By In Mixed Martial Arts

What It Means to be the Best

Consider this a hot take if you must, but know that it is still a sincere one. The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to immodestly propose that Alistair Overeem as the greatest heavyweight ever in mixed martial arts.

Hear me out.

Accusations of recency bias are expected—and valid. MMA pundits are notorious for being overeager in anointing the latest greatest fighter, and Overeem didn’t even make the Top 10 cut when I analyzed the greatest heavyweights four years ago. Surely beating Augusto Sakai—a solid heavyweight with a bright future but by no means a career high—at UFC Fight Night 176 doesn’t suddenly vault him into the all-time elite, let alone definitively place him ahead of Fedor Emelianenko, Fabricio Werdum or Stipe Miocic.

Beating Sakai is far from Overeem’s best or most notable win. Unless Sakai goes on to become a champion, the win probably won’t even stand out all that much. What it did, however, was make me reassess what greatness means and what it looks like…

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By In education, Hawaii

This Troubling Distance Learning Program Tells Us A Lot About The DOE

The more we learn about Acellus, the more flagrant and alarming its real mystery becomes.

What we know about the Department of Education’s primary distance learning curriculum is not great. There’s the inappropriate content that spans several isms, the inexplicable use of “gun” to teach phonics – did Gordy Gorilla retire? – and lessons so bowdlerized their only educational value would be in a “spot the error” exercise.

A simple Google search raises a legion of red flags about the program’s creator Roger Billings. He either left or was excommunicated from the Mormon church over his belief that “it was the will of God that men should have more than one wife.” Afterward, he founded his own religious sect – The Church of Jesus Christ in Zion – in which he was the “patriarch and prophet…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

There’s No Going Back

In the run-up to UFC Fight Night 174 on Aug. 8, Chris Weidman kept his expectations reasonable, if not a little vague. “I’m going to go out there and put a dominating fight on and make a statement and show that the ‘All-American’ is back,” he said in the pre-fight promo video. Whatever it meant for the former champion to be “back,” whether it was to find a vintage finish or to get back into the title picture, it at least required a win over Omari Akhmedov. The uncertainty of that result was an indication of the distance between where Weidman is now and where he used to be.

It’s strange to think that it had been three years since Weidman’s last win in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a submission of soon-to-be title challenger Kelvin Gastelum in July 2017, which was itself more than two years removed from the previous win before it. It wasn’t that long ago when he was the undefeated champ with back-to-back stoppages against the sport’s most incredible champion. Now we’re impressed that he toughed out a decision victory against a former welterweight in Akhmedov, a solid fighter who would have been on Weidman’s highlight reel circa 2012…

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By In education, Hawaii

Getting the hang of distance learning

As I was leaving school last Friday – the final day of work before distance learning began – I asked the teacher in the classroom next to mine how she felt about classes starting on Monday.

“It’ll be a disaster!” she said through her mask, an audible smile in her voice.

I was heartened by her response. I felt the same kind of conflicted: somewhere between acceptance and resignation, excited to meet my students but still not quite sure if I was adequately prepared to teach in a purely digital setting…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Legacies and Losses

As is customary when a prominent fighter calls it quits, there was an immediate effort to contextualize Cormier’s legacy. Also customary in this process is the clash between recency bias—“He just had a big fight and UFC employees called him the greatest, so it must be true!”—and reactionary invalidation: “Cormier has never beaten anyone good, actually.” Neither of those sentiments are correct even as a strict assessment of his accomplishments, and both are even more inaccurate when measuring the totality of Cormier’s legacy.

By any competitive standard, Cormier’s career doesn’t quite match the fanfare he has received in the aftermath of his retirement. He was a two-division champion in the two thinnest divisions, with no title reigns nearing anything resembling historical notability; he’s certainly a better fighter than Chuck Liddell ever was, but it’s not so clear that he was a greater champion. Cormier was the clear loser in his biggest rivalries in both of his divisions, and outside his win against Miocic—which was a remarkable achievement, no doubt—his best win was either his five-round drubbing of Josh Barnett or his split decision win over Alexander Gustafsson. There is a lot of “good” and “very good” woven throughout Cormier’s career, but there is very little “great…”

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