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Open Scoring: Taking Combat Sports to the Next Level?

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With the confusing and uneventful co-main event of UFC 274 between Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza, scorecards were all over the place.

With Rose’s corner saying they thought she was up four rounds heading into the fifth and final round, many were shocked to see Carla Esparza’s hand raised once all was said and done. Since the controversy, the idea of open scoring has been brought up once again and the debate continues to draw a line in the sand among the Combat Sports community.

Open Scoring Has Been a Hot Topic Among MMA Fans Since Being Introduced in Invicta FC

Combat Sports are games of inches and the outcome of a fight could happen in a split second. Unfortunately, these inches and seconds are not equated, but 10 points are. Currently, in most combat sports promotions a 10-point must system is the format judges use to determine the winner of each round. This means the three ringside judges scoring a fight will give the winner of each round ten points and the loser nine or less.

At times, even for a casual fan, determining a winner is not a tough task, but there are many times when scorecards and victors are debated up until the official scorecards are announced.

In what seems to be occurring more often now than before, the idea of open scoring has become much more prevalent when discussing how to improve combat sports, especially MMA. Let’s take a look at what open scoring is and why the topic has become “controversial” in the community.

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What is Open Scoring?

Essentially, open scoring would allow the fighters to elect to their corner, whether or not they would like to see how the fight is being scored in totality after each round. For example, Fighter A is going into the third and final round against Fighter B. Fighter A tells their corner they would like to see the scoring of the fight. Fighter A would see the scorecards read 20-18 at the end of two rounds, signifying that they are up two rounds to zero going into the last round. Oppositely, if Fighter B also elects to see the scoring, they would know that they are down two rounds and will need to finish the fight in order to secure the victory.

Is Open Scoring Being Used Currently?

As of right now, only one promotion is displaying open scoring. Female-only MMA promotion Invicta FC was the trailblazer to put this concept into a reality. Back in March 2020, during their Phoenix Series 3 event, in collaboration with the Kansas Athletic Commission, the first fight card with open scoring was set.

Ever since that day, all Invicta FC events have been held in Kansas City to allow for the open scoring option. At the moment there are now two states that have adopted the open scoring when the Colorado State Boxing Commission voted for it back in October 2021.

What Does the MMA Community Think?

Similar to a lot of topics in the MMA community, fans are debating whether or not they like the idea of open scoring and if they want to see it implemented into bigger promotions. Some believe that it takes the excitement out of the hearing the judge’s scorecards announced, while other claims there are chances the winning fighter will not engage in the final rounds if there is no way for them to lose the fight other than by stoppage.

But what about the fighters? The actual individuals who put their lives on the line for our entertainment? MMA journalist Ariel Helwani has been a big proponent of utilizing open scoring. During his show, “The MMA Hour”, he has asked various fighters, coaches and promoters what they think of open scoring. Here is a list of some of the many names that think it would be a good idea.

The list of fighters continues to grow and more and more individuals are becoming open to the idea, including Bellator promoter Scott Coker, stating “It’s something the fans would enjoy, and I think the media would enjoy covering that, too, seeing the score as each round goes by.” Whether the fans or fighters want it, ultimately it is up to the commission to determine whether or not open scoring will be adopted into their ruleset.

The more the topic gets brought up, the better chances it will be picked up by various state commissions. MMA is only 30 years old and is still such a young sport in the grand scheme of things. It may not happen soon, but the more people talk about it, look for more test runs using open scoring to at least be attempted on a bigger scale in the future.

Featured image credit to Invicta FC

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