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Open Scoring

(Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

MMA Needs Open Scoring As Soon As Possible

Open Scoring
(Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

MMA Needs Open Scoring As Soon As Possible

At UFC Vegas 55 there was another questionable decision by MMA judges. Holly Holm was robbed of what should have been a unanimous decision victory. Instead, Ketlen Vieira was the one who had her hand raised. The issue of judging in MMA is an issue that is recurring and it must be fixed. While it is not a perfect solution, open scoring in MMA can provide a patch to the issue of judging.

What happened at UFC Vegas 55?

Let’s set the stage for this discussion by looking at just how bad the judges messed up during Holm vs Vieira. Here is how Verdict MMA had the fight scored.

If you are unfamiliar with how Verdict MMA scores a fight here is a great explanation. In contrast, here is how the official judges scored the bout.

As you can see, Holm lost on two of the official scorecards while being heavily favored on Verdict. Add this to the long list of mistakes made by MMA judges.

What is open scoring?

The concept of open scoring is very simple. After each round, the judges’ scores are made public. For example, in Holm vs Vieira, after round one, each fighter’s corner would have been told that Holm won the round by a score of 10-9. At the same time, the stadium jumbotron would display the same news to the audience. This would continue for the first four rounds. After round five, the official decision would be read as normal.

This is foreign to combat sports but in reality, every other sport has open scoring. In a baseball, football, or basketball game, each team knows the score. Open scoring takes that same idea and applies it to MMA.

How does open scoring help?

Open scoring does not fix a judge’s mistake. However, it allows fighters to adjust to how a fight is being scored. Once again using Holm and Vieira as an example, Holm could have changed her strategy if she knew that she lost round three. Holm’s game plan was very similar in round three and four, which led to her losing both rounds. If she would have known that she lost round three she would have had two pieces of information. The first is that she had to win the last two rounds. The second is that the judges will not score a round in her favor by controlling Vieira against the cage. With this information, Holm could have adjusted her game plan and potentially won the fight. Essentially, open scoring allows fighters to work around poor judging.

What are the downfalls?

Some people think open scoring is bad for MMA. These people have two common counter arguments. One is the thought that the audience’s reaction could influence the judges. This is unlikely. At a minimum, judges should not let the audience influence their decisions. Right now, the audience can boo if someone is out-wrestling their opponent. This does not affect scoring. In addition, if this is the concern that is holding back open scoring then there is a simple solution. Don’t tell the live audience. It is more than reasonable to just tell the corners. This keeps the live audience from influencing the judges.

The other counterargument is that it will make fights boring. Many people believe fighters will coast if they know that they are up two points going into the final round. This will certainly change the sport. However, on the opposite side of that, the fighter that is losing will likely chase a finish. Plus, finish bonuses will still influence some fighters to attack even while winning the fight.

When will we see open scoring in the UFC?

Hopefully soon! The Kansas state athletic commission made it legal for MMA promotions to utilize open scoring during their events. LFA 96 was the first use of the system in an MMA event. Most MMA fans want to know when open scoring will be in the UFC. After all, LFA is only a small-regional promotion. In terms of legality, if the UFC wants a change in scoring they will be able to work with various athletic commissions to make it an option. This process will be sped up by the fact that it is already legal in Kansas.

No matter how reasonable a new scoring system sounds there will always be pushback from people. This is natural. Thankfully, the UFC can test new changes. The UFC currently has two developmental shows for fighters looking to join the promotion, The Ultimate Fighter, and Dana White’s Contender Series. Both of these shows would be a great place to experiment with open scoring. If things go well, the UFC will be able to implement open scoring in their weekly events.

With this in mind, open scoring may not be available at the moment. However, it can be tested and in effect by the start of 2023. In a perfect world, judges would not make mistakes. However, in the current state of MMA, judges continue to make mistakes and open scoring is one of the few ways to address this massive problem.

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