punches in this competition.
Head punches won fights and after five rounds Vieira nearly doubled Holm in that class, 49-26.
Was it a theft?
of course not.
Even if you do have a Holm win (I can see a case for Round 3 and if you’re willing to die in “Hulme’s side kick push down was a big moment”, maybe Round 4 would give it), I can’t imagine anyone watching this fight again with any kind of The scrutiny says with a straight face that she won a convincing decision.That is the gist of the matter here.
I will always encourage fans and the media to be passionate about the fight, but when it comes to scoring, it doesn’t hurt to take a moment to take a moment to analyze what you’ve already seen. Did you notice the effect of Vieira’s punches and how Holm reacted to them? Were there long periods when Hulme did so little of her control time? Could Holm have done more to try to end the fight?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you cannot classify it as stealing. It’s a close fight that I now feel the right fighter has won.
Again for the folks at the back: It’s not stealing.
Was Caitlin Vieira’s win over Holly Holm a robbery?