Before I begin, in the interest of integrity, let me preface this article by saying that I am in no way an impartial observer for this fight. I run Jim and Dan’s web site for them, and as my sister is married to Dan, I consider both to be family. I acknowledge I had a vested interest in the result of the fight. Seeing as many readers will thus find my footing in presenting a case for Jim tenuous to begin with, I have taken extra care to break down each round minute-by-minute to illustrate why I felt Jim deserved the 29-28 victory.
There are three main points of contention I have seen raised in the days since the fight by those who are opposed to the unanimous decision ruling in Miller’s favor: the fight was too close for a unanimous decision, Bocek deserved a 10-8 round in the second frame, and Bocek should have been awarded the third round, or at least a draw. The sad part in this debate is that I feel not nearly enough attention has been given to how great the fight was, and how it probably deserved Fight of the Night over a fight which, while entertaining, saw two gassed fighters gutting out a fight as opposed to two top-level grapplers putting on a show.
As for the fight being too close for a unanimous decision, this is a fallacy which is often thrown around in the wake of an even fight. Simply because a fight is scored unanimously for one fighter does not mean that the fight wasn’t close. Take, for example, a fight that is close as can be, one in which literally half those who watched it thought Fighter A won, half thought Fighter B won. Ruling out draws via 10-10 rounds which, as the game is judged today, just aren’t a particularly real possibility, there is a 50/50 chance a given person will name Fighter A as the winner, and a 50/50 chance a given person will name Fighter B the winner. The fights aren’t judged by a group of 99, they are judged by a group of 3. That’s an incredibly small sample, and explains how unanimous decisions aren’t that uncommon for close fights. In fact, in the 50/50 scenario, there will be a unanimous decision a respectable 25 percent of the time, as there is a 50 percent chance the second judge will agree with the first, and a 50 percent chance that, should that occur, the third judge agrees with both. So, just because a fight is close, doesn’t mean a unanimous decision is an outrage. A close fight doesn’t have to be scored a split decision to be scored properly.
The latter two points deal with scoring of the fight. I was in attendance at the fight, and thought that Miller won, but was concerned with how the result would go. I spoke with my brother after, and mentioned that I was concerned the judges would screw up and not give Miller the first round, only to be surprised to hear him say “When you rewatch it, you won’t think that’s the round in contention.” So, I sat down yesterday to have a go on a recording of the fight, and concurred. I’d overestimated the time Bocek spent on top in the first frame, thinking it much longer than it was, and saw the third round was clearly the contentious one, as most observers agree the first went to Miller, and the second to Bocek. To break down why I scored each round as I did, here is my minute-by-minute account of the fight:
Round 1, 5:00-4:00
The two exchange evenly on the feet briefly, before Bocek presses Miller up against the cage, attempting to work a takedown. Miller fires a few shots at Bocek’s head, but primarily must focus on resisting takedown. Miller threatens an arm in guillotine and attempts to pull guard with it.
Round 1, 4:00-3:00
Bocek pops his head out, but Miller rolls over and uses the opportunity to stand. The two trade knees with Bocek landing one more, but Miller landing the most significant with the lone knee to the head. Bocek again digs in and attempts to work a takedown.
Round 1, 3:00-2:00
The two break, and Miller lands a leg kick, while a Bocek counter misses. Bocek lands a right and shoots, eating a knee in the process, but getting in deep enough to get the slam. Miller works rubber guard and throws an elbow before attempting what Rogan calls an omaplata, but looked like a gogoplata to me. Bocek is able to keep from getting his body controlled and quickly pulls out into half guard.
Round 1, 2:00-1:00
The two are at a stalemate briefly, with Bocek attempting to advance his position, but not landing any strikes. Miller locks on a kimura from half guard, though Bocek defends with his legs. Miller works on the arm, eventually popping it free and sweeping Bocek, continuing to crank. Bocek comes very close to tapping.
Round 1, 1:00-:00
Bocek re-establishes guard, relieving pressure on the hold. Miller throws an elbow which cuts Bocek. Miller throws some light body shots then stands out before landing an elbow as he jumps back into guard. Miller works some ground and pound, and Bocek lands a few light elbows before the horn.
The stand up exchanges were fairly even, with neither fighter having a resounding advantage. Bocek worked for several takedowns, however he was never able to land any offense on the ground with them, even ending up in a guillotine before immediately losing position on the first takedown. The final takedown saw Bocek land a few shots, but was mainly about the kimura Miller used to sweep and nearly submit Bocek, and the resulting ground and pound in the minute on top which followed for Miller. While takedowns are often valued quite highly, I think this round clearly saw Miller do more than Bocek, as Miller had more offense and was far more threatening. Round 1 Miller, 10-9.
Round 2, 5:00-4:00
Miller lands a leg kick, but Bocek quickly shoots in and secures another slam. Miller attempts rubber guard but it is ineffective, as Bocek breaks free and works to pop his leg out of guard.
Round 2, 4:00-3:00
Bocek misses an elbow which Miller uses to re-establish guard. Bocek attempts to move to half. Bocek stands out of the guard before attempting to land a hard punch as he dives into guard, though the punch misses. Miller regains guard and Bocek stands out. Bocek lands as he jumps back into guard. Bocek looks for an arm triangle but Miller defends before being in any danger.
