November Writing Challenge Day 2: Fight Night

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

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Saturday fight night has been a tradition in my family for as long as I remember. The earliest memory I have of a big fight night was Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns. Like other pay-per-view fights at the time my uncle had a party at his house and we gathered in the den to watch on the big projection TV.

Tonight was a double dose of big fights, but times have changed: everyone I know prefers mixed martial arts over boxing and I was more excited about UFC’s non-title fight for the BMF “belt” than the Canelo-Kovalev light heavyweight title. They even brought The Rock out to put the belt on the winner! Ha!

Although the BMF fight was stopped by the doctor after the third round due to a nasty cut on Nate Diaz’s eyebrow, it was still entertaining. Jorge Masvidal rocked Diaz several times and definitely won the first three rounds. But everyone knows that Diaz always turns up the pressure in the championship rounds so I was ready to watch a bloody fight get even bloodier. But the doctor had other plans.

And that was totally fine by me.

The fight was terrific, but that cut was nasty. Yes, I’ve seen doctors let fighters with worse cuts continue (I’ll never forget the sight of Diego Sanchez with his forehead split open by B.J. Penn). And I’m sure this fight would’ve continued if it was in Vegas, but this time it was in New York City. Perhaps they keep a closer look at the participants in the Octagon.

The BMF fight wasn’t in Vegas because Sin City was hosting the Canelo-Kovalev fight and to see how times have changed, the two boxers were shown relaxing in their dressing rooms. Kovalev looked like he was gonna fall asleep on the couch. The fight was being delayed until the end of the UFC main event, something that never would’ve happened 20 years ago.

I’d much rather watch MMA these days than boxing. But there is something special about seeing a boxer like Canelo in his prime land a flurry of punches to end a fight. It was a close fight until the 11th (I had Canelo slightly ahead) and honestly it was a bit of snoozer due to Kovalev’s jab-jab-jab style that never put either fighter in danger.

Joyce Carol Oates once wrote, “Like a tragedy in which no one dies, the fight lacking a classic knockout seems unresolved, unfulfilled: the strength, courage, ingenuity, and desperation of neither boxer have been adequately measured.”

And just as I was about to proclaim this fight a dud, it ended in a blink of the eye as Canelo hurt Kovalev with an overhand right and followed up with a barrage of punches. The final straight right hand was a masterpiece of violence, dropping Kovalev in a heap into the ropes. The referee immediately called the fight off.

The sweet science had produced another memorable moment, one that, despite the corruption of the alphabet-soup boxing organizations, will have me back at the next big fight.

Day 346: First

Perfect Timing.

McGregor Gets There First.

I nearly missed the Aldo vs McGregor fight tonight. Not because I was busy or anything, but I happened to blink my eyes.

I’ve rooted for Aldo for so long that it was weird (sorta) rooting for McGregor tonight. McGregor talks a lot of trash, but he backs it up and the one thing I love about the UFC is that anything can happen.

In title-fight record time, McGregor knocked out Aldo cold in just 13 seconds. I thought the two would mix it up for two rounds before Aldo gassed (which is what seemed to happen to Weidman when he lost his belt to Rockhold in the fight before). But McGregor once again backed up what he said about nobody being able to take his left hand.

Aldo rushed in with his face wide open and paid the price as McGregor nailed him with that left just as Aldo was landing his own punch. Aldo was out while McGregor put the finishing touches (aka hammer fists) on him.

It reminded me of that old boxing adage: you want to be first. The Notorious One was first and cleaned out Aldo’s clock.


Day 318: Rowdy

Holly Holm wins the title.

Holly Holm wins the title.

Tonight was one of the reasons why I love watching sports.

The Upset.

Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. Matt Serra knocking out Georges St. Pierre. Guys that nobody thought could beat a seemingly undefeatable champion shocking the world instead.

Tonight the sports world was shocked again, this time by Holly Holm. The former boxing champion was supposed to be UFC Bantamweight Champion Rhonda “Rowdy” Rousey’s latest victim, but like the other great fight upsets, she decided not to follow the script.

Holm fought the perfect fight. She used Rousey’s aggression against her. She fought from the outside, she used movement to frustrate Rousey, and she countered Rousey beautifully. The biggest moment was when Rousey got her hands on Holm and couldn’t use her infamous judo to throw her down and arm bar her. Holm easily defended Rousey’s one submission attempt on the ground.

In fact, it was Holm who was able to throw Rousey down on the mat. That was the beginning of the end. It was the first round that Rousey’s lost in her career and once she went to the corner, I knew it was over.

Rousey looked bewildered, but the first thing her corner said was that she was fighting beautifully. What?! I understand not wanting to panic your fighter, but shouldn’t they be telling her ways to counter the beating she was taking?

It probably wouldn’t have mattered. Just like Douglas and Serra on their nights, Holm wasn’t going to be denied. She continued to tag Rousey before unleashing a championship-winning head kick.

I couldn’t be happier for Holm, who became the first woman to win boxing and mixed martial arts titles. When’s the rematch?

Day 184: UFC Fight Pass

UFC: Jones vs Gustafsson

UFC: Jones vs Gustafsson

I took advantage of one free month of UFC Fight Pass, thanks to a Chromecast offer. Much to my wife’s dismay, the last 30 days have been filled with mixed martial arts fights from the UFC Library, which also contains fights from Pride, Strikeforce, Affliction, and a few others. I didn’t get through all of the fights in a month, but I was able to watch a few dozen matches, from the legendary Royce Gracie to the just-upended Cain Velasquez. I watched in horror again as Anderson Silva snapped his leg against Chris Weidman, I was thrilled again by the Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson war, and I cheered again any time Mark Munoz stepped into the Octagon.

The best part of having access to all of these fights was seeing how the sport has evolved. Gracie was the pioneer, of course, bringing Brazilian jujitsu to the forefront of mixed martial arts and the UFC. What’s great, though, is that fighters today are so much better than they were 20 years ago. It truly is mixed martial arts now, as those with varied skill sets thrive, while the single-discipline practitioners find themselves left behind. Remember when Lyoto Machida and his karate background was going to make a long run at the top? He defended his belt exactly one time before losing it to Shogun.

Of course, even the best fighters eventually taste defeat. The unbeatable Silva finally met his kryptonite in Weidman. Injuries proved to be Velasquez’s worst enemy, while Jones’ indiscretions have been his. The fact that the best are fighting the best, though, is why I love the UFC. It’s the most entertaining combat sport today. While boxing won’t ever go away entirely, the promoters have ruined what was once a great sport. If Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather were in the UFC, we would’ve seen them fight in their primes, not five years later.

While I didn’t see any reason to subscribe after the free month, hardcore fight fans could do some major MMA binge-watching with the Fight Pass.