Archive for the ‘Karate’ Category

I don’t do my research anymore, so my picks are even more suspect than ever, but I’m inspired to take another shot at it because of a couple of interesting fights on the card. I’m picking only those fights where I already know the fighters.

 

George Roop v. Rob Font

I’m still quite bitter that Roop lost to Hioki, ruining what would otherwise have been a perfect night of picks for me*.

Roop by decision.

* Okay, so I made a sentimental pick that ruined the perfect score anyway, but based on my discussion of the fight on Fight Fans Radio, it’s clear I knew Nelson would beat CroCop.

 

Chris Camozzi v. Bruno Santos

Bruno who?

Camozzi by decision.

 

Uriah Faber v. Alex Caceres

This is a ridiculously one-sided match up, but what else is the UFC to do? Uriah can’t beat Barao or Cruz but is head and shoulders above everyone else. They have to put him against lesser talent that has no chance. Of course, now that T.J. Dillashaw is champ, Uriah has an opening to get back into the title picture without everyone saying, “Been there; done that,” but this fight was already booked.

Faber by 1st-round dismantling (KO/TKO).

 

Uriah Hall v. Thago Santos

Yeah, Hall can throw a wheel kick. Do you know who else can throw a wheel kick? Me. It was my signature kick when I got my black belt in TKD. We measured it, and the power was scary. However, I won’t be winning a UFC championship anytime soon, and neither will Hall. If he connects with them against people on the UFC roster, then maybe we can stop calling that kick a fluke, but until that point, it’s not a selling point for picking fights.

Santos by decision.

 

Stefan Struve v. Matt Mitrione

A year ago, this was an easy pick, but Struve’s heart condition not only sidelined his fighting but also his training. I can’t believe he’s as sharp as he was.

Mitrione by 1st or 2nd round KO/TKO.

 

Ronda Rousey v. Alexis Davis

Now it’s time for my customary “I told you so.” I predicted all of this long before Dana White or even Scott Coker knew Rousey existed. However, while I certainly don’t wish ill will on her, she’s now “on my list.” I take partial credit for getting her a title shot against Tate when she did. She would have eventually done so without my help, but I’m responsible for getting her that shot about 6 months earlier than she did (with a serious hat tip to Erika Lewis). And before you call bullshit, Ronda acknowledged this in an interview; she just didn’t name me. She said “someone on Twitter” got the ball rolling. Trust me when I say I don’t want to be in the spotlight, but I found that a bit odd. Of course, none of this affects how I’m picking these fights.

Ronda by 1st round armbar or whatever else she chooses. There’s simply no one to challenge her in WMMA right now.

Please note: I’m not taking credit for her bronze medal, her actual winning of the title, her general self-promotion, or her harai-goshi. That’s all Ronda, and she should be proud of all four (and so much more).

 

Chris Weidman v. Lyoto Machida

Contrary to what some armchair fighters have said, Weidman’s wins over Silva were not flukes. He beat Anderson twice. Contrary to what Weidman himself has said, most people recognize that Weidman’s wins weren’t flukes. He’s not “underrated” or “not being given the credit he deserves.” However, I’m still picking against him. This is about how fighters match up against one another, and Weidman is almost tailor-made for Lyoto. Have a nice nap, Chris.

Machida by 2nd round KO/TKO.

 

Follow me @MMADork. Or don’t. I really don’t like the spotlight.

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I’m really too busy to write about this, but I’m always hoping to find a way to get a legitimate journalist to cover MMA, and Mike Wise of the Washington Post is on the fence about doing so. One of these days, maybe something will get him curious enough to watch, then interested enough to write. Tonight might be the night. The women have arrived, and the greatest MMA fighter ever is back to reclaim his title.

Manny Gamburyan v. Denis Siver

This is a toss up. Siver used to be good, but now he’s at the level of Gamburyan. Quite an endorsement, eh? When in doubt, I root for the judo guy.

Gamburyan by decision

Michael Johnson v. Gleison Tibau

I still don’t know why Johnson gets such a push when so many fighters are getting their pink slips for losing a single match.

Tibau by decision

Uriah Hall v. Chris Leben

Leben’s best days are behind him. While Hall is still developing, I think he’s good enough to get the win.

