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The Weekly Takedown: Scott Coker says open scoring should be considered

The Bellator president believes the positives of a new scoring system outweigh the potential problems.

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated's in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

A look of shock and dismay from the face of A.J. McKee will remain a prevailing image from Bellator 277.

McKee lost the featherweight title, as well as his undefeated record, to Patrício "Pitbull" Freire after the fight was ruled in Freire's favor by unanimous decision. There was clearly a divide between the judges' scorecards and the way McKee believed the fight played out, which isn't all that uncommon in MMA.

A way to potentially solve that is by having an open scoring system where scores are visible after each round. It would be a stark change from the current system, and it could introduce a different set of problems. Bellator president Scott Coker believes it would add a whole new dynamic to the sport.

"We'd have to get that approved by the commission, but it's something we should consider," Coker said. "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."

A negative aspect to open scoring could be judges being swayed by the crowd or social media, though Coker did not envision that as an issue that would derail the idea.

"I trust our judges, and I don't think that would be a problem," Coker said. "I would hope that the judges wouldn't be swayed by people in the building or online."

scott-coker

Another moment of controversy that occurred last weekend at 277 was the light heavyweight title bout ending in a no contest. This was a rare sight, as Corey Anderson appeared on the verge of finally winning the title after a dominant opening three rounds against reigning champ Vadim Nemkov. But an accidental headbutt caused a stoppage with only seconds remaining in the third round. The referee ruled that the fight should not resume, which was a tricky call considering that third round needed to reach its end before the fight could be ruled official – leaving Anderson without the title or the $1 million purse that went along with the light heavyweight grand prix final.

"That was a really, really tough decision," Coker said. "I walked in the cage and didn't know what was going on. We went to the video playbook, and the replay showed Corey flagging the referee after the headbutt, which was unintentional, that drew attention to the cut. The referee decided that they couldn't go forward.

"It's unfortunate the way it ended, but we'll run it back. We're going to run that back as quickly as possible, and the million dollars will be on the line in that fight."

Speaking from Honolulu, Coker shared his enthusiasm for the back-to-back cards Bellator is running over the next two days in Hawaii.

Tomorrow's Bellator 278 is headlined by a women's flyweight title bout pitting champion Juliana Velasquez against Liz Carmouche, then Saturday's Bellator 279 card is powered by the great Cris Cyborg putting her featherweight title against Arlene Blencowe.

"There are people on my staff asking me to run more cards in Hawaii," Coker said. "It's beautiful here. And we're really excited about inviting the military and first responders to come at no charge. Those are our heroes, and we're hoping they come check out the event. They're going to see a great night of fights and still get out in time to have a nice dinner in Waikiki."

Saturday's card is especially solid, with two bantamweight bouts that include Juan Archuleta against Raufeon Stots for the interim title, as well as Kyoji Horiguchi, fighting for the first time since his loss last December to Sergio Pettis, against Patchy Mix. Both bouts are also part of the Bellator bantamweight world grand prix

"I think we'll see a lot of fireworks in the Archuleta-Stots fight," said Coker. "Those are two guys that are just going to go after it. And Horiguchi is someone people aren't going to want to miss. This is the opening round of our bantamweight tournament, so it's time to fight or go home. The finals will be in December or January, and there is another million-dollar for the winner.

"There is no easy fight in the fight game. One punch can change everything, and we'll see that this weekend."

The debate for open scoring continues, with Patrício 'Pitbull' Freire among those who believes it would help the 'sport to grow'

Patrício "Pitbull" Freire and A.J. McKee fought their way to an outstanding main event last Friday at Bellator 277, nearly erasing the poor taste of the Vadim Nemkov-Corey Anderson bout that preceded it.

After five rounds, it appeared highly likely that Freire would reclaim the featherweight title, perhaps by split decision. And he did regain the belt, avenging last his loss summer to McKee after it was announced he won – with scores of 49-46, 48-47, and 48-47–by unanimous decision.

But would the championship rounds have been even more tense and exciting if the fighters and the fans knew the score?

"I think that would be fair," Freire told Sports Illustrated. "We should be able to know what the judges are seeing. That would be the correct move for this sport to grow."

patricio-pitbull-freire

Open scoring seems like a no-brainer, but it brings with a bevy of complications. While it would seem inane to have a basketball game with a score that wasn't announced until the end, there is a human element involved in scoring a fight that cannot be avoided. Would crowds affect the way judges scored fights? And what about the reaction on social media as judges became prominent?

Belal Muhammad also won a fight via unanimous decision this past weekend, defeating Vicente Luque en route to a spot in the top-five of UFC's welterweight division. Like Freire, he entered the bout an underdog. There was less outage over his victory (the image of a shocked McKee following the announcement of the "Pitbull" win may have something to do with that), but it still would have added another element of excitement to know the score as the rounds accumulated.

Whether you are for or against open scoring, there is no denying it would bring a whole new element into the sport.

The Pick 'Em Section:

Here are my picks for a loaded weekend, which includes fights in UFC, Bellator, and ONE:

UFC Fight Night 205 main event: Jessica Andrade vs. Amanda Lemos

  • Pick: Jessica Andrade

Bellator 278 main event: Juliana Velasquez (c) vs. Liz Carmouche

  • Pick: Juliana Velasquez

Bellator 279 main event: Cris Cyborg (c) vs. Arlene Blencowe

  • Pick: Cris Cyborg

Bellator 279 bantamweight bout: Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Patchy Mix

  • Pick: Kyoji Horiguchi

ONE Championship 156 strawweight bout: Jarred Brooks vs. Bokang Masunyane

  • Pick: Bokang Masunyane

Last week: 2-2, 1 NC

2022 record: 50-19

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.