Mixed Martial Arts
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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Let’s Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

It’s taken a few days for the dust of UFC 227 to settle, partially because so much of it was stirred up. The most dominant champion in MMA history was upset in a fight that was close enough to resemble controversy if you squint hard enough, and another champion slammed the door shut on a rivalry while simultaneously cementing his spot atop the division. There were numerous ways to dissect these two fights. Expectedly, some dissections were more levelheaded than others.

Given the events that took place — and how they took place — it’s no wonder how exaggerated some of the analysis has been. When people attempt to wrap their heads around new realities, it’s natural for convictions to funnel into hyperbole. Alas, they still deserve to be challenged…

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Three Former Champs, Three Different Stories

It’s easy to think of a fighter’s career in a narrative arc. We are, after all, the storytelling animals, but beyond that general appeal, familiar tropes abound from fight to fight. Most of us recognize the component parts of Freytag’s pyramid of dramatic structure: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and conclusion. We get to know fighters early on, see them climb the ranks and string together wins, put on career-defining fights and then slowly fade into retirement.

Applied to combat sports, the climax of any fighter’s career is certainly winning a title. Often, however, things only get more complicated from there…

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Daddest Man on the Planet

While “DC” is a fine and alphabetically consistent nickname, Daniel Cormier should really consider changing it. I’m sure Lucas Bourdon, who to my knowledge originated Cormier’s rightful soubriquet, would not mind.

The fatherliness of “DC” is self-evident beyond his audacious dad-bod. He has the confidence of a man who publicly wears socks with his sandals and tucks his shirt into his sweat pants. He has the swagger of knowing that he can make anything uncool just by liking it. He has the aura of someone who can’t cook but knows his way around the grill and, if all else fails, isn’t afraid to order a pizza. He’s the type who doesn’t blush when he admits to knowing all the songs in “Coco” or “Moana” by heart, the type who has mastered the appropriate tough-love tone when he says “this will hurt me more than it will hurt you,” the type who doesn’t get angry, just disappointed. You know, a dad.

It’s deeper than that, though. Being a father is central to who Cormier is as a person. The story of his life has been marked with tragedies and triumphs, the most devastating and instructive of which have centered around family and fatherhood. When Cormier was 8 years old, his father was murdered on Thanksgiving Day. When the Lafayette, Louisiana, native was 24, his 3-month-old daughter died in a car accident. These are the random, sinister lapses in life’s judgment that leave talking points about theodicy empty and hollow-out lesser men into husks of their former selves. Not Cormier, though…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Stay Weird, MMA

Like you, I will be watching fights this weekend. Unlike you, I will be watching them live — in a nightclub in Gangnam. Clearly, I’m not talking about International Fight Week.

The night before the biggest and most anticipated fight card of the year, a random club in Seoul will host Japanese promotion Real Fight Championship. The event is called Korea vs. The World and is headlined by Kyrgyzstani fighter Nursultan Arsen Uule, as he meets one of Brazil’s many Marcos Souzas. As far as I can tell, the only reason this venue is putting on MMA fights is a coincidence of nomenclature: The club’s name is Octagon, and since the shape is now synonymous with mixed martial arts, 2+2=4.

So why am I writing about this instead of the heavyweight superfight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier or the featherweight title fight between the most talented millennials on the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster? For starters, I would have preferred to write about Korea vs. The World after it happened, but since it coincides with back-to-back UFC cards, that would be irresponsible. More to the point, as the next week of MMA coverage — and likely longer than that — will focus on the highest aspirations and virtues of the sport, it’s worth remembering MMA’s uniquely bizarre underground fringe…

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

What It Means to Make a Mistake

To err is human. In no arena is this more dramatically evident than mixed martial arts.

Joe Rogan’s definition of MMA as “high-level problem solving with dire physical consequences” is appropriately grand. Every fighter is a unique maze of skill sets. More than a simple aggregate of athleticism and technique, fighters are also a combination of prior experiences from the gym and the cage. They are trained to be physical, psychological and technical puzzles, the solution to which is some form of superior violence.

Rogan’s descriptor of “dire consequences” is much more readily understood. Commit to a punch too much and you’re on your back; leave a limb exposed and it’s soon impersonating The Exorcist; circle the wrong way and you’re sniffing shinbone. Any number of seemingly small errors can result in waking up with your back on the canvas. Look at Tyson Pedro’s performance at UFC Fight Night 132 on Saturday in Singapore. After a minute of picking apart Ovince St. Preux at range, he followed a knockdown into a submission attempt. When it failed, he remained in the clinch and tried for a takedown instead of resetting back to the domain where he was initially successful. The takedown got reversed, and he ended up tapping out to an armbar. That isn’t to say Pedro would have necessarily won if he disengaged, but it’s fair to say that this single decision directly led to him losing.

Such dire consequences make the sport so genuinely surprising and righteously satisfying. The superior fighter doesn’t always win, because one mistake is that consequential, and unlike the world outside the cage, mistakes inside of it are naturally and inescapably met with fair treatment. Aside from the exceptional officiating and judging gaffes, fighters almost always get what they deserve in the purest sense. Pedro has no one but himself to blame for his tactical misstep. In this way, fighting is perhaps the most just realm of modern society…

 

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