Hall by decision

Jim Miller v. Fabricio Camoes

Miller has disappointed me lately. I actually see this as a punishment for that. If he can’t beat Camoes, he’s in danger of getting bounced by the UFC. I never thought I’d say this so soon.

Miller by submission

Josh Barnett v. Travis Browne

I can’t see why so many people are picking Barnett. No way.

Browne by 3rd round KO/TKO

Ronda Rousey v. Miesha Tate

There is absolutely no reason to think this fight isn’t going the same way all of Ronda’s fights go. It’s a complete no-brainer. For those who hate Ronda, I say think with your brain, not your heart. And to everyone, I remind you, I told you so … 2-1/2 years ago, well before Dana White and Scott Coker knew she existed.

Rousey by 1st round submission

Chris Weidman v. Anderson Silva

Weidman has the style and skill to beat Silva, but he showed last time that he’s susceptible to being pulled into Silva’s game plan. Lightning doesn’t strike twice. 99.99% of the time, Silva wins the striking battle. Despite what most are saying, I think Anderson goes in there and does the same goofy dance he always does, gets under Weidman’s skin, and knocks him out. The only question is whether it will take more than one round. I’ll play it safe.

Silva by 2nd round KO/TKO

And now I’m off to Baileys in Ballston Mall. If you’re in Arlington, say hi.

Unless I don’t like you.

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If you can't handle the truth, hide from it.

One of the most prestigious papers in the country, the Washington Post, published an op-ed piece by Fred Bowen entitled, “Ultimate fighting is too brutal to be considered a sport, even if it’s on TV.” Rather than place this long of a response in the comments, I simply pointed to this article. This is my response to Bowen’s disturbingly unprofessional commentary on what he calls, “ultimate fighting.”

———————–

Your article is confused and intentionally misleading, and you should be ashamed of your willingness to protest a subject about which you know so little. You take many factual missteps in you op-ed piece. For starters, the sport is called, “mixed martial arts” (“MMA”) “Ultimate fighting,” is a throw back to the early 90s when the only MMA promotion was the Ultimate Fighting Championship (“UFC”). Your ignorance isn’t limited to the sport you hate. Your claim that 15-round fights are the norm in boxing is also wrong. A simple internet search shows that the last 15-round boxing match in America (among the major organizations) was held in 1988. It’s these easily-verified factual discrepancies that cast doubt on your qualifications to address this topic; however, dismissing you outright would be lowering myself to your level and give you an “out.” Despite your apparent lack of concern for logic and factual evidence, let’s examine some of your more ridiculous claims.

Danger, Will Robinson!

To say that “almost anything goes” mischaracterizes the sport. Though you’ll likely deny it, you’re clearly trying to imply is that there are dangerous techniques (e.g., eye-gouging, fish-hooking, strikes to the spine) permitted in MMA, which is not true. The sport is a mix of many different martial arts, but everything that’s legal in the UFC (and some things that are not legal in the UFC) are legal in all of those other sports. That is, throws are legal in judo, punches are legal in boxing and kickboxing, kicks are permitted in kickboxing, and joint locks are legal in jiu-jitsu and judo. As a combination of multiple martial arts disciplines, all of these techniques are available in MMA. This means that there is a broader variety of techniques available to the fighters, but not that there are more dangerous techniques available. These are the same techniques to which you don’t seem to object in those other contexts. There’s simply no reason to jump to the conclusion that having all of these techniques available is somehow more dangerous.

In fact, there’s reason to assume the combination is less dangerous. The fact that some fighters choose to use grappling techniques to subdue an opponent rather than striking techniques to knock them unconscious would suggest, on average, a safer track record than a competition in which the only option available would be to use striking techniques to knock out your opponent. Is this true? Let’s go to the data.

LiveScience.com recaps new evidence showing that the most dangerous sport for high school and college females is cheerleading: Another study found that between 1982 and 2007, there were 103 fatal, disabling or serious injuries recorded among female high school athletes, with the vast majority (67) occurring in cheerleading.”

This one point addresses Dana White’s comments on cheerleading in particular, and it’s a bit more scientific than your “I’ve watched some ultimate fighting” argument. I also direct you to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, and in particular their Annual Report on catastrophic sport injury for 2010, which covers high school and collegiate athletics. Here are some highlights:

For the 28-year period 1982-1983 – 2009-2010, high school fall sports had 771 direct catastrophic injuries and 747, or 96.9%, were related to football participants.

