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Do We Need Open Scoring in MMA?

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After a year of trying out open scoring in Kansas, there seems to be more interest than ever in bringing the practice into the broader MMA world.

How to fix scoring in mixed martial arts has been a topic of public debate for almost as long as the sport has existed. Early UFC events had no judges at all, and briefly toyed with some celebrity/informal judging systems, before ultimately moving to our current 10-point must format—copied largely from boxing and kickboxing.

In Japan, PRIDE brought their own ideas to the table. Awarding fighters less for their potential point-fighting prowess and general, positional, grappling or striking success, and more for their delivery of potentially fight ending offense. Scores were awarded for the entire fight as a single event, rather than the cumulative sum of round after round.

Whether one avenue is better than the other is debatable, but efforts to improve the UFC’s 10-point must system have been slow to embrace innovation. Most recently, judges have been instructed to use 10-8 rounds more liberally, and language has been tweaked to emphasize what kind of offense should be most rewarded in each round. Ringside monitors for judges have been made available, and an instant replay option has been trotted out, but rarely made use of.

One potential wrinkle that the UFC has long pushed away, however, is the notion of ‘open scoring.’ Fans of the idea argue that allowing fighters and their corners to see the scores for the bout between each round would let them adjust tactically to their position in the fight—giving fighters who may otherwise be down on points a chance to know just where they stand heading into the last round.

Opponents of the measure argue, instead, that knowing scores would spoil the drama for fans, and lead to more late-fight coasting and boring third rounds from evasive fighters who know they’ve already sealed the victory.

Recently, the State of Kansas decided to give open scoring a test run, and have used it for their last year of MMA events, including multiple Invicta and LFA fight cards. The folks at Combat Culture got a hold of the state athletic commission to find out just what the results of the trial were, and if there’s a solid argument to bring the practice into more general use. Check out the video above to see what the results were. And let us know in the comments what you think of open scoring in MMA.