Five Round UFC Main Events

Posted: June 14, 2011 in Journalism, MMA
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


More of a good thing is a better thing.

Dana White announced on June 9, that starting soon all UFC main events will be five rounds, even if they aren’t championship matches. The timing was perfect, as a recent fight between Clay Guida and Anthony Pettis had everyone wanting to see another two rounds. These two fighters definitely have the endurance to go five rounds without gassing out, and the nature of the fight had people wondering if it might be finished in five rounds by either fighter. Would Pettis hit one of those triangles? Would Guida have gotten Pettis’s back again and gotten the ground-and-pound stop, or even a submission?

I’ve read some pros and cons of five round main events and decided to weigh in on the issue. (Surprised?) There were two articles written recently on the subject that I’d like to address. Dave Metzler of Yahoo Sports wrote an article on why they’re a good thing, and Maggie Hendricks’s Cagewriter article was a rebuttal. I’m going to address many of the points from both articles.

Dave: The 10-point must system is an anachronism

I know, I know; I should eschew obfuscation. An anachronism is something that is outdated. The 10-point must system certainly qualifies. It was designed for 15-round boxing matches, and it’s being applied to 3-round fights. That application is somewhat shaky, and would be made at least a bit less shaky by applying it to 5-rounds. Dave provides no logical argument for why this is true, but I don’t think it’s important. Let’s assume this is true. Even so, I’m much more concerned that the judges are scoring the fights horribly because they don’t understand what’s going on. It’s not that they’re using a boxing system; it’s that boxing is apparently all they understand. This can’t be 100% true — Jeff Blatnick has judged UFC cards – but that’s got to be a factor. Even with TV monitors, they still can’t see what even casual fans see, so apparently they don’t know what to look for.

Dave: The Outcome of the fight could be changed by the additional two rounds

It’s quite a stretch to assume, for example, that Machida would necessarily have beaten Rampage given two more rounds when neither fighter trained or fought under the assumption there would be those extra two rounds. If they knew it was going to go five rounds, they probably would have fought differently, and it would have been a very different fight. Also, Rampage was certainly rocked in round 3, but Frankie Edgar was really rocked in round 1 of Edgar-Maynard 2, and given a couple minutes between rounds to recover, he was fine for round 2. (More than fine, really.) Unless a fighter is nearly decapitated, each round is a new story. Granted, when a fighter begins to gas, the tide change change against him. We’ve seen that, but three v. five rounds won’t change that. The culture will change, and fighters will be used to training for five rounds (see below).

Dave: Stoppages are more common in five-round fights v. non-title main events

Dave admits that his data on this is shaky, and that it’s too small a sample to be statistically compelling. Still, the data suggests that we’ll have more stoppages. This is important if it holds up, but I’m not sure it will. Again, with a cultural change, fighters will adjust, and stoppages might become rarer in longer fights.

Maggie: Not every fighter is ready for a five-rounder

This is true, but some fighters are ready for five rounds. The solution is to make sure the main event fighters are in the latter category. In any field, the best professionals are ones that can adjust. If you’re not ready for five rounds, you can’t say you’re as deserving of a title shot, or a main event, as someone who is. MMA is big enough now that when the cream to rises to the top, we’ll have a ton of fighters that can rise to that challenge.

Maggie: A main-event injury could wreak more havoc on the cards than we’ve seen

“The fighters would be in a position to either go into a bout not as prepared as their opponent or turn down the opportunity to headline a card.”

Doesn’t this same argument apply to a title fight? Title fights aren’t cancelled due to injury unless both fighters are injured, and my short term memory tells me that this has happened only once recently with Edgar-Maynard III (my long term memory is admittedly much better). I’m sure every fighter in the world would be very happy to get that call. If you’re not capable to step up for a five-round, main event fight, then don’t. Someone else will be more than willing and able to do so. Also, you have to consider that this will change the culture. Fighters will begin to train under the assumption they might get moved to a five-fight card, meaning more fighters will be ready.

I’m guessing that having to fight a completely different style of fighter is a much bigger concern than having to go five rounds, and that doesn’t go away regardless of what happens to the culture. A champ understands that he needs to be ready.

Maggie: It takes away a champion’s advantage

Huh? This confirms what I’ve said above, directly contradicting the concern that people won’t be ready for five-round fights. As for this concern itself, champions shouldn’t have or need advantages. If they can’t win the fight on their abilities, they should be beaten just like everyone else.

Maggie: 25-minute fights will eat into a broadcast window

Maggie is referring to televised events with commercial interruption. To be safe, one of the other fights on the card will have to be dropped. Again, I’m not impressed with this argument. Most cards I’ve seen have enough finishes that one of the preliminaries is aired during what would otherwise be dead time. Either way, fans should get to see five (or more) fights. This still might reduce the number of fights that actually occur that night, but I expect the number of fight cards to increase (televised and not televised) as the UFC continues its expansion. The divisions will continue to develop the same drama as always.


Maggie: It isn’t the silver-bullet to end judging questions in close fights

So? Sometimes you can’t fix a problem, but you can still  minimize it. If having five-round main events minimizes the problem, then it’s a good idea until someone comes along with a better one. Arguing against adopting a solution because it doesn’t fix everything is one of the worst kinds logical fallacy you can have.

Why I Support 5-round Non-title Main Events

Simply put, I predict that 5-round, non-title main events will raise the standard of professionalism among the fighters. Anything that does that is going to be good for the sport. With the growing number of would-be professional MMA fighters, the UFC will need to make sure they’re getting the good ones, or at least getting fighters with a minimum level of talent. This will help do that. If it somehow manages to increase the percentage of stoppages, that’s even better, especially if that number holds.

Taken to an extreme, this view could demand 150 round title fights and 100 round non-title fights. Obviously, this is a matter of balancing several priorities (e.g., fighter safety, fan attention spans, stoppages, card lengths). However, we haven’t reached that level of ridiculousness by having main event, non-title fights the same duration as title fights. This is my gut talking. As always, reasonable minds can disagree.

Final Note

See, I can go an entire article without saying MMA journalists suck! I acknowledge that they’re not all bad.


In my day, our journalists wrote with their own blood!

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow Dana White on Twitter @DanaWhite
Follow the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on Twitter @UFC
Follow Clay Guida on Twitter @clayguida
Follow Anthony Pettis on Twitter @Showtimepettis
Follow Maggie Hendricks on Twitter @maggiehendricks

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