Robbery Review: Frankie Edgar vs. Pedro Munhoz at UFC on ESPN 15

UFC Fight Night: Munhoz v Edgar

Pedro Munhoz and Frankie Edgar at UFC on ESPN 15 in Las Vegas on Aug. 22, 2020 | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.

Frankie Edgar did it again.

The all-time leader in UFC cage time, “The Answer” put together another sterling five-round performance on Saturday against Pedro Munhoz to close out UFC on ESPN 15. Two of three judges scored the fight for Edgar, making him a winner in his first fight at 135 pounds.

Edgar has made a career of taking decisions, with more than half of his 24 victories coming on points. This has been at times exhilarating and infuriating depending on your rooting (and likely betting) interests, and his fight with Munhoz certainly left room for interpretation.

The scorecards didn’t go Munhoz’s way and afterwards he said that he felt he beat Edgar, “without a doubt,” and suggested that Edgar’s reputation played a part in the decision. On Monday, he went as far as to campaign for an immediate rematch.

There was not a massive uproar from the fighting community when Edgar’s hand was raised, with most of their peers celebrating the competitiveness of the contest, though a couple of veteran bantamweights felt the need to make a case for Munhoz.

And one notorious member of the MMA media was adamant that an Edgar win was an impossibility.

Does Edgar owe another opponent a rematch or was this simply a case of the action being too close to call? Let’s go to the tape.

What was the official result?

Frankie Edgar def. Pedro Munhoz via split decision.

How did the fight go?

This fight played out exactly as one would expect. Munhoz mixed in lethal leg kicks with headhunting hooks, while Edgar constantly circled and found openings for combinations. Edgar only threw single shots when countering, otherwise he attacked with three- or four-punch combinations every time. These weren’t pitter-patter strikes either, you could see Munhoz respected Edgar’s firepower.

Of course, the opposite was also true. Munhoz repeatedly found a home for his jab and a straight right, and he might have been one good hook away from putting Edgar down. Fighting an opponent close to his size may have done Edgar good here as his chin held up in a way that it didn’t against the likes of Brian Ortega and “The Korean Zombie.” Munhoz showed strong defense as well, though the sheer volume of Edgar’s punches made it difficult to avoid everything.

At the start of round two, it’s Edgar landed a hard right that put Munhoz off-balance. Munhoz went right back at Edgar and continued to land good shots, but even on the backfoot it looked like Edgar is the one controlling where the fight went. Edgar maintained the distance in round two and started to make Munhoz miss. He also mixed in takedown attempts that didn’t lead to much offense, but did keep Munhoz from establishing a rhythm.

In terms of damage, Edgar scored first blood, opening up a cut by Munhoz’s left eye. It wasn’t long before Munhoz bloodied Edgar’s nose though. Munhoz’s jab continued to look sharp in round three and he did an outstanding job of matching Edgar’s movement, which allowed him to minimize the damage from Edgar’s many combos. It was obvious by this point that this would be an exceedingly difficult fight to score as Edgar was clearly connecting, but Munhoz might have landed the more damaging punches.

Munhoz definitely had the advantage in leg kicks, though diversity of attacks doesn’t necessarily mean he was winning the striking battle. If only he’d been able to cleanly land one of those bombs he was throwing out, it would have gone a long way to strengthening his case. As it was, there was rarely a sequence where one of his power punches wasn’t answered with an Edgar combination.

It was in round five that Munhoz almost managed to draw Edgar into a brawl, which Munhoz would have been more than happy to engage in. But once again, Edgar was able to pull back at just the right moments to avoid a last-second collapse. This was an absurdly fun fight to watch a second time.

What did the judges say?

Derek Cleary scored it 48-47 Edgar.

Sal D’Amato scored it 49-46 Munhoz.

Eric Colon scored it 48-47 Edgar.

All three judges gave round two to Edgar and round four to Munhoz. Outside of that, scoring was all over the place.

