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Climate Change Is Sabotaging the World’s Most Dangerous Canoe Race

Only three canoes dared to put in for the first Molokaʻi Hoe in 1952. The race was not yet the spectacle it would become more than 50 years later. It’s the Super Bowl of canoe paddling and a staple of the Hawaiian sports scene in which over 1,000 participants from across the planet compete in the more than 40-mile race from Molokai to Oahu. But the Molokaʻi Hoe — pronounced ho-eh, so that it almost rhymes with “boy” — has always been extremely dangerous. The treacherous Kaʻiwi Channel has been locally infamous for a lot longer than the Hoe has been internationally famous. Kaʻiwi translates to “the bone,” a reference to the collection of human remains strewn across its depths. Just a few miles down the coast from the Molokaʻi Hoe’s finish line, corpses of fishermen and sailors regularly washed ashore from Kaʻiwi’s torrents.

Completing the Molokaʻi Hoe is a man-versus-nature feat that has inspired risk-taking athletes for centuries; it also imbues the race with special local heroism, the bravery that inspired ancient Polynesians to explore their vast oceanic horizons thousands of years ago. The Hoe is no less daunting in 2019, but it has also become something else in recent seasons — a crucial example of how climate change is affecting our world…

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When Risks Pay Off

It’s no secret what the Ultimate Fighting Championship wants out of its fighters. If the BMF title didn’t illuminate it enough at UFC 244 on Saturday, just watch a few episodes of Dana White’s Contender Series and see who nets a UFC contract. Hint: It’s not the fighters who employ careful, strategic game plans and walk away with lopsided unanimous decisions. The promotion wants action, which is to say, it wants fighters to take risks.

This is not just an in-cage thing, either. The fighters for which UFC President Dana White and Company are looking are not the ones who take strategic bouts against hand-selected opponents, but those who will fight anyone at any time. For all the UFC’s efforts to sanitize mixed martial arts into something palatable to general sports fans, what it really wants it to be is action-packed violence, not strategic athletic competition. This isn’t subtext or insinuation, either; White is pretty explicit about it. Still, a lot of fighters opt not to take big-risk fights for that very reason: They’re risky. In a sport as inherently risky as MMA, it makes sense to control the risks you take as much as possible. However, the fighters who took the largest risks at UFC 244 in New York ended up as the biggest winners…

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Lightweight’s Best-Case Scenario

I don’t recommend paying any sort of attention to my fight predictions. I don’t gamble, so my picks are always low-stakes. As such, I tend to make them using one of two criteria. Either I have a strong analytical reason for thinking one fighter will win, or I would simply prefer one fighter to win, even if I don’t think he or she will.

I picked Justin Gaethje to beat Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 158 on Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia. He fulfilled both criteria. His penchant for working the body and Cerrone’s history of wilting via body shots made me think he’d finish the fight, and frankly, it was the best-case scenario for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight division. That’s not a dig on “Cowboy.” He’s one of the most widely beloved and uniquely intriguing fighters in the sport’s history. He’s not only entertaining but also incredibly skilled. No doubt, he’ll go down as one of the best fighters to never win a championship — emphasis on that last part.

Had Cerrone won, it would have added a new dimension to his already remarkable career. The old dog would have proved that he still had bite, or something. Yet there’s no denying that he’s past the point of being able to compete with the top of the division. He already lost decisively to Tony Ferguson, and it’s not hard to guess what Khabib Nurmagomedov would do to him. Throw in Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, and it’s clear he’s a notch below the best of the best. At 36 years of age, Cerrone’s window for winning a title is almost certainly closed. Beating Gaethje wouldn’t have meant he was ready for the lightweight elite; it just would have meant that Gaethje wasn’t, either. That may be a sad reality to accept, but there’s a bright side: Gaethje won…

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A Different Kind of Dominance

Lightweight has always been one of the most — if not the most — talent-rich divisions. There are way more lightweight-sized athletes in the general population, and a higher percentage of them end up fighting because, especially in America, they’re too small to cut it in the most profitable sports. Heavyweight and lightweight thus have a great deal of parity, albeit on opposite ends of the talent spectrum. Yes, there are other factors at play, such as the prevalence of interim champions at heavyweight and the five-year moratorium of the lightweight division, but those are neither contradictory nor worth the digressions for this space.

At UFC 242 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nurmagomedov notched his second title defense with yet another lopsided mauling. The Dagestani has made outstanding fighters look like warmups and is now one win away from tying the record of three lightweight title defenses. B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson all share that record, but even now, Nurmagomedov has already set himself apart from those three…

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Colby Covington Knows What He’s Doing

Colby Covington is perhaps the greatest Rorschach test in the Ultimate Fighting Championship today. Fans of his see him as a Making America Great Again patriot dunking on the nerds and virgins of the world; detractors see him as a corny caricature who thinks being annoying is the same as being alpha. Some love him for his toughness and tenacity in the cage, while others loathe him for his inability to finish fights. Regardless, people seem to love and hate him for the same reasons, and whatever you think of him probably says a lot more about you than it does about him.

This gives Covington a veneer of complexity, but in reality, he’s one of the most straightforward and simple fighters to understand. He’s an astute observer of what makes fighters successful, both in and out of the cage, and he has dedicated himself to realizing those traits to the fullness of his potential…

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