 

For the 28 years, 1982-2009, there were a total of 163 college direct fall sport catastrophic injuries, and 156 were associated with football.

 

As shown in Table IX, high school winter sports were associated with four direct catastrophic injuries in 2009-2010. All four were associated with ice hockey – one death, two disability, and one recovery. High school winter sports were also associated with four indirect fatalities and three indirect injuries with recovery during the 2009-2010 school year (Table XI). Basketball was associated with all seven indirect injuries. All four of the fatalities were heart related.

So, as an example, the number of deaths nationwide in 2009 for high school hockey alone is twice as great as the number of deaths in American professional mixed martial arts in its entire 18 year history. (Neither of those deaths occurred in the UFC.) The same can be said for the non-contact sport of basketball! Do we dare add the data from professional sports? Should we pull equestrian sports into this equation? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to ban that brutally violent and dangerous sport. (Which, by the way, you shouldn’t. Though it’s been proven by many studies performed around the world to be the most dangerous spectator sport, it’s still much more safe than riding in a car.) Combat sports in general, and the UFC in particular, are far and away the safest spectator sports in the United States. The data backs up that claim, but again, I’m not sure your concern is with minor details such as “data” or “logic.” It seems your focus is on making sure no one’s feelings are hurt. (For those that do care about such minor details, I suggest the Journal of Combative Sports as a starting point. When you consider the number of deaths per 1,000,000 participants, combat sports compare quite favorably to other spectator sports.)

But They Look Like They’re Hurting Each Other’s Feelings!

Your concern of the glorification of violence suggests you’re not much of a sports fan, which is fascinating in light of your position with the Washington Post. What’s more violent than a strong hit against a defenseless receiver in a football game, a hard check in hockey, or a fatal car accident? The fact that some of these (not all, as you state) are “accidents” doesn’t change the fact that their heightened frequency makes them more dangerous. It also doesn’t change the fact that those sometimes-fatal events are what the fans are waiting to see. That, by definition, is the glorification of violence, and if it doesn’t invalidate football, hockey, or auto-racing as sports, it doesn’t invalidate MMA as a sport either. (Auto racing isn’t a sport for a different set of reasons.)

On top of all of this is an intangible that shouldn’t be ignored (though I admit it’s immeasurable). Some people are better able to handle pain and damage than others. While I’m certain you couldn’t handle competing in a real martial art (i.e., not a dime-store “black belt factory” you might attend in the suburbs), these guys can. In short, for them, “pain don’t hurt,” and their superior athleticism means it doesn’t easily cause them long-term damage either. They’re ready for this, even if you’re not.

On one point we can both agree: You need to change the channel. I’m not sure you can handle the real world. The Washington Post, on the other hand, should be ashamed of themselves for permitting you to write on this topic. There must be some other writers that oppose MMA but are capable of doing research and putting together a sound argument.

Make sure to listen to Fight Fans Radio Monday through Thursday at 3pm for MMA news and analysis. Also listen in on Saturdays at 3pm before fight cards for my live Stupid Predictions™ segment.

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Don’t follow Fred Bowen on Twitter even if you can find his Twitter handle (I couldn’t). He’s not worth reading.

This is a more personal post than I generally publish here, but it has an important message at the end relevant to what this day represents to me.

Last Wednesday, I played pick up ice hockey for the first time in over a year. It was embarrassing, but at the same time I swelled with pride. On Friday night, due to a change of plans, I was free to go again, and the experience was even more embarrassing, and likewise pride-inducing, because there were about 30 people playing, and only three of us were not kids that play ice hockey for college teams. All the college kids were in town for summer break, and rather than go out drinking on Friday night, they play pickup hockey . . . and drink during the game. Needless the say, I got my ass kicked.

Some History

The first time I was ever on ice skates was January 9, 2009. I hadn’t worked out in 2 years, and so I was the heaviest I’d ever been and had a poor endurance. Moreover, skating works the lower back in a way I’ve never experienced. Consequently, I had a great deal of trouble getting through my 30-minute “learn to skate” classes. I was out of breath within 10 minutes and in terrible pain within 20. By the time I was capable of handling the class, I was now in a 60-minute “learn to play hockey” class wearing full gear. The effect was magnified. What made all of these experiences more amusing was that my classes shared the ice with kids classes, many of whom were experienced skaters. Geez.