Round 2, 3:00-2:00
Bocek stands out and re-enters with a shot to the body, though without the power of the prior two attempts. Bocek takes half guard but Miller quickly bucks and goes for a leg lock. The two roll through, with Bocek escaping, and moving to mount. Bocek throws a hard strike from mount, but it misses. Miller begins to roll, and Bocek lands an elbow before taking the back with Miller’s right arm trapped by Bocek’s right leg.
Round 2, 2:00-1:00
Bocek works to secure his position fully, locking the body triangle with the arm in with 1:45 to go. Bocek tries to sneak an arm under the chin but is unable, and throws some strikes, landing some and caroming some off of Miller’s defending hand.
Round 2, 1:00-:00
Bocek lands two shots before attempting a neck crank, but is unable to offer any substantial threat with the crank, as Miller prevents him from getting his hands properly clasped to provide torque. Bocek throws some more strikes, landing slightly more than he bounces off of Miller’s hand. Miller stands and rolls forward, though Bocek holds on. Bocek lands a shot which Miller answers with two punches over the shoulder.
Clearly a Bocek round, with the point of interest being whether or not it should be a 10-8, which I feel it most definitely should not be. Much like in the first round, there is little to differentiate standing, though this round Bocek is successful in keeping Miller on the ground, which he was unable to do in the first. Though Bocek remains on top for the first half of the round, he does minimal damage, with the biggest moment of note being the leg lock by Miller. I’m admittedly not an expert on foot locks, but Miller said in post-fight that it was deep, and this is from the same immediate post-fight interview in which he was highly critical of his own showing (he has since said he believed he won, though it was close) so, coupled with knowing who he is as a person, I believe that there was a time before Bocek rolled out where the lock was close. Bocek then takes the back, with the arm in for the final two minutes, a position which is about as dominant as you can ask for. Dominant positions are dominant due to your ability to deal damage and threaten when your opponent can not, however, and while Bocek maintained it and obviously was more threatening and dangerous, I counted 19 strikes thrown, with 9 bouncing off Miller’s hand. Hardly a punishing run of ground and pound. As for submissions, the closest he came was the neck crank, which never seemed particularly threatening. Full credit to Bocek for holding that position and proving the greater offense, earning a 10-9, but credit to Miller’s defense neutralizing much of the offense to prevent a 10-8. Round 2 Bocek, 10-9. Fight tied 19-19 entering final frame.
Round 3, 5:00-4:00
Miller lands a right uppercut, with a straight left following shortly after. Bocek throws a kick which Miller counters with a right hand, with neither appearing to land cleanly. Jim lands a leg kick, then the two exchange evenly for 30 seconds. Miller lands another leg kick.
Round 3, 4:00-3:00
Bocek shoots and Miller sprawls. Both miss with some strikes before Miller lands a leg kick. Bocek scores with a jab. More strikes by each are blocked before Miller lands a punch to the body and a leg kick.
Round 3, 3:00-2:00
Bocek presses Miller against the cage in search of a single, landing three knees to the thigh of Miller, which are answered with a right hand to the head. Miller threatens a guillotine, which he uses to land two knees to Bocek’s head, and a elbow to the head as Bocek gets back upright. Bocek lands several knees to Miller’s lone body punch. Miller looks for a single, receiving a few light elbows from Bocek, who spins out and looks for a takedown of his own.
Round 3, 2:00-1:00
The two struggle briefly before Bocek trips Miller who immediately is back on two feet. Jim attempts a takedown and Bocek sits out and locks around Miller’s midsection. Bocek throws a few knees which are illegal due to Miller’s hand on the mat, but they are light so no harm, no foul. Bocek drops down for a single.
Round 3, 1:00-:00
The two battle in the corner, again with Bocek looking to get the takedown and Miller attempting to stuff. Bocek gets the trip but Miller rolls and goes for his own single before Bocek has time to land any strikes. Bocek wraps Miller’s midsection, preventing Miller from turning the corner. They stand at the clapper with Bocek still holding Miller, but Miller spins out and takes the back with hooks in, landing three shots to the face from Bocek’s back at the horn.
Photo via ESPN.com
The hand strikes in the round more or less cancel out, however the standing edge has to go to Miller who landed several clean leg kicks in conjunction with his punches to secure more standing damage. While Bocek got the fight down more times than Miller, Miller’s back take was a far more advantageous position than Bocek’s takedowns, where he never even secured a place in Miller’s guard. Additionally, the three strikes Miller threw in his brief time on the back were more than Bocek landed on all of his brief takedowns. Against the cage, Miller landed the more telling strikes with the elbow and knees to the head, as Bocek’s knees were both weaker than Miller’s, and also illegal, meaning they can’t score points. So, while the bout was ultimately close, Miller did more standing, in the clinch and on the ground, even if it was only by a small margin in each area. While a 10-10 would not be an unreasonable score for the round, the fact is that 10-10 rounds simply do not get scored in MMA judging right now. Round 3 Miller, 10-9. Miller wins the fight 29-28.
That’s how I came to my score in favor of Miller to win the fight. It was a great fight, my in-attendance pick for fight of the night, and a very close decision. To call it a win for Bocek is, in my opinion, the incorrect call, but a defensible one, as the third round was not as decisive as the first or second. To call the fight a robbery, as if there is no conceivable way for Miller to have won? That’s just ludicrous.