Mixed Martial Arts
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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 Mixed Martial Arts

The Simple Complexities of The Money Fight

“As “The Money Fight” inexorably becomes reality and the odds inexplicably become closer, the cynicism of it all has grown tiresome. You, dear readers, may recall that I haven’t been particularly enthused by the match, but that isn’t because I don’t understand its appeal. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about it. The optics alone of seeing Conor McGregor in the ring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. will be interesting. Plus, for all the criticism McGregor gets for his goofy-looking training methods, there is an undeniable itch of curiosity to see if maybe he’s on to something. That’s to say nothing of the ultimate appeal of Mayweather’s career in the last decade: the desire to see him lose. To lose to a boxing debutante would be the most hilariously embarrassing schadenfreude imaginable, unlikely as it may be.

Both actors are fascinating in their own ways. Mayweather is unquestionably The Best Ever, though not in the way he sells himself. No, Mayweather is not anywhere near the top of the all-time pound for pound list, and he is hardly in contention as the greatest welterweight or lightweight, either. Imagine Mayweather against a prime Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns or Roberto Duran, and it is hard to picture him winning any of those fights. He is a gifted, beautiful fighter, no doubt, but the zero in his loss column has masked his flaws and granted him undue credit…”

 

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