Lost Opportunities

Age 11

This was especially annoying to me. Since 1974, when the Washington Capitals came into existence, I had been a hockey fan. In 1979 (age 11, 6th grade), I learned that one of my friends (and his two brothers) played ice hockey. I wanted to play, but there’s was no way that was going to happen. My older brother, Russ, was two years older than I. He would always say he wanted to try this hobby or that hobby (e.g., Cub Scouts, tennis), and by the time I was old enough to participate, he (and my parents) inevitably had lost interest in the work it took to participate. I’d always be told, “I’m not going through that again!”

The only exceptions were middle-school football, which I was forced to play, and martial arts, in which I participated at my own expense of time and money and, despite predictions from the family, stuck with until I was 39. Playing football was miserable for me because I was on my brother’s team, and everyone was two years older (a virtual eternity at that age) than I, so I was always warming the bench (bored out of my mind). Although my brother never asked to play ice hockey — the request would almost certainly have been granted — the culture of my nuclear family always had me receiving a “no” answer. The fact that my one early-age hobby, “football,” was the source of frustration for me and had me complaining, constantly justified in my parent’s minds their unwillingness to allow me any organized hobbies. In fairness, my family wasn’t even close to “rich,” and hockey would have been an expensive hobby for me to start and not stick with. Everything my brother did, when put together, probably wouldn’t have been as expensive, or as much a pain in the ass, as me playing hockey for a week and quitting. Hindsight is usually 20-20.

Age 23

Several years later, when I was a season ticket holder for the Capitals, I was studying ninjitsu with a guy from Detroit. He had been playing hockey since he was a kid. He told me all about adult league hockey and tried to recruit me. I was working my first job as a professional and training in ninjitsu took a significant amount of free time, but ultimately I said no because I felt I was too old to start. I was 23.

Present Day

So, there I was, struggling to skate at age 40, constantly reminded of stupidly rejecting the idea of learning while I was a relatively-young 23. By the summer of 2009, now 41 years old, I was playing on my first C-league team, the Old Puckers. They were a brand new team in the Prince William Ice Center’s (“PWICE”) C-league. I played two seasons with them, and we literally went from worst to first in those two seasons.

Old-Puckers

Then the Snowpocalypse hit, and PWICE’s roof collapsed, and with it so did my new ice hockey career. For a large number of reasons, I didn’t play ice hockey again until last Wednedsay, and during that hiatus I had put on skates only once for a public skate session. The result was that I put on the extra weight, lost my endurance, and was worried that, being such a new player, I had lost my abilities on the ice.

Well, I wasn’t wrong about any of that (except that my lower back is surprisingly as strong as it was when I stopped playing), but one thing that my hockey experience taught me is that it’s never too late. Do I have a chance of being a Washington Capital one day? Of course not, but so what? The only thing that matters is that ice hockey is a ton of fun for me, and right here, right now, even though I turn 43 today, I’m playing ice hockey.

Fry-Seymour

“In your face Grim Reaper!”

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Egg-Race

During my law school days, my sister, Rita, came out to visit me in Chicago. We were in a bar on Rush St. in Chicago and ran into this guy from Scotland. The conversation somehow turned to golf. He was an avid golfer, and I was just starting to play. The only reason I played was because I thought I needed to learn in order to fit in with the legal crowd. I explained in a jovial manner that it was torture for me, but any case it wasn’t a real sport. He responded, “It’s a pastime.”

So what makes a sport a sport?

Sport
[spawrt, spohrt]
–noun
an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.

Wrong! It always involves a competitive nature. And what the hell is bowling doing on that list?

The debate rages on. From my modified (and more meaningful) definition of sport, there are two requirements: true athleticism (i.e., blood, sweat, and tears) and competitiveness. Running kick off returns in football is true athleticism, but power walking is not. Where do you draw the line? I apply two tests to determine whether the requirements are met.

Test #1: The Big Mac Test

A special thanks to my cousin, Tom M., for devising this test.

Imagine the following scenario: Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals gets a breakaway. He screams down the ice, juking two different defensemen along the way. He twists and turns and scores a goal over the top left shoulder of the goalie. The crowd goes nuts. Alex skates over to the bench and eats a Big Mac to celebrate. He then goes right back onto the ice. Immediately after the face off, he gets the same opportunity. He screams down the ice, juking two different defensemen along the way, and scores in the same exact manner. He’s physically drained.

