UFC, other Mixed Martial Arts, and Boxing share similar scoring criteria when it comes to judging fights. Sadly, a lot of the time, judges get things wrong and the term “robbery” is thrown around about the result of the match. But, the criteria becomes a little more blurry when you lean into the MMA (UFC) side of things and it’s only getting worse.
We’ve seen a lot of questionable calls in the UFC, but as things evolve, it seems like the scoring criteria keep changing. There were times in UFC’s past when they’d say that things like octagon control helped fighters win fights on the scorecards. Take-downs, submission attempts, and ground control are all being looked at as ways to score a fight. But, are they?
It got to a point where even the broadcast commentary was confused about how judges scored fights, so much so that they all had a mandatory meeting to explain judges scoring criteria, which was not revealed to the general public. Still, the commentary often continues to be confused about how fights are being scored.
UFC Open Scoring
As mentioned, lots of controversial decisions have happened in UFC but the latest one happened this past Saturday in what was a big fight to find out the potential next contender for the Flyweight Championship. Kai Kara-France took on Amir Albazi in a five-round main event at UFC Fight Night which saw Albazi win 3-2, in what was a shock to everyone, including the broadcast team who all agreed that Kai won the fight.
Many fans and media personnel had the fight scored 4-1 or 3-2 for Kai Kara-France, and even one judge, Mike Bell, had it 3-2 for Kai. But, judges Sal D’Amato and Chris Lee had it scored 3-2 Albazi. Controversy struck even more when the scorecards were revealed showing Mike Bell and Sal D’Amato had given Kai round 4, as nearly everyone else did as well, but judge Chris Lee gave Amir round 4, which was an easy scoring round for Kai. Frustration loomed all throughout social media from fans and even fellow fighters about the atrocious scorecards.
While there are bad calls in other sports, and even possible game-winning calls being screwed up from officials in football, basketball, baseball, or any other team sport, the bigger issue is, if a referee screws LeBron James and the Lakers out of a winning game, LeBron and every player on the team gets paid the same whether they win or lose. But, in the fight game, the winner gets paid more if they win, plus potential bonus money and losing out on being the next contender for a championship, much like we saw Saturday. So, not only are judges screwing a fighter out of a win, but out of money, out of being a champion, and could potentially drastically change the path of their career.
It’s not fair to have fighters put in a position where they don’t know if they’re winning or losing a fight unless they get a stoppage. Therefore, I believe UFC needs to be more transparent and start to implement open scoring into each fight to better help fighters understand how the fight is going on the scorecards.
If you didn’t know, open scoring is a system in which the scorecards are revealed to the fighters and their corners after every round, instead of them being kept secret until after the fight. Open scoring would allow fighters and their team to change up the game plan and really push the pace, or even look for a finish if need be, and allow each fighter to know if they’re behind or ahead in the fight in real-time.
There is some backlash to open scoring, with some believing that if this was implemented, the winning fighter would become more cautious and try to avoid their opponent in order to stay ahead and win the fight, and becoming too lazy to look for the finish, otherwise known as “taking the easy way out.” But, on the contrary, this could help push the losing fighter to go all in and look for the finish, forcing the winning fighter to fight back or get put to sleep.
While open scoring is a controversial topic, I strongly believe this would help us from seeing significantly fewer “Robbery” endings that leave fans feeling soured on the sport and potentially could lead to more finishes in the sport, so the judges aren’t even needed. Overall, in the grand scheme of things, transparency needs to be shown, whether that’s revealing what the actual criteria are for scoring a fight and not just letting fans and even commentary guess if it’s being scored on damage or control, or more transparency to allow judges to be held accountable for their terrible scoring.
Something needs to happen and it needs to happen sooner rather than later. Putting fighters’ careers and money at risk is shameful and shouldn’t be happening. Plus, screwing fans who bet on the sport out of money and souring them to the point where many fans don’t tune back in. In the words of the late great Owen Hart, enough is enough and it’s time for a change.
By: Brady Alexander