By In Mixed Martial Arts

An MMA Christmas: 12 Fights We Want Santa To Bring Us in 2018

“Every year the same question burns in our minds: what do we want for Christmas? For us MMA fans, the answer is always pretty simple. We want more great fights.

There were a number of great ones in 2017. Justin Gaethje was involved in a couple of classics against Michael Johnson and Eddie Alvarez, Yancy Medeiros and Alex Oliveira put on a scrap for the ages, and T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt put on a hell of a show as well. That’s to say nothing of the memorably one-sided performances as well, from Rose Namajunas’ dismantling of longtime champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Darren Till’s coming out party against Donald Cerrone, Francis Ngannou’s near-beheading of Alistair Overeem, Robert Whittaker’s molly-whopping of Ronaldo Souza, or either of Max Holloway’s wins over Jose Aldo. And that’s just the start; there are dozens more fights that could be mentioned here.

On this most festive time of the year, a week away from 2018, here is our Christmas list of fights we want Old Saint Nick to bring us, one for each weight class…”

 

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By In Best of year

Some Things I Wrote in 2017

I never really know what my “best” work is, or if any of it is good to anyone other than me. (People keep letting me write things, so I suppose that’s a good sign.) I do, however, tend to like certain things I write more than others. Here’s a list of 10 pieces I wrote in 2017 that I liked the most.

 

January, Eastlit
Stranger in a Familiar Land

This is the only piece of fiction I published this year, about the delirious, exhilarating newness of living in a foreign country, and how quickly that feeling can erode. It’s, uh, totally not about my experience living in Korea or anything.

 

February, Sherdog
A Meditation on Ethics in MMA

I waxed philosophical on MMA, talking about sportsmanship, the unspoken ethics of trash talking, and how we’re supposed to process it all as fans. Plus, the opening sentence of this piece is probably the best sentence I’ve ever written.

 

March, Sherdog
The Other Side of Anything Can Happen

The UFC hit on something deep with their advertising angle that “anything can happen” in a fight; people want to be surprised. But “anything” can mean shitty things, too.

 

May, Sherdog
Nostalgia is a Hell of a Drug

There is a vocal, ever-present group of MMA fans bemoaning the state of the sport and how it has fallen from its previous peaks. That’s true in some ways, but the complete opposite is true – MMA is better than it’s ever been – in more significant ways.

 

June, Sherdog
The Cost of Combat

The death of Tim Hague brought to surface a number of important questions that we must ask ourselves as fans and patrons of violent entertainment. This was my attempt to reconcile the ethical dilemma of combat sports with their undeniable allure.

 

June, Sherdog
Something in the Water: The Past and Present of Hawaii’s Warrior Spirit

Since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, fighters from Hawaiʻi have been visible on the biggest stages of the sport. Hawaiʻi has been the most represented state in the history of the UFC, with 15 professional fighters for every one million residents. The next closest state — Iowa — registered about nine and a half per million people.

Why Hawaiʻi? What is it about the “Aloha State” — this small, unassuming archipelago nicknamed after the Hawaiian word for love, compassion and kindness — that lends itself so seamlessly to the most unabashedly violent sport in the world?

 

August, Medium
Man’s Best Reflection

A personal essay attempting to answer one of the oldest, most important questions known to man: why are dogs so good?

 

August, Summit Magazine
Seoul, From the Ground Up

It can feel helpless to be a citizen of Seoul. The shadow of international war looms menacingly overhead, yet the everyday stresses of living in a fast-paced, high-tech megacity tend to take precedent. Political tensions rise and fall, but life keeps marching on.

 

October, Sherdog
Violent Meditations

Almost yearly the conflicted nature of the word “violence” becomes a discussion in MMA circles. This year, the sport’s most visible media member, Ariel Helwani, took umbrage with the idea that the UFC promotes itself as violent. Personally, I think they should market the sport for what it is, and it is nakedly violent. It’s honest advertising, but more importantly I think people should be more aware of the violent intersections in all facets of life, and watching MMA might be a good way to do that.

 

October, Medium
Spooky Spooky: A Definitive Timeline

If you haven’t heard of or watched the Spooky Spooky videos, there’s something wrong with you. If you have watched them and you haven’t read my exhaustive, in-depth analyses of them, you’re missing out on worlds. There’s levels to infectiously catchy, seasonally-themed kids songs.