So, what happens next?

He pukes. That’s right; he vomits all over the ice. Why? Because hockey is a sport. You can’t play sports and eats Big Macs at the same time without making a huge mess. There are certainly individual efforts that don’t require a strong stomach. A football placekicker, for example, can kick a field goal and then not do another thing for an hour (assuming a different person performs kickoffs). He won’t puke. Even if you think that means he isn’t an athlete (you’d be wrong because you’re not factoring in the training required to be a placekicker), it doesn’t matter; football remains a sport. The mixture of Big Macs and football will necessarily result in a huge bio-hazard.

This test eliminates auto racing, bowling, and golf right off the bat. Those three activities are further away from hockey athletically than they are from Monopoly. Even rolling dice requires some level of athleticism, but trust me: fat people with no endurance are just as good at that, if not better, than athletes. Not sports, people!

Test #2: Judgment Calls

A special thanks to my law school classmate, Paul H., for exposing me to this test.

In this test, a sport which relies on a judge’s subjective scorecard to win isn’t really a sport. Why? Because it’s bullshit. Really. Why does it matter what a panel of judges think? Subjectivity doesn’t work here. How many movies have you seen where you disagreed with every single reviewer. For me, that’s just about every single one. I don’t see why my opinion is any more or less important than theirs. The same applies to sports. It’s nothing special if Fred Snerd, official figure skating judge, liked your routine, and that invalidates the competitive nature of the activity (regardless of the fact that the skaters should keep their distance from Big Macs).

This test eliminates figure skating. Unfortunately, it also eliminates combat sports. That’s a problem.

I suggest instead that the proper way to phrase this test is that if the activity relies solely on subjective judges’ scores, then it isn’t a sport. After all, scoring exists in boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, etc. only because it’s impractical not to have them. Sometimes it takes 150 rounds (7-1/2 hours) for a fight to be finished, and that’s both dangerous and boring. Spectator sports require a faster resolution, and scoring is an unfortunate necessity.

I will also add that it grinds my gears whenever a fighter clearly panders to the judges. As far as I’m concerned, almost every fight not involving a finish should be deemed a draw, but then there’s that whole “impractical” thing.

Why So Sensitive?

This isn’t really meant to be that condescending. Doing all sorts of triple axles, driving the Indy 500 without crashing, and balancing a pencil on your nose are all amazing feats . . . but they aren’t real sports. They’re simply athletic activities, or possibly just pastimes (e.g., celebrity poker). I have no intention of watching, much less paying to watch, people balancing pencils on their noses. If I want to watch people drive in circles, I’ll park a lawn chair on the shoulder of the beltway.

Conclusion

The bottom line, then, is that an athletic activity is a sport if:

    1. Big Mac consumption during the activity creates health hazards; and
    2. Winning doesn’t necessarily rely on subjective judges’ scores.

Failure to meet both of these requirements prevents the activity from appearing as a category for my posts. There is some level of subjectivity to applying these tests (making applying these tests not a sport). Is baseball a sport? I say yes (barely). Reasonable minds can disagree.

If you have any other ideas for how these tests need to be tweaked, I’m all ears.

Ross-Perot

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I recently connected my Facebook account with this blog, resulting in a bit more exposure. Though this is still not a hugely popular blog, with recent reads and Twitter mentions/messages by Ryan Couture, Thiago Tavares, and others in the mixed martial arts (“MMA”) industry, its traffic is increasing. As a result, I’ve received a couple of comments from people that think MMA is barbaric and dangerous. With respect to the danger, I’m currently working on an update to an article demonstrating just how safe MMA is relative to other sports, let alone ordinary activities. That article will take a while, as it requires a tremendous amount of research. In the mean time, I’m going to cover the accusation of barbarism here.

