Point-Counterpoint: Did Justin Gaethje Win Round 1 at UFC 254?

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 25: In this handout image provided by UFC, (R-L) Justin Gaethje kicks Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia in their lightweight title bout during the UFC 254 event on October 25, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

This is the first in a series of point-counterpoint articles. The main event at UFC 254 between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje didn’t have to go to the judges’ scorecards, however, that does not mean the three judges didn’t add some controversy.

After a dominant second round, “The Eagle” secured his spot at the top of the lightweight mountain with a triangle choke that put Gaethje to sleep. The result isn’t what is in question, because there is no doubt about that. Instead, the first round is and the way the judges of this beautiful sport score the fight game.

UFC 254 Main Event Scorecard

As you can see in the photo above, two of the three judges scored the first round for the interim champ, Gaethje.

We decided to do a point-counterpoint style article with a couple of writers to discuss the first round of the UFC 254 main event.

Jeremy Brand

Round 1 was close, yes. I understand that. However, looking at the unified rules and everything that goes along with them, in my eyes, Nurmagomedov took the cake. The 10-point must system is followed and effective striking/grappling is first on the list, that one could be a bit of a wash. The two both landed 23 significant strikes, however, the champ hit the lone takedown of the round. So plan B of the unified rules is effective aggression — in that, it has to be the forward pressure, a tiny amount of cage aggression, and the takedown. And finally, the last in the unified rules is octagon control. Well, that was entirely in favor of Nurmagomedov. All in all, that should have earned him all three judges scorecards for the round.

Dan Rose

I have to say before I wade into these muddy waters, I too scored the first round for Nurmagomedov. However, as Jeremy stated, two of the judges scored the round for Gaethje, and I’m here to explore the possible reason that happened. In terms of striking “The Eagle” landed more to the head and body, but Gaethje had a big advantage with leg kicks. If he could have continued that trend for a number of rounds, it could have paid dividends down the line. It didn’t work out that way. That said, judges could have felt that since head and body strikes were close, the massive edge in leg strikes swayed the round in favor of the interim champion. Nurmagomedov did manage a takedown, but Gaethje also defended one. That’s honestly the only criteria I could see that would push the round in the favor of “The Highlight.”

Article Written by Jeremy Brand and Dan Rose

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