A year in MMA would not be complete without its share of controversial moments and 2023 was no exception.
Of course, nothing will top 2022 in terms of controversial moments. The seemingly normal prelim fight in Nov. 2022 between Darrick Minner and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke stole the headline of the year leading to a complete FBI investigation. That is a tough act to follow but 2023 certainly tried its best.
Every chapter in the sport's history has its fair share of judging errors and referee blunders including 2023. While the year was low on controversial moments for most of its duration, Ian Machado Garry and Colby Covington expanded the options in the final few months.
From the highly debated UFC Noche women's flyweight title fight scorecard to the late stoppage between Jalin Turner and Bobby Green, the UFC ended up full of highly disputed talking points in its 30th anniversary.
Mike Bell's UFC Noche scorecard shocked MMA Twitter
The UFC's inaugural Noche UFC event was memorable in more ways than one.
Headlining the card, flyweight champion Alexa Grasso and former divisional queen Valentina Shevchenko ran back a rematch of their first meeting in March. Prior to being on the wrong end of one of the promotion's biggest upsets, Shevchenko was undefeated at flyweight with eight championship wins.
Though Grasso ended the fight with a neck crank submission victory, many believed that Shevchenko was in control of the bout before the finish. The Russian called for an immediate rematch in her post-fight interview, and to no surprise, the UFC obliged.
To follow up on the potential 2023 Submission of the Year from Grasso, the UFC created an entire event geared for the Mexican audience in Las Vegas with the newly crowned champion at the top.
The fight itself was much more competitive than the first one. Grasso scored the only knockdown of the fight but it was Shevchenko who many believed was ahead on the scorecards heading into the final round, though the margin was razor thin.
In the consensus opinion of every fan watching the fight, Grasso won the final round. As Bruce Buffer announced the winner, the only question remaining was how rounds one and four were scored with the knockdown occurring in round two and Shevchenko controlling with her grappling in round three.
As it would turn out, Junichiro Kamijo and Sal D'Amato were split on the result, awarding each fighter with a 48-47 edge. The deciding judge, Mike Bell, stunned everyone with a 47-47 slip, resulting in a split draw and no conclusion to the rematch.
Though it was puzzling how Bell got to his final answer, many assumed the judge credited Grasso with a 10-8 in round two for the knockdown. However, it was revealed that the 'dominant' round was scored as round five. Shevchenko immediately claimed Bell to be biased and the reasoning for his championship scorecard remains unknown.