KO

Last weekend at UFC 129, Vladimir Matyushenko earned a quick victory over Jason Brilz via technical knockout. Matyushenko hit Brilz with an upper cut, added a forearm shot for good measure, and then rained down some hammerfists to his helpless opponent. Referee Dan Miragliotta was forced to stop the match at on 20 seconds, and Brilz was not happy with that stop. Although no one in my viewing group seemed to need it, the replay showed clearly that Brilz was no longer defending himself, so it was a good stop. Whether or not Brilz accepts that at this point is unknown. What is known is the following:

Click here: Sportsmanship

That’s Matyushenko and Brilz backstage after the fight. They don’t seem to hate each other, do they? Why would they? This is a job to them; it’s not personal. Anyone who’s ever laced up the gloves, put on a gi, or stepped into the ring, even as an amateur or casual trainee, has done so with the intent to beat up their opponent, but whether your focus is becoming a better professional, providing security from criminal attacks, or just getting into better shape, the overwhelming majority of martial arts practitioners are doing so to better themselves. Accordingly, you view your “opponent” in a positive light as someone there to help you get better. For that reason, you have respect, not hatred, for your opponent. Even in the professional context where your opponent is standing in the way of your meal ticket, the respect remains because you know your opponent deserves it, and because that’s the culture we’ve fostered as martial artists. While there are certainly idiots out there that train or compete simply to hurt people, they’re weeded out rather quickly, though sometimes it takes public humiliation to do it.

Johnny

Moreover, competitive martial arts, especially at the professional level, cause an evolution of the martial arts, making it easier for us to achieve those rather noble goals, and the world is a better place for it. Not liking the sport is perfectly acceptable; calling the sport barbaric is the very epitome of ignorance. If you still don’t see that, you probably just don’t want to see it and are remaining willfully blind to its value. That’s fine of course, but I’d much rather have a beer with Matyushenko or Brilz than with you. I don’t hear them bad-mouthing anyone.

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Machida-Evans

In yet another example of how bad MMA journalism is, most people writing about Lyoto Machida can’t figure out why he’s relatively “unsolvable” or why Shogun Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson were able to do so. The answer is really quite simple, but when you have people speaking or writing ignorantly on martial arts, you won’t get the answer, and unfortunately, that’s all we have … until now. I’ve suggested the answer across several posts on this blog (and tried to explain this to Chad Dukes a few weeks ago) but now I’m going to break it down for you clearly and unambiguously. (I’m a much better writer than speaker.) As I said, it’s not that hard.

Defining Styles

Choose Wisely

While mixed martial arts fighters try to be well-rounded, very few are. When watching any MMA fighter, it’s obvious to even the casual viewer that each fighter brings a particular specialization to the fight. This isn’t a strange coincidence; there’s a good reason for that. What is a good habit in one style is often a bad habit in another style. As a result, most people have to choose between fighting in a way that favors striking and fighting in a way that favors grappling.

The simplest example I can give you is fighting stance. A right-handed striker leads with his left, while a right-handed grappler leads with his right. In each case, the fighter is doing what he has to do to maximize his technique, and they represent the exact opposite approach. After about one year of formal judo training, I decided to switch to a left-foot forward stance, favoring my life-long background in striking. It made things very difficult, and people who had no business even fighting me were kicking my ass for about a month while I adjusted. Once I adjusted, I still knew that I’d always be holding myself back in judo, but for someone not interested in sport, but rather concerned with self-defense, it made sense for me to do that. I’ll always be a striker because that’s how I was raised, so there’s no sense in sacrificing my strength in the interests of “learning competitive judo correctly.” Instead, I chose to emphasize throws that would apply to a fight in which I was relying on my striking. (For those who know judo, that resulted in my primary throw being harai-makikomi, which should seem very odd to you if you don’t know striking very well.)

Maybe this “choice” will ultimately become a false one. With the proliferation of mixed martial arts schools, maybe students introduced at a very young age will develop the ability to do both equally well. We’ll see in the next generation or two. For now, though, the choice is effectively mandatory.

Eastern Striking: Traditional Karate

This style typically involves a side stance, giving your opponent fewer targets to hit. It also results in slower strikes that come from predictable angles, often with little or no twist to the hip, reducing the power they generate. To reduce predictability, the karate-ka (Japanese term for one who trains or employs in karate) uses more exotic strikes (e.g., the ridge-hand), but these come at the expense of power, speed, and/or vulnerability. In the case of a ridge-hand, for example, I once threw a trailing hand ridge-hand (i.e., from my right hand) at a kickboxer during training and had my ribs cracked (teaching me a valuable lesson early on in my kickboxing training). The ridge-hand is slow, making it easier to dodge, and exposed my ribs for far too long, making them easy to target. If I had landed it, I guarantee it wouldn’t have been a knockout blow.

