Combat sports in a collapsing world (and UFC 239 predictions)

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The allure is strong and yet not without intense self-reflection, even self-flagellation.

Combat sports is my escape in a collapsing world.

A world I have come to peace with because I have no choice but to do so. A world that somehow has contrived to provide a lucky bum like me a life of love, adventure, and realization. A world full of scary and glorious unknowns.

With that little intro, let’s dive into UFC 239’s crackerjack main card, while I dust off my crystal ball.

(Hey, way back in May 2016 I predicted that the comb-over rapist would occupy the White House. Now that’s one helluva start to my crystal ball gazing. Admittedly, my fight predictions haven’t been as on point. I lost my “zero” solely because of a sociopathic man-child who also happens to be the greatest light heavyweight mixed martial artist of all time…more on that soon.)

So, the UFC 239 main card takes place in a few hours today, Saturday, July 6th, 9pm central. I’m only doing three big fights of the main card because I have some sense of all the fighters and have seen a few fights of each – in addition to their styles, strengths etc.

Let’s start with the main event, Jon “Bones” Jones (the aforementioned man-child and fighting savant) versus Thiago “Marreta” Santos (whose nickname means hammer…he even has a sledge variation of the same tattooed on his torso). Jones is a -600 betting favorite, which for the gambling-uninformed means he is MASSIVELY favored to win this fight. Jones is the reason for my sole loss in the crystal ball gazing, back when I predicted Gustaffson to defeat him in UFC 232 in Jones’ title defense.

Well, I’m risking another loss by going with Santos. I don’t know. It’s just a feeling, most likely just hope. In addition, I almost always want the underdog to win. Mind you, he’s only got the proverbial puncher’s chance, which really should be changed to “striker’s chance” in MMA but what a chance he is giving himself. Brawling power with absolute fearlessness in the cage. And from what I can tell, he seems to be a really caring, honorable guy who gives back to his community without the usual fanfare. I like good human beings winning nice things for themselves and their people. Vamos Marreta, fight your fight and wrench hope from the bowels of darkness…

***Santos by TKO (and NEW UFC Light Heavyweight Champion)***

The co-main event is for the women’s bantamweight title with my favorite female fighter, the awe-inspiring, two-weight champion, Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (the greatest female MMA fighter of all time in case you were wondering) versus another all-time great, former bantamweight champion, Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm. This will be a stand up, striking battle unless one is getting thoroughly outclassed in a round and shoots for a takedown in order to survive. I think Holm will bring the fight to Nunes and it will go the distance, but I think Nunes will take a solid decision. Holm has phenomenal striking no doubt, great boxing and muay thai, with decent movement, but Nunes has two exquisite weapons that any striker dreams of having in tandem – sniper accuracy with serious power. She stalks, throws accurate bombs without going crazy, and then when she’s hurt her opponent, she has one of the greatest blitzes in the game. Her first round TKO of Cyborg, where she came in as a betting underdog only to became the first female two-weight champion, was a knockout artiste’s dream. The scary thing is that I think she still has a while to go before she hits her peak. Imagine a killer submission game along with powerful leg kicks added to her arsenal. She can keep those two belts a while and very soon, seriously lay claim to being the greatest MMA fighter ever. Even if Holm pulls off the upset (which would put her easily in the top two or three greatest female fighters of all time), Nunes still has the featherweight title, not to mention an automatic rematch for the bantamweight crown. She is in a rare position to stake a claim and continue her path to all-time greatness without losing too much of a step, even if she loses this fight. But I don’t think that’s gonna happen…

***Nunes by unanimous decision (and STILL UFC Bantamweight Champion)***

Prior to the two title bouts, is the apparent “people’s main event” (so dubbed because mindless social media traffic constitutes “people”). Nonetheless it’s a mouth-watering affair and I’ll admit that this is the fight I’m most looking forward to in the card. A welterweight fight and a possible shot at the belt up for grabs, with “Funky” Ben Askren and his scrambling-heavy, elite-level wrestling style taking on “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal’s street-fighting background and excellent, technical boxing skills. Both of these guys are colorful characters to say the least, but in very, very different ways. Suburban scholastic meets urban rough and tumble with all the internecine frictions. Masvidal needs to keep the fight standing while Askren will do everything he can to get the takedown and a submission or TKO. In the cage I love the strikers in stylistic matchups, but that’s only because I came into martial arts via striking sports like boxing and kickboxing and NOT because I think the grappling arts are any less effective (though they can be boring as fuck at times).

Usually when great MMA strikers are matched against great MMA grapplers, the grapplers have simpler paths to victory, based on grinding your opponent down to the point of tiredness and then getting a submission, TKO, or decision victory (Askren of course incorporates a lot more scrambling than just muscular grinding). Strikers on the other hand usually emerge victorious when they can match volume and power with great defensive wrestling, a slightly more complicated skill combination to master. Grappling cardio also holds up better than striking cardio in the later rounds. In the early years of MMA as a sport, the grapplers ran roughshod through the strikers for this main reason. Over the last decade or so however, one can see the tables turning. That skill combination I mentioned above is now integrated early on into training because people are starting to train from the get-go in MMA (which ultimately at its core, is a striking sport with some grappling, as opposed to the other way around – something grapplers in the early years tried). Indeed, I’d say we’re entering a new era of MMA strikers dominating the sport.

