Mixed Martial Arts
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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Violent Meditations

“One of the more fascinating aspects of mixed martial arts is understanding why people watch it. Most other sports have obvious and mostly singular appeals: They showcase elite athletic feats and elicit some emotional cocktail of pride in seeing your side win and/or schadenfreude in seeing the other side lose. Much can be said about the combination of catharsis and entertainment, but that umbrella tends to cover everything.

MMA is a little more fractal than that. Fans flock to the fight game for a number of different reasons. For some, the enjoyment comes from purely sporting purpose, as they want to see high-level athletes doing high-level combative chess; others come to MMA for the martial arts component, to see the skill, honor and discipline of ancient practices applied to real-life situations; and of course, there are those who simply want to see some bloody, violent chaos. All three of these are perfectly legitimate reasons to enjoy the sport.

A clip from the MMA Beat last week made the rounds, with host Ariel Helwani making the case for why the Ultimate Fighting Championship should not promote itself as violent: “Outside of the MMA world, in what realm do you ever hear the word ‘violence’ used positively? It always has a negative connotation, yet we promote it and celebrate this word and want to stick it on our sport like it’s some cool thing to do. It disgusts me.”

This is not the first time this argument has been made — you may recall early last year when SBG Ireland trainer John Kavanagh voiced a similar gripe — nor will it be the last. That’s a good thing, though. It’s a worthwhile discussion to have, and fans should be grappling with the violent nature of the sport they support…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A Source of Pride

“There is a story behind every journey into the Octagon, and every story invariably includes adversity and heartache — almost certainly to a much greater degree than triumph. Success is built on a mountain of Ls, and in order to suffer through those losses and keep trudging onward, there must be an aquifer of personal pride somewhere beneath the bedrock of whatever other motivation propels fighters forward. Though nebulous and amorphous, pride is an essential piece of the fight game. There was no shortage of it at UFC 216 on Saturday in Las Vegas, especially at the top of the card…”

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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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