clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Would Open Scoring Be Good For MMA?

New, 12 comments

All right, time to editorialize a bit. Open scoring has long been a controversial topic in boxing circles. Although MMA has, overall, displayed much better judging than has boxing in recent years, maybe it's time that the MMA community at large begin to entertain the idea of open scoring. The transparency that open scoring offers would be beneficial to the integrity of the sport, in my opinion. We've all watched fights where there appears to be a clear winner and two of the judges have it right but one judge scores the bout for the other fighter by a substantial margin. In such a case it could be very beneficial for both fighters to know what the judges are giving emphasis to so that they can make in-fight adjustments to effect the scoring in their favor. Fighters sacrifice and work feverishly on their game in preparation for these fights for sometimes months leading up to their match. It's my opinion that they (and the viewing public) deserve to know which fighter is leading after each round.

There are two arguments against open-scoring that I hear more than any other:

•1. Open scoring would be bad for MMA because it would put undue "pressure" on judges (i.e. the crowd would be booing or heckling after the score is posted between rounds and judges shouldn't be pressured into scoring the fight according the crowd's wishes).

Response: One thing that I immediately notice about this argument is that it shows a tremendous lack of confidence in the professionalism and/or competency of judges. In essence, it doubts their ability to do what MMA referees, baseball umpires, football referees and other established sports officials do on a regular basis: consider the criteria of the sport they are officiating and act appropriately. All of the above mentioned people, including the MMA fighters themselves, are under constant pressure to do their jobs. Why should those judging their performance be held to a lesser standard? Basically, if we doubt the abilities of these judges to THIS degree, then we've got much bigger institutional problems.

•2. Open scoring would be a bad thing for MMA because it would cause fighters that have a comfortable lead to "coast" to victory, knowing that they have a decision well in hand.

Response: It is most certainly true that under an open scoring system you would have fighters that do exactly what is described in this criticism. However, what is also true is that you would have many fighters that now know that they are trailing on the scorecards who would take many more chances and press the action even more. One ancillary benefit to open scoring, as well, would be that it would reveal which fighters have the most heart. If a fighter and his corner can plainly see on a scoreboard that they have to finish their opponent to win and then they don't go for that finish aggressively then that tells us something about that fighter that is valuable for us (and the promotion that they work for) to know. Under the current setup, said fighter could simply argue "I thought that the fight was really close so that's why I didn't open up and take chances. I was trying to fight conservatively to ensure that I won the round. If I had known I would have gone all out." This is often a cop-out that some guys use. With open scoring in place fighters would be able to make no such argument. Besides, the central benefit to open scoring wouldn't be to ensure more action anyway. It would be to have transparency in a sport where the fans deserve it. Unlike fans of baseball, football, basketball or hockey, MMA fans routinely have to pay to view the sport that we love. If we're going to ask the average working man and his friends to pay approximately $50 to watch a few hours of fights, lets at least let him know what the score is before the contest ends.

I'm usually on the side of being a purist in regard to the sports that I follow. However, sometimes there are just better ways of doing something, even if it isn't the way we're used to or the way that we've always done things. One of the reasons for the lack of popularity that boxing has today is because of the inclination by the decision makers in the sport to avoid changes whether they be in regard to rules, marketing of the sport or anything else. The MMA community has shown itself to be the antithesis of this. MMA proponents are always trying to improve the product and market it to new fans in dynamic new ways while also seeking to improve the quality of the fan's experience. What do you all think? Would open scoring be good or is it a change that really wouldn't benefit the sport?