 

 

Much appreciation to everyone who took time to read my work this year. It means everything. Special shoutout to those who contacted me through the site; I’ve enjoyed the correspondences, even the ones heavily laden with curses. Bigger and better things are in store for 2018.

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Sherdog’s 2017 Fight of the Year

““It is international fight week,” announcer Todd Grisham said moments before the headlining fight started at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, “and there are some very big fights this weekend. But few if any are expected to be better than the one we’re about to witness.” That turned out to be a prescient comment. Not only was the main event between Michael Johnson and Justin Gaethje the best fight of International Fight Week, it surpassed every other fight from 2017.

There was, indeed, a lot of hype leading up to the fight. It was Gaethje’s Ultimate Fighting Championship debut after going on a TKO tour in the World Series of Fighting, where he was the 5 time defending lightweight champion. He didn’t just bring his championship experience with him; “The Highlight” brought his undefeated, 17-0 record into the promotion, and only two of those fights had gone the distance. Gaethje had a hard-earned reputation for being one of the most violent, exciting, leave-it-all-in-the-cage kind of warriors in the entire sport.

Yet he was the underdog going into his Octagon debut, and for good reason. Gaethje was impressive on paper, but he was relatively untested. Johnson was not a showcase opponent brought in to lose. He was a top five lightweight who had hovered around title contention for years. Johnson was coming off a tough 2016 where he knocked out streaking contender Dustin Poirer and then got pummeled by Khabib Nurmagomedov in Sherdog’s 2016 Beatdown of the Year. Still, at 31 years old, Johnson remained a factor in the UFC’s most talented division. His hand speed, athleticism, and diverse skillset were all tools that Gaethje had never dealt with in the WSOF. “The Menace” entered the bout a slight, -155 favorite when the cage doors closed.

They didn’t touch gloves before the fight…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Feelings for the Middleweight Division

“Of all the memes that MMA has given us, none is more perpetually useful than Nate Diaz’ classic line after he defeated Conor McGregor: “I’m not surprised, mother [expletives].” This was the precise feeling I and no doubt many others had when it was announced that Georges St. Pierre had vacated the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title. At 33 days, his championship reign would rank as the sixth shortest celebrity marriage, a comparative metric far more fitting than other UFC title runs.

St. Pierre’s decision to vacate the title caps a strange 18 months for the middleweight belt. The top of the division has been on a meandering journey ever since Michael Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold in June 2016. That was bizarre enough on its own. It included what has got to be cleanest single punch of Bisping’s UFC career, and it was on short notice against a man who had thoroughly demolished him before. At that time, the middleweight division was the best it had ever been, with contenders like Yoel Romero, Ronaldo Souza, Robert Whittaker, Gegard Mousasi and the deposed Rockhold champing at the bit for a shot at the new champion.

Of course, none of them would receive that shot…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A GOAT For All Seasons

“A few years ago, I wrote a series called “Under the Microscope,” where I analyzed the Greatest of All-Time arguments for fighters across several weight classes. I only did this for the five legacy divisions — lightweight through heavyweight — since the sub-lightweight weight classes were too young; there simply weren’t enough fighters who could be legitimately defended as the G.O.A.T. Every weight class had its own distinct gray areas and there were definitely fighters that were harder to make a case for than others, but there were at least enough contenders for the crown.

I debated doing a shortened version for featherweight but ultimately didn’t because there was really only one option: Jose Aldo. He was the only Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight titleholder at the time, and he had dominated two of the three previous World Extreme Cagefighting champions along the way. I could have made half-hearted cases for Urijah Faber and Mike Thomas Brown — and an even less-convincing one for Norifumi Yamamoto — but those would have been tremendous stretches. There was Aldo, an unfathomably wide gulf, then everybody else.

That was 2015, though. In the post-UFC 218 world, the discussion surrounding the greatest featherweight of all-time is now a lot more interesting. Following Max Holloway’s 12th straight win and second consecutive TKO victory over Aldo on Saturday in Detroit, the G-Word was floated around the 26 year-old. “Blessed” himself declined the G.O.A.T. mantle, chiefly citing a lack of title defenses compared to the all-time great he had just thoroughly smashed for the second time in six months. If anything, Holloway has made his case for the humblest featherweight G.O.A.T. contender.

There is, however, a case to be made for Holloway, as there continues to be one for Aldo. Of course, there is also a case to be made for Conor McGregor. It’s worth inspecting these cases, as they provide different looks at the criteria we use for assessing greatness and the various ways in which a fighter can be great…”

 

 

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