January, 2017
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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Sherdog’s 2016 Fight of the Year

“Good things may come to those who wait, but we did not have to wait long for good things to come in 2016.

When Robbie Lawler defended his welterweight championship against Carlos Condit at UFC 195 on Jan. 2, it was immediately hailed as a “Fight of the Year” candidate. There were still 364 days left in the year, and an additional 481 fights would take place in the Ultimate Fighting Championship alone, but sometimes that gut feeling simply cannot be denied. Everyone who watched the fight knew it was special the moment the final bell sounded and both men, side by side, hung on to the fence to hold themselves up. It was an iconic moment befitting of a sensational fight.

The recipe was hard to mess up. Both Condit and Lawler had hard-earned reputations as exciting strikers with equally appropriate nicknames: “Ruthless” and “The Natural Born Killer.” Both came from elite training camps. Both had been champions. Both were coming off of savage, bloodbath performances. Lawler had six months of separation from his all-time classic against Rory MacDonald in the consensus 2015 “Fight of the Year.” Condit was seven months removed from delivering an epic beatdown against resurgent former title contender Thiago Alves in Brazil, where he painted the Octagon red with the DNA of his Brazilian foe before the referee called the stoppage. Lawler was known for his power and technical aggression in the pocket and his superhuman ability to absorb and rebound from punishment. Condit was known for his diverse, unrelenting Tasmanian Devil kickboxing game and diamond-grade chin. All the pieces were there, yet the sum of the parts still did not stack up to the greatness of the whole…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Two Types of Defeat

“The new school year in Korea begins with the new calendar year. As such, I got to know my new batch of students this week. Introductory classes are always boring and a little dry, since they mostly exist to learn names, highlight important dates and go over expectations. However, the first day is when I explain the theme of my class, which is really what I try to make the theme of my life in general: to embrace failure. It’s a typical teacher truism, and I’m aware of how cheesy it can sound, but I genuinely believe it. We are, after all, human, and failure is inevitable. What matters is not avoiding failure but developing the ability to learn from it.

UFC 207 on Friday provided two case studies in how to fail and how not to fail. Especially for the “New Year-New Me” resolution crowd, the ways in which former champions Dominick Cruz and Ronda Rousey dealt with their defeats are instructive…”

 

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By In fiction

Stranger in a Familiar Land

“Even the air felt different. It whipped through the building crevasses and alleyways like they were the sails of Magellan, imbued with the bite of adventure. Tile patterns, architecture, bumpy cobblestones and municipal missteps wore a certain charm, a rush of new and different and exhilarating. He stretched his arms deeper into his coat pockets, an invitation for an embrace with the refreshingly chilly urban breeze.

Autumn was a poetic time. Christian never truly experienced it before he moved to Seoul. A San Diego Fall required little more than a long sleeve tee, maybe jeans and a hoodie at night or if you were close to the shore. Leaves stayed put, and the most colorful part of the city was still the pastel adobe-style Mexican restaurants. But Seoul was enchanting with the swing of the seasonal pendulum. And that’s exactly what Fall was, he was warned – a brief alignment of nature’s clock, the evening before winter’s midnight.

Christian had been in Seoul for three months. It was a reactive move to combat the doldrums of his everyday routine back home. Money was good here, and life was new every day. Each block he strolled along, every park he glided through, it all glimmered with a wide-eyed newness.

He walked slowly, eyes on a swivel, losing himself in the wonder of his surroundings. He noticed the trees, first. Of course, he had seen trees before, but none like this. They rested with a sense of ease, a zen-like calm, as if they were content with the rings of their life that lay patiently hidden beneath their barked skin. He took a right, moving forward into the unknown…”

 

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By In Social Media

Best of 2016

2016 was a strange year to say the least. Headlines abounded of political shocks and scandals or celebrity deaths, and nobody could say for sure how true any of those headlines were since we all got our news from Facebook.

Still, it was a productive year for yours truly. I wrote a lot, and I appreciate everyone who has taken time to read my work. Here are the 10 pieces I feel most proud to have written in 2016, with a few thoughts looking back on them. I assure you none of it is fake news.

 

March 7, Sherdog
Conor McGregor and the Death of Imagination

Conor McGregor had built an aura around him. He captured the UFC’s featherweight championship via spectacular dominance, and became one of the sport’s two biggest stars ever along the way. Then he was unceremoniously and, frankly, embarrassingly defeated in his first fight of 2016.

 

March 9, The Classical
Away Games: A Dispatch from the Korean Basketball League

I had already been living in Korea for over a year when I first went to a professional basketball game. The sense of newness and excitement of living in a foreign country had mostly subsided, and the shitty parts – like cold weather – were still shitty. Then I went to a Korean Basketball League game.

 

April, Eastlit
Jong Il from Yang Pyeong

Jong Il had recently moved from his home in the countryside to Seoul. A day spent catching butterflies and dragonflies in the park causes him to reflect on what he kept with him, and what he didn’t.

 

May 2, Sherdog
The Costs of Control

Dana White claimed the secret to the UFC’s success has been to incentivize fighters with performance bonuses while keeping guaranteed pay low. “If you were guaranteed to earn $37 million, guess what you’re gonna do? Not much.” Can’t argue with that logic, right?

 

August 22, Sherdog
Mixed Martial Artistry

The rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz was a truly great fight. But its greatness was not just that of an exciting fight; it connected in a more essential way.

 

October 10, Sherdog
A Beautifully Weird Twisted Reality

Mixed martial arts is strangely alluring. Its youth as a sport means there’s an absence of the polished professionalism in other major sports leagues. The type of people who makes a living inflicting violence on others is inherently a different set of psychologies than other professional athletes. And yet for all the ridiculous, absurd and downright bizarre aspects of the sport, it can also simultaneously be beautiful. Enter Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping.

 

November 4, Harvard Review Online
Book Review of Annie Dillard’s “The Abundance”

Pulitzer winner Annie Dillard is inimitable. Her writing is beautiful, hilarious, bizarre and familiar all at once. “The Abundance” is a collection of essays spanning across decades, and it shows how her voice is as unique and vital now as it ever was.

 

November 14, Sherdog
Politics, UFC 205, and What It Means to Fight

The first two weeks of November were quite possibly the most 2016 moments of 2016. Donald Trump won the presidential election, Conor McGregor headlined one of the biggest UFC cards in history – at Madison Square Garden, no less – and my parents came to Korea to visit for a few days. It was a time of complex ideas and emotions pulsing within and around me, and ironically it was the dumbest and simplest of them all that helped me recalibrate.

 

December 12, Sherdog
A Fighter Forged from Conflict

Where we’re from can powerfully inform who we become. To understand interim featherweight champion Max Holloway, who has become one of the toughest and most technical mixed martial artists on the planet, you have to understand what life is like in his hometown of Waianae.

 

December 15, The Classical
John John Florence and Surfing’s Hawaiian Homecoming

When John John Florence became the World Surf League champion, it was the first time a surfer from Hawaii had done so in over a decade. It’s strange to think that the place that invented surfing has gone through such a long drought on the competitive circuit, but a closer inspection explains why – and why John John’s win is so important.

 

*****

 

I can’t say enough how much it means to me that anyone at all reads what I write. So many editors, publishers and writers have motivated me, guided me, and inspired me to continue chasing this silly dream of mine, and every single person who has read my work has helped me get closer to achieving it. I appreciate all of it, more than I can adequately express. 2016 was a good year, and I’m proud of everything I wrote, but I know there is much work to be done in 2017. I’ll keep working.

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