By In Mixed Martial Arts

What It Means to Make a Mistake

To err is human. In no arena is this more dramatically evident than mixed martial arts.

Joe Rogan’s definition of MMA as “high-level problem solving with dire physical consequences” is appropriately grand. Every fighter is a unique maze of skill sets. More than a simple aggregate of athleticism and technique, fighters are also a combination of prior experiences from the gym and the cage. They are trained to be physical, psychological and technical puzzles, the solution to which is some form of superior violence.

Rogan’s descriptor of “dire consequences” is much more readily understood. Commit to a punch too much and you’re on your back; leave a limb exposed and it’s soon impersonating The Exorcist; circle the wrong way and you’re sniffing shinbone. Any number of seemingly small errors can result in waking up with your back on the canvas. Look at Tyson Pedro’s performance at UFC Fight Night 132 on Saturday in Singapore. After a minute of picking apart Ovince St. Preux at range, he followed a knockdown into a submission attempt. When it failed, he remained in the clinch and tried for a takedown instead of resetting back to the domain where he was initially successful. The takedown got reversed, and he ended up tapping out to an armbar. That isn’t to say Pedro would have necessarily won if he disengaged, but it’s fair to say that this single decision directly led to him losing.

Such dire consequences make the sport so genuinely surprising and righteously satisfying. The superior fighter doesn’t always win, because one mistake is that consequential, and unlike the world outside the cage, mistakes inside of it are naturally and inescapably met with fair treatment. Aside from the exceptional officiating and judging gaffes, fighters almost always get what they deserve in the purest sense. Pedro has no one but himself to blame for his tactical misstep. In this way, fighting is perhaps the most just realm of modern society…


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