By In basketball, essay

Away Games

“I’m not from a place where cold things happen without consent, but I live in one now. I am lucky, for that reason and others, to know Jay—that’s the Englishified version of Jong Il (yes, like Kim Jong Il)—and that Jay is sympathetic to the plight of a warm-weather waygook (foreigner) living in a blustery Asian city. I’m luckier still that he’s a basketball fan, and that he was willing to scoop me up from work to watch the showdown between Anyang KGC and the SK Knights in the Korean Basketball League. I hadn’t seen a live basketball game of any sort since college, but it is winter and Seoul is cold.

Inside the arena, starting small forward Yang Hee Jong stared at me from a phalanx of shiny pillars that greeted us, the faces and names of Anyang KGC players plastered across them in a Mercator distortion. I stared back at him, feeling a strange and sudden urge to bow. I was less sure how to engage with the pillar of foreign import Mario Little; the reflection of the bright lights in the room made it look like he was dribbling between his legs somewhere across the cosmos. For all I knew, that’s what it feels like for a former Kansas Jayhawk playing halfway across the world.

Up an escalator and outside the snack stand and gift shop, beside the gymnasium doors, was the pillar of Lee Jung Hyun. “He’s the ace,” Jay told me as we stopped to admire. Unlike the rest of the team, Lee Jung Hyun’s picture was all upper body, and his hand was propped up under his chin like a model. I bought myself a Lee jersey, because why wouldn’t you, and some fried chicken, because that always seems like the right thing to do. We went inside and found our seats. The game was about to begin…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Death of Imagination

“Human imagination is a powerful thing.

It makes us aware of potential dangers and opportunities. It has shaped our sense of culture and informed our social organization. It is the cornerstone of preparation and the catalyst for innovation. It is no coincidence that the one creature on the planet in possession of imaginative capacity is also uniquely the only one inhabiting every corner of it. Imagination convinces us that if we keep moving forward we can reach that next horizon, even if all we are doing is marching forth across one big circular plane. An abundance of imagination is known more simply as “delusion.”

Conor McGregor has thrived off the power of his imagination. It is what cultivated the “Mystic Mac” persona and drove legions of fans and detractors alike to watch every step he took and hang on every word he uttered. Up until this weekend, McGregor’s achievements were fueled by his honest investment in his own imagination…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

UFC 196 Statistical Matchup Analysis

“For the second time in eight months, a last-minute injury has obstructed Conor McGregor’s shot at a title.

Less than a year ago, it was Jose Aldo who was forced to pull out of his featherweight title defense due to a rib injury. This time around, it was Rafael dos Anjos who had to bow out of defending his lightweight title after breaking his foot. Now, McGregor will make his welterweight debut — no title on the line — against late substitute Nate Diaz in the UFC 196 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. This will be McGregor’s first fight of the year; he was last in action in December, when he put on a dominant drubbing of longtime featherweight king Aldo. The Irishman is coming off of a breakout 2015 campaign, the first year he fought more than twice since joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Diaz has been relatively inactive recently, fighting only twice in the last two calendar years. The longtime Zuffa veteran and “The Ultimate Fighter 5” winner is nearing his nine-year anniversary in the UFC, a career that has seen several stints of varying successes and failures. Since challenging for Benson Henderson’s lightweight title in 2012, Diaz has gone 2-2, suffering his first and only TKO loss along the way. He was last in the Octagon in December, only a week after McGregor iced Aldo, taking a hard-fought decision over Michael Johnson. Immediately after the fight, Diaz unleashed an expletive-filled challenge to McGregor, which made the Cesar Gracie disciple a natural replacement for the injured dos Anjos.

This is an intriguing fight, for both the out-of-cage verbal exchanges and the potential exchanges in the actual fight. Let us see what the Tale of the Tape says about it…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Too Much of a Not Good Thing

“It’s telling that, as an MMA writer, I was far more attentive to a rap battle event than Bellator 149. I regret nothing. Judging by the Twitter reaction, the only thing I seemed to miss by having the fights peripheral and muted was Mike Tyson’s spurts of hilarious commentary. Other than that, the best punches of the day were in a verbal, rhymed form.

This isn’t to say the card was completely devoid of meaning on Friday at the Toyota Center in Houston. However, solid showings from Emmanuel Sanchez and Justin Wren — who was inexplicably buried on the lineup — did little to reconcile an event that was otherwise the cheapest, lowest of low-browed MMA shows in recent memory. What were the selling points, again? Was it watching “Dada 5000” in his toughest matchup since he fought “Dude” in his backyard, or was it the trilogy match 20 years in the making between fighters who have not been relevant since they fought each other 20 years ago?

I get the freak-show angle and even enjoy it in some ways. I’ll take Genki Sudo versus “Butterbean”-style fights all day…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Under the Microscope: Analyzing Heavyweight Greats

“Heavyweight champions have always been bequeathed the title “Baddest Man on the Planet,” — and for good reason: With great size comes great power, and nothing is more captivating than feeling the ground quake beneath titanic warriors duking it out.

Heavyweight has been a steadily volatile division, with championship belts changing hands like batons. As such, compiling the shortlist was no easy task. Five men — Tim Sylvia, Frank Mir, Mark Coleman, Alistair Overeem and Don Frye — barely missed the cut, even though they could all be easily justified in these ranks. As such, they are considered Greatest of All-Time candidates, despite not being on the list. Ultimately, this is a statistical analysis first and foremost, and all of the honorable exclusions were found lacking in the same basic principal: Their win-loss ratios, compared to the strength of opponents faced, were lower than everyone else. Meaning, they had the worst records when accounting for the records of their opponents. The only exception to that rule was Randy Couture, whose ungodly record in title fights buoyed him into the final considerations. It is a tough pill to swallow, but decisions must be made.

On a final note of housekeeping, many of these G.O.A.T. hopefuls participated in various open-weight fights. These were only counted if their opponent weighed in above 206 pounds for the fight. As always, only fights that occurred in major organizations or against high-profile opponents counted towards these numbers, the only exception being the total winning streak. A case is made for each fighter as the Greatest of All-Time, and then those arguments are turned on their heads to present the counterweight. The aggregate of both biases will clear the air or stir up more dust. Either way, let the debates begin…”

 

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