By In Mixed Martial Arts

Emerging Markets and World Domination

“It’s easy to assume that MMA always has something going on because it has no proper offseason. Most of the time, that’s basically correct; there are few weekends when the Ultimate Fighting Championship doesn’t have an event, and when those doldrums roll through, it’s a near-certainty that Bellator MMA, the World Series of Fighting or someone else will take advantage of the open space.

Maybe you watched Alexander Shlemenko wilt Kendall Grove at Bellator 162 this weekend, or maybe you watched Nieky Holzken record his 12th straight victory at Glory 34. If you were lucky, you caught some of the bizarre, awesome moat grappling at Ganryujima 5. Either way, the big news of the week was outside of cages, rings and circular moats. A major component of the headline news of the combat sports world was the ongoing layoffs of UFC executives and front office folk.

The layoffs have mostly affected the UFC’s international presence, which makes sense. Though the UFC has long clung to its description as “the fastest growing sport in the world,” it has never been the international phenomenon it has tried to be. In the history of the sport, there have been 67 different divisional champions. This includes interim champions but does not count the same people who have separate reigns — Matt Hughes, for example, only counts once, even though he had two different stints as the welterweight champion. Of those 67 champions, 48 have been American. The rest have come from Brazil (12), Canada (two), and various European countries (five). That’s hardly a picture of an internationally competitive sport…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Lies, Damned Lies, and Everything Else

“My friend and I used to cruise at his grandparents’ house as teenagers. Mostly, it had a secluded garden next to a canal, making it an ideal place for smoking, drinking and hanging out. It also had his grandpa, though, the chairman of the physical sciences department at the university and a PhD in chemistry from Harvard University.

Although I only understood a fraction of what he told us — I would ask him ridiculous questions about who would win in a battle between quicksand and a black hole and he would answer with deep, legitimate knowledge on both — I will never forget the jokes he told. They weren’t funny, so much as eye-opening. Apparently, in the world of academia, the equivalent of “dumb blonde jokes” was “dumb social scientist jokes.” They started with something along the lines of “a physicist, a mathematician and an economist/psychologist/sociologist walk into a bar …” and end, invariably, with the punchline pointing out the stupidity of the social sciences.

The jokes were more goofy than mean, but the point still stood. Math, physics and chemistry, it was explained, are the real sciences, the math-based sciences. They were precise and concrete compared to the softness of the social sciences.

This type of thinking applies to fight analysis, too. There’s a tendency to view statistics as flatly superior analytical tools, especially compared to psychological assessment. One is observable and measurable and concrete, while the other is purely speculative; we can see what a fighter has done in the cage, but we can’t actually know what’s going on in his or her head. Good fight analysts will include both to varying degrees, but usually the latter is a footnote that qualifies the former in some way…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Max Holloway: Hawaiian Kickboxer

“You can tell a lot about fighters by their walkout song. Especially in the Reebok era, where self-expression on fight night is pretty limited, the song that fighters choose to play on their way to the Octagon reveals much about who they are as both competitors and individuals.

This is particularly true for those who stick to one song for a prolonged stretch of fights. For someone like Ronda Rousey, who walks out to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” the song is an apt description of her public persona, whereas Robbie Lawler’s relentlessly entertaining energy in the cage is perfectly represented by Sam and Dave’s “Hold On (I’m Comin’).”

Max Holloway is among the few fighters who have found the single best song to represent who they are and how they fight. Moke Boy’s “Hawaiian Kickboxer” is Hawaiian country music, and Holloway’s hometown of Waianae, Oahu, is most definitely Hawaiian countryside. In fact, singer Moses Kamealoha III — Moke Boy himself — is from Waianae and wrote the song when he got kicked out of Waianae High School.

The humble simplicity of the song is fitting for Holloway, who remains grounded after achieving considerable success in a sport beloved by most people from Hawaii. While Holloway often draws comparisons to the state’s greatest MMA offspring in B.J. Penn, their choices in walkout music share the same Venn diagram that the fighters themselves do…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A Beautiful Weird Twisted Reality

“There are basically two lenses through which I enjoy mixed martial arts. Truthfully, there are a myriad of reasons why I love this sport, general and specific, but nearly all of them fall under one of two overarching categories. First is the strange, bizarre storylines that materialize in this sport. Unlike the mainstream stick-and-ball sports, MMA still exists somewhat on the fringes of society, which leads to fascinating and hilarious things happening that are broadly endemic to the fight game. Think Anderson Silva’s blue vial defense hearing, Nate Diaz’ post-fight vaping or roughly 80 percent of all heavyweight fights. MMA boasts a brand of ridiculous that is idiosyncratically MMA, and it’s easy to love.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the superhuman performances, the in-cage violence that somehow feels edifying and virtuous. These things exist in their own ways in every sport, but in combat sports there is something all the more visceral and compelling and, dare I say, even heroic about them. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is founded on this type of performance; the legendary yet true tale of a scrawny Brazilian guy mysteriously making men twice his size quit by doing funky things with his limbs and theirs is hard to replicate elsewhere in the world of professional athletics.

The UFC 204 main event between Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson on Saturday in Manchester, England, was the rare fight that existed in the crosshairs between both of these worlds…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson Statistical Analysis

“The middleweight title picture in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is about to get weird.

Newly minted middleweight champion Michael Bisping at UFC 204 on Saturday in Manchester, England, will defend his belt for the first time in his home country against Dan Henderson, who knocked him senseless seven years ago at UFC 100. “The Count” was long considered past the point of being a serious title contender, but “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner has since experienced a late-career resurgence that culminated in a first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 in June. This will be the first time Bisping fights three times in a year since 2010. It will also be his 27th fight in the UFC, which will tie him with Frank Mir and Tito Ortiz for the most all-time.

It is not often that a single-fight winning streak earns a crack at the title, but that is exactly where Henderson finds himself. The 46-year-old is a legend of the sport, though he has not won back-to-back fights since 2011. The former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder is 2-2 since dropping back to middleweight in 2015. His last fight was a second-round knockout of Hector Lombard, which happened the same night that Bisping claimed the title. Prior to that, “Hendo” was 2-6 over the course of four years and hardly in the title hunt. This will be his second fight of the year and quite possibly the final fight of his storied, decades-long career.

This is not the average title fight, but it is an intriguing matchup for several narrative and stylistic reasons. Here is what the Tale of the Tape has to say…”

 

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