The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Two MMA Thoughts

1. In re this article

It’s not a bad post, but it strikes me as in some respects an example of where the serious boxing fan has an advantage over the serious MMA fan- the Dana White stuff in particular. The MMA fan asks- is White “honest” or is he “a promoter”? Why is there not more neutral media? The boxing fan knows that the reality is that everyone in the fight game has their angle, and often times the psychology and motives are complex. For instance, White strikes me as being in some ways the most obvious example of one of the more interesting psychological ticks all good promoters share: he has an absolutely amazing habit of convincing himself that what he really thinks and what’s best for the sport is what’s also in his own best interest. He’s not being dishonest, per se; he’s just very fluid in his ability to convince himself of the complete certainty of a position, and then sequentially the complete certainty of another, different position on the same issue. It’s a highly intelligent form of bullshitting in that it involves semi-volitional self-deception, impressive if not exactly admirable. Bob Arum is boxing’s master of the art (“yesterday I was lying, today I’m telling the truth”), and if you’ve watched his career (or Vince McMahon’s, or Don King’s, or Oscar De La Hoya’s, or etc.) and have an interest in the psychology of promotion you’ll recognize the trick immediately.

The same in effect goes with the media angle. The MMA community has a touching faith, for the moment, in the possibility of unbiased media, while the boxing fan knows that Golden Boy owns the Ring, Dan Rafael works for a company which also telecasts and pays for fights, Boxingtalk’s head writer used to concurrently manage fighters and so forth. MMA got a touch of this sort of slightly seamy interrelation in the whole WAMMA/Sam Caplan/rankings bias nonsense, and they can expect to see a lot more of it in future unless MMA really breaks through to the mainstream. Bias still exists at that level of course, but at that point it’s more personal agendas and issues than wholesale use of niche media as a promotional device for a sport with a hardcore fanbase. As it is, internet MMA fans should probably be more glad than they are that Dana White frequently convinces himself that he hates them- if he could make up his mind to consistently manipulate them instead and use access as a tool to control coverage, much of the current incoherence of the MMA blogosphere could rather easily be converted to UFC-favorable coverage, I suspect.

2. Bobby Lashley fighting Saturday reminds me that sometimes we don’t really appreciate the utter weirdness of Brock Lesnar. I put it to you: has there been any champion in the history of fighting sports of all kinds (boxing, wrestling, MMA, kickboxing, san shou, arm wrestling, etc.) who had less experience and skill when he won his first major title, or when he headlined his first major event? In many ways Lesnar is a creature of his era, representing a major step forward in the evolution of the heavyweight division of the sport towards gigantic mountain-sized men who cut to make 265, and being the first serious athlete of this class has allowed him to get away with things almost no one else has and which fighters similar to him in the future won’t be able to. He’s a bit of a revolutionary figure for the sport, and not just the marketing of it. He may also end up having a truly bizarre career arc if the diverticulitis doesn’t get him first: in his early 30’s, he’s clearly and by his own admission beginning to decline athletically; but his size remains a constant, and because he’s starting from a historically low skill point relative to his level of success he has farther to go and more room to improve in that area than almost anyone else at the championship level in combat sports. It remains to be seen if he’s capable of adjusting his style as Randy Couture did over time, but if he is he could end up being around a much longer time than most expected him to be when his career began.

Ironically I almost expect, if that happens, that Lesnar will end up looking in 5-10 years if he’s still around a lot like the evolutionary Mark Coleman- just a huge, bear-strong man with limited speed who throws guys down and never lets them up, slowly mauling them in the process. If his submission awareness improves to the point where he offers few if any opportunities for sweeps, escapes or submission attempts, he’ll have a gameplan which is almost perfectly suited to the aging fighter: he can control the pace from top position, emphasize strength which is often the last athletic attribute to go, and just grind guys to death. His standup will have to improve, but in some respects he has the potential to be heavyweight MMA’s George Foreman by that point- old but still huge and scarily powerful, with excellent reach. If he continues to develop his accuracy in particular, he can compensate for declining speed by enticing opponents into close range, where he can begin to use feints to set up takedowns, or the threat of takedowns to set up loaded punches. Given his acknowledged trainaholic personality, if his body holds up this seems like a real possibility to me. I have this recurring sense than Brock Lesnar vs. Rolles Gracie is going to be a gigantic fight about 2-3 years from now.

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January 31, 2010 - Posted by | MMA

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