By In Mixed Martial Arts

In Defense of the Very Good

“If you like to watch grown men punch each other, you almost certainly had a good weekend. Between UFC Fight Night 116 and the boxing match between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, there was plenty of violence to go around.

The UFC Fight Night card on Saturday in Pittsburgh was almost entirely action. All but two of the fights ended within the distance, and the main event saw former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold get back in the mix for the first time in over a year, against a top 10 opponent, no less. On the other side of the combat sport spectrum, the fight between Golovkin and Alvarez was rightly hyped as one of the most important bouts of the year, pitting the two top middleweights in the sport against each other in the primes of their careers. Both middleweight bouts — in boxing and the Ultimate Fighting Championship — were exciting, entertaining affairs between talented fighters. Yet in the aftermath of both events, there were some undeniably sour notes…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A Tale of Two Main Events

“When referee John McCarthy held the arms of Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko and ring announcer Bruce Buffer started reading the scorecards at UFC 215 on Saturday in Edmonton, Alberta, it was impossible to know what the decision would be. The only certainty was that it was close enough to be controversial no matter who won.

Spoiler alert: Nunes picked up the split verdict. It may or may not have been the right decision in your eyes, but it was by no means a robbery. At least three of the rounds were close enough to go either way, making it an interesting case study. According to FightMetric, Nunes outlanded Shevchenko in all but the final round. That is helpful, but it doesn’t tell the whole picture. First, in Rounds 2, 3 and 4, the striking differential was pretty minimal — +4, +2 and +4 for Nunes, respectively. Those aren’t dominant differences, even if we’re going strictly by the arithmetic. Although these tallies are only noting “significant” strikes, who’s to say which strike is really more significant?

Shevchenko made a case for herself in an entertaining if not exactly convincing way. “Look at her face,” she said in disbelief. “Her nose is red from my punches.” Even if Nunes landed more punches, Shevchenko was arguing that they didn’t land clean or do any real damage. How many glancing punches equal one clean one? There is no criterion through which to answer that, nor can there be…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

“UFC 215 on Saturday in Edmonton, Alberta, is an above-average offering. While the undercard is mostly what you would expect from an undercard, it still features two top-15 women’s bantamweights and two top-five flyweights, which is more than a lot of Ultimate Fighting Championship events can boast.

The main card, however, is all bangers. The Jeremy Stephens-Gilbert Melendez fight is high stakes and should be high action, as well. The fight between Ilir Latifi and Tyson Pedro, who share a combined six first-round finishes in the UFC, is likely to end quickly and dramatically. On top of that, former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos will look to stake his claim as a force at welterweight against perennial contender Neil Magny. These are all good, relevant bouts that coalesce into a fitting buildup for two title fights at the top of the card. Those two title fights are where things start to get a little messy…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Let’s Not Overthink This

“Very little in life is truly surprising. We are creatures of habit, fenced off by routines that are more or less predictable for months on end, if not longer. This only magnifies with age, as the openness and possibility of the future continues to funnel into a single, specific direction. It isn’t always a bad thing — it makes our lives much more stable and easier to manage — but the realization of it is often crushing and existentially deflating.

It’s no small wonder then that sports are such a common escape. They frequently provide a real outlet for genuine surprise to occur. Aside from maybe March Madness, fighting by nature lends itself more regularly to upsets than anything else in sports. It is perhaps the most redeeming and alluring quality of violence; anyone can get knocked out at any moment. Unlike a series of offensive drives in football or an elongated scoring spree in basketball, a comeback in boxing, kickboxing or MMA is instantaneous.

This was the underpinning logic behind much of the otherwise irrational belief that Conor McGregor had a legitimate chance to beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday in Las Vegas. In a world where Leicester City won the English Premier League, the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to beat the winningest team of all-time and Donald Trump won Pennsylvania and Michigan, who’s to say someone with no professional boxing experience can’t beat one of the most gifted boxers ever? Surely stranger things have happened.

Yes, sometimes shocking and improbable things happen. What “The Money Fight” reminded us, however, is that likely and probable things happen much more often…”

 

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By In Korea

Seoul, From the Ground Up

“There are two different Seouls.

One of them exists in American headlines and imaginations. In that Seoul, half of South Korea’s 50 million people are living in constant terror. This Seoul is blanketed by Pyongyang’s nuclear shadow and Washington’s gaseous emissions, caught between a geopolitical rock and a hard place: the bratty obstinacy of a vain, power hungry madman, and Kim Jong-un. In this Seoul, South Koreans are paralyzed, able to do little more than cross their fingers and frightfully cling to the sanity of hope in an increasingly crazy world.

Then there’s the Seoul that actually exists in reality—the Seoul where the fire and fury on everyone’s minds is an oppressive, record-setting heat wave. Alongside unusually high levels of monsoons, the humidity has been brutal, leading to enough air conditioner usage to cause brief power outages. As a result, the big consumer trend of the summer has been handheld battery-powered fans.

In this Seoul, the Korean Baseball Organization is halfway into its regular season. Fans flock to the stadiums, clutching their handheld fans, spilling in and out of subways wearing their team’s jerseys. Smells of soju and beer and fried chicken waft through the subway stations.

The Seoul of actual reality obsesses over a slew of K-pop groups releasing new albums—called “comebacks”—and the most commonly discussed battle is whether Red Velvet’s “Red Flavor,” Exo’s “Koko Bop” or, more recently, Wanna One’s “Energetic” is the top summer single.

Life in Seoul isn’t just normal considering its proximity to North Korea; life in Seoul is normal, period. South Koreans work longer days and more hours than nearly anywhere else in the world, and with the fastest average Internet connection on the planet, it’s only natural that their off-hours are dedicated to the same technological distractions as Americans…”

 

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