Round 1 – Munhoz (Cleary, D’Amato)

Round 3 – Munhoz (Colon, D’Amato)

Round 5 – Edgar (Cleary, Colon)

So yes, even though Munhoz technically took three of the five rounds on two of the judges’ scorecards, that does not result in a win for him as the three 10-9s that Cleary and Colon each gave to Edgar are what mattered in the end. MMA scoring is weird.

What did the numbers say?

(Statistics per UFC Stats)

The numbers are not particularly helpful in helping us get past the initial eye test, though Munhoz and his team could be encouraged by the final stat sheet.

According to the significant striking stats, it’s Munhoz who pulled away as the fight progressed as he won round three 33-24, round four 35-24, and round five 47-33, the largest margin of the fight. Keep in mind, two judges gave the final round to Edgar.

Here’s the rub: It looks like leg kicks took a backseat to head strikes. While Munhoz blew away Edgar in the leg strike department 44-7, Edgar had the slight edge in total head strikes at 105-98 (the body battle was a virtual tie with Munhoz at 24 and Edgar at 23). Going round-by-round, Edgar had more head strikes in rounds one (23-15), two (19-16), and five (27-25).

Munhoz won the total significant strike battle 166-135, so one can speculate that the emphasis was on head strikes when it came time to score the fight.

Neither fighter scored a knockdown. Edgar was credited with two takedowns, one in round two and one in round four, but did not attempt a single ground strike.

What did the media say?

Of the 23 media members scores tallied by MMA Decisions, 19 scored the fight for Munhoz and four for Edgar. Munhoz and his team actually made it a point to mention this discrepancy at Saturday’s post-fight press conference.

Making the media take even more stark is that seven agreed with the 49-46 D’Amato scorecard. Only one outlet scored the fight 49-46 Edgar.

What did the people say?

(Data derived from MMA Decisions and Verdict MMA)

Fans saw this fight much more evenly, with 48-47 Edgar being the most popular score on MMA Decisions at 37.3 percent. Overall, Munhoz had more support, though it wasn’t overwhelming as 49-46 Munhoz and 48-47 Munhoz came in at a combined 52.7 percent.

Voters on the Vedict MMA app gave three rounds to Munhoz, but the overall score was essentially a tie as Edgar won by a narrow 10 points.

The Verdict MMA scoring system takes the cumulative total of every submitted fan score (filtering out aberrant scores like random 10-7s if they comprise less than one percent of the total) in every round and divides by the amount of submitted scores to determine the winner of each round and also in totality.

Edgar’s 85-point win in round two was enough to offset Munhoz’s narrower wins in rounds one, three, and four.

In MMA Fighting’s Twitter poll, voters were firmly in Edgar’s corner, with 70.9 percent picking him as the winner.

How did I score it?

Live, I had this one for Munhoz though like most people watching I also knew it was going to be a toss-up when the scores were read. For whatever reason, I just felt like Munhoz was landing the harder shots in real time and it wasn’t until I reviewed the fight that I saw Edgar was often giving as good as he got.

Where I really differed from the judges was in scoring leg kicks. While the most dramatic ones were landed in the first round, Munhoz stuck with the game plan and his low strikes had a lot to do with why it became easier for him to get a bead on Edgar in the later rounds. Perhaps his penchant for taking two to land one got the best of him, but I thought he did a good job of slipping and deflecting for the most part.

That said, Edgar’s combinations were blazingly fast and scoring them from cageside without the benefit of replay, and with a less than ideal angle at times, can’t have been easy.

Upon further review, I scored it 48-47 Munhoz, giving him rounds one, three, and four.

Was it a robbery?

The judges were split, the media and fans were split, and even I was somewhat split between my first and second viewings of the fight. Even those in the media who scored it in favor of Munhoz, if you check their fight night comments, most admitted that several of the rounds could have gone either way.

It’s difficult to fault the scoring here as there was almost no point in the fight where either man was pulling away. While it’s the judges’ job to be able to see things with more nuance than the average fan, separating these two warriors in the heat of the moment was a tall task and other than weighing leg kicks more heavily in the scoring, there’s not much to critique there.

This was just a great, close fight.

The final verdict

Not a robbery.

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