Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) executive director Jeff Mullen said on a judges training call Wednesday that he did not agree with a controversial score in last Saturday night's UFC women's featherweight title fight between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko.
Grasso and Shevchenko fought to a split draw in the fight, which was the main event of Noche UFC in Las Vegas. Grasso retained the UFC women's flyweight title due to the result.
Judge Mike Bell, a highly regarded judge who works on most major UFC cards, scored the fifth and final round a 10-8 for Grasso, leading to him scoring the bout 47-47. Judge Sal D'Amato scored the fight 48-47 for Shevchenko, and judge Junichiro Kamijo scored it 48-47 for Grasso.
During the call Wednesday, Mullen and Nevada judges went over five rounds that some judges scored 10-8 on the Noche UFC card. When it came to the fifth round of Grasso vs. Shevchenko, every judge on the call, as well as Mullen, agreed that it should not have been a 10-8.
"Mike is one of the very best judges in the world," Mullen said. "He's just as good a judge as he was [before]. I don't agree with his score on this round."
The correct call, the judges said, would have been 10-9 Grasso in the fifth, which is how D'Amato and Kamijo scored it. If that had been the score across the board last Saturday night, Shevchenko would have won back the championship.
Shevchenko questioned that 10-8 score in her postfight news conference and has continued to on social media. UFC president Dana White expressed unhappiness about it Tuesday night after Dana White's Contender Series, adding that a Grasso vs. Shevchenko trilogy fight would be the right thing to do.
"When I found out that one of the judges scored 10-8, I'm like, 'This guy should be f---ing investigated for this,'" White said. "This is the craziest s--- I've ever seen in my life."
Grasso beat Shevchenko via fourth-round submission to win the title in March at UFC 285.
On the call Wednesday, Mullen and senior official Mark Smith went over the rules for 10-8 rounds. In order for a round to be scored 10-8 rather than the typical 10-9 in MMA, there needs to be dominance, duration and damage. Dominance means it needs to be a one-sided round. Duration indicates that the dominance has to be for a good portion of the round. And damage means that one fighter has to inflict a significant amount of punishment on his or her opponent.
According to the judging criteria, damage is the most significant of those three and a good amount of it is needed in most cases to score a 10-8 round. There can also be 10-8 rounds based solely on damage, but it would have to be a great deal of it.
Before a dominant finishing sequence of the fifth round by Grasso, every judge on the call Wednesday believed Shevchenko was winning the fifth. After that finishing sequence, which included Grasso in a dominant position on Shevchenko's back landing blows and going for submissions, Grasso edged the round out 10-9, according to the judges on Wednesday's call.
"If somebody is well ahead, it would take an incredible amount of damage to swing it back to a 10-8," Mullen said.
In the instance of that particular round, that was not the case, Mullen said. That was one of the reasons why the training meeting was called Wednesday, to further hammer out what constitutes a 10-8 round and what does not.
"We have to verbalize this," Mullen told the judges. "We have to get on the same page. We have to understand why it's the way it is. ... You guys are the best in the world. So, if we keep working at this and keep trying, we're gonna get there."