April 16, 2018

UFC on Fox 29: Judges Continue To Reinforce the Narrative That Fights Aren't Won On Bottom

By Raphael Garcia

UFC on Fox 29 was an excellent card from top to bottom, and while much of the attention will go to the main event fight between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, there should be some conversation about the main card opener between Cortney Casey-Sanchez and Michelle Waterson. "The Karate Hottie” walked out with a much needed win on Saturday night, but many within the sport feel like Casey should have gotten the nod instead.
Chris Flores and Dave Hagen awarded the fight to Waterson, 29-28. Sal D’Amato was the only one who had the fight for Casey, going 29-28 in the other direction. Looking at the fight, it’s understandable that these men would vary in their opinions. And yet, it’s a continued reminder to fighters that they will not be awarded for near submissions when they are fighting off of their backs.

The statistics behind this fight tell an intriguing story. Waterson out-struck her opponent, landing 61 of 84 significant strikes, 72 percent of them. But Casey landed only 36 of her 96 significant strikes thrown. However, it's worth noting that Casey’s shots looked like they were causing the most impact. Multiple times she rocked Waterson, forcing her to retreat and reset.

But the controversy surrounding this fight deals with what occurred on the mat. Waterson was near perfect with her takedown attempts, hitting a snatch single and running her opponent to the floor. While on the ground Waterson landed 14 of 16 strikes, often doing heavy damage to Casey’s head. Casey, on the other hand, was on the hunt for submissions, frequently throwing her hips into the air in an attempt to lock up an armbar. Waterson’s experience saved her multiple times, as she repeatedly fought out of the precarious position with the same counter.

When Waterson and Casey were on the ground, Casey was the aggressor the majority of the time. Waterson never advanced her position. Instead she was forced to fight off armbars and Casey’s frequent leg movement that disrupted her position. Waterson was on top for nearly six minutes of action and landed only 14 blows. That’s approximately 2 strikes per minute, which is not what one would think of as dominant control over the position. Waterson was in trouble whenever she was on top, unable to truly impose her will on her opponent. Waterson was on top, but that doesn’t mean she was in as much control as it would first seem.

Sixteen of seventeen media members on MMA Decisions ruled that Casey won that bout, two of which gave Casey all three rounds. This doesn’t matter in the long run, however, as two judges felt that Casey did not do enough off of her back to earn the victory. This should be concerning for those that take to grappling as their main form of attack. Judges continue to not reward fighters for putting their opponents in danger while they are on their backs. If they did, Waterson would not have walked out of Glendale, Arizona with the win.

UFC on FOX 29: Poirier vs. Gaethje took place April 14, 2018 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Click HERE for more UFC on FOX 29 Post-Fight Analysis

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