Aside: The one advantage to the greater array of strikes is that an injury to your striking hand or foot is slightly less likely to keep you from being able to use that striking surface. If, for example, you damage your knuckle, you can switch to using the ridge of your hand with which you’ve trained. At least that’s something.

Western Striking: Kickboxing and Boxing

This style employs a “square” stance, giving your opponent additional targets. However, those additional targets are to the body, which are easier to absorb than a clean shot to the jaw, so against a karate-ka, you’re not giving up quite as much as you gain. Your strikes from your trailing side (i.e., the “power shots”) are closer to the target, making the strikes faster than a karate-ka’s power strikes, but your stance allows you to twist your hips throughout the strike, giving you greater power than that of the karate-ka. It seems like western-style strikers have a clear stylistic advantage over eastern-style strikers, and even a fighter on the decline like Shogun Rua should always be considered a favorite against a karate-ka like Machida.

Grapplers: How Wrestling/Submission Fighting Compares to Each

Enter the grappler, the most common opponent an MMA fighter is likely to face. Why so common? Because anyone capable of competing in boxing is doing so. That’s still where the money is. Grapplers have no such big-money option, so the very best grapplers in the country are MMA, whereas the western-style strikers in MMA are mediocre at best. Grapplers are generally divided into two categories: 1) wrestlers with superior takedown and control, and upper body strength tailored towards ground-and-pound; and 2) submission fighters that let themselves be taken down and then snap a limb or two while fighting from their back. (Granted, these two categories enjoy much more overlap than the broader categories of “striker” and “grappler,” but it’s still meaningful to use these catagories. We’ve seen plenty of submission fighters that are accused correctly of having no wrestling skills, and ground-and-pound wrestlers rarely earn submission victories.)

The square stance of a western-style striker falls right into the grappler’s game, giving the grappler more places to grab, and making the double-leg takedown much more likely. The square stance is also much less stable against a forward bull rush by a grappler. Though it does provide more mobility, allowing the western-style striker to avoid the bull rush, sooner or later that bull rush is going to connect, and the western-style striker will be on his back and out of his comfort zone. The side stance of the eastern-style striker, on the other hand, creates far fewer targets and provides its strongest resistance to a bull rush coming from the front, making the bull rush much less of a concern. Because the striking of a grappler is much less dangerous and, more importantly, his striking defense is much less competent, the karate-ka’s relatively slow and weak strikes are more than enough over 15 minutes to earn a decision or TKO/KO.

Keep in mind that a submission fighter is usually just a wrestler at a lower level of takedown technique. Submission fighters have even less a chance of bringing down Machida, and until they do, they have almost no chance of beating him by submission.

Caveat

Of course, this is all theory. On any given day, a wrestler can beat a traditional karate-ka, and a traditional karate-ka can beat a (kick)boxer, in part because no one fits squarely into each of these theoretical descriptions of the styles. Nothing I’m saying is designed to characterize any of these styles as “bad,” and if you infer otherwise it’s because you’re not paying attention or are allowing your insecurities to cloud your reading comprehension. I’m sure Randy Couture’s ‘inferior’ striking defense is more than enough to defend from my strikes. This is all relative. Note well that I’m very proud of my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, one of the most maligned martial arts in America. That criticism of TKD smacks of ignorance. Even though I have no need to kick a soldier off of a horse in my culture, it’s still valuable to learn how to throw a flying side kick. Of course, I have to concede that Judo is better than Karate.

My points are that 1) each style has it’s own strengths and weaknesses; 2) the odds are in favor of the person with a stylistic advantage; and 3) at the highest level of competition, the fighters are quite adept at exploiting their opponents’ weaknesses. For those who are offended by my analysis because it disrupts their worldview, the proof is in the data we have. Shogun Rua is way past his prime, as is evidenced by the fact that every fight he’s had in the UFC has been either an embarrassment and/or irrelevant, yet somehow he manages to take the light-heavyweight title from the otherwise unbeatable, unsolvable Lyoto Machida. I also see much more data in our future coming from John Makdessi.

Until you come up with a detailed, logical explanation explaining the last two years of MMA, I’m going with my analysis. (If you’re a typical MMA Journalist, I won’t hold my breath waiting.)

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