Having said that, I’m leaning towards the grappler here. I think Masvidal has great technical striking and defensive wrestling, but is not as powerful as many of the other welterweights around. He also likes brawling occasionally, which plays right into Askren’s game. From what I’ve seen in past fights, Askren can take a hit and keep coming. He is also a takedown artiste. I think Gamebred will catch Funky with some shots, enough to make this a serious fight and maybe even prove me wrong, but I think ultimately Askren gets the takedown and a submission win.

***Askren by submission (with a shot at the welterweight title as reward, or, wait for this – a shot at the inaugural title for the spanking new 165 pound division!)***

MMA is a sport where adult human beings, usually with families and responsibilities, get into a cage to beat each other up under controlled circumstances for performative glory and apparent reward.

I can appreciate that because I understand the fear and pain of getting hit.

But I also know I’m finding ways to rationalize my escape…

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The moral, ethical bankruptcy that is the UFC – a psychosocial deconstruction of the UFC 232 Pre-Fight Press Conference (and predictions for Jones-Gustaffson 2|Cyborg-Nunes)

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[Published hours before UFC 232]

First off, as a test of mind against the chaos machine that is life, I’ve decided to use my personal blog occasionally to test my crystal ball skills.

I’ve done this before when I predicted, in May 2016, that Donald Trump would be elected president, further giving 9 scary reasons why. So I have a crystal ball fight record of 1-0, aiming to make it 3-0 in one night. (Though the Trump prediction was so bold and big at the time that I feel like I deserve to have a 2-0 record. But whatever.)

This time around, instead of politics, I’ve decided to go with another sociological obsession of mine – mixed martial arts, or MMA for short. And I’m predicting seriously against the odds. So if MMA’s not even marginally your thing, you might not be interested in this piece. But who knows? Maybe something about it will tickle your fancy.

Regardless, you do you.

Getting back to it…For the layperson, MMA is a combat sport – usually taking place in a cage but occasionally in a ring – that incorporates stand-up striking with punches, kicks, elbows and knees, as well as grappling, both offensive and defensive, on the ground and against the cage, with strikes incorporated whenever possible. MMA is essentially as close to a school yard brawl as you can get with rules and settings that favor bigger, stronger fighters (though, I do believe volume striking with great defensive grappling and a gas tank that can go on for ages is the future of MMA, which, with even a slight tweak in the rules can even the playing field between weight classes).

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC for short, is synonymous with the sport, not because it isn’t a reprehensible organization run by a reprehensible individual, but because it has the largest brand-name value in the current wild, wild west first few decades of the sport.

And yes, despite the fact that it’s a morally, ethically bankrupt organization (more on that in a subsequent point), I’m drawn to the sport like a moth to a flame and thus to whatever matchups I can access via shady Reddit stream links replete with NSFW ads.

UFC 232 takes place tonight (December 29th, 2018). In the main event, the sociopathic maniac who leaves his entire soul in the cage leaving an empty shell to walk the rest of his time on earth, Jon “Bones” Jones, takes on a rangy Swede, Alexander Gustaffson, going by the rather to-the-point nickname “Mauler” – for the UFC Light Heavyweight World Championship. Jon Jones is undefeated, considered by many to be one of the greatest fighters ever, and a heavy betting favorite at somewhere around -300 in the latest odds. In the co-main event, for the women’s 145lb featherweight world title, 135lb pound bantamweight champion, Amanda “Lioness” Nunes (one of my personal favorites, and also the first openly queer MMA world champion – completely under promoted by the misogynistic and racist Dana White in my honest and admittedly sharp opinion) goes up a weight class to take on Cris Cyborg, an absolute beast of a champion at 145lb, whom many consider to be the greatest female fighter ever. Cyborg is almost as much of a favorite as Jones is at -260 betting odds.

I predict that both Gustaffson and Nunes will win tonight. They will both be very, very close fights, likely great fights, and will both be won by the underdogs.

I’m laying my undefeated prediction record on the line for two predictions that both run against the betting odds (for the uninformed, heavier negative odds means a heavier favorite. Any fighter at -200 or lesser is considered a heavy favorite.)

I am of course, just having fun here and am more than happy to take the 1-2 record to my crystal ball bouts. But I’m just making some points for predicting against the odds; points that I’m straight pulling out of my ass.

I’m going by the age old adage of fighting being 90% mental and 10% physical, them being professional fighters and thus as close to each other in terms of physical preparation, as can be done in this age. All four fighters seem to have access to great training, and seem ready. I’m utilizing the pre-fight press conference as well as videos, interviews etc. as the most recent, kinda stressful events they have to go through to see who has the mental edge, and thus the fighting edge.

So here goes:

(1) The pre-pubescent sociopathy that is Jon Jones is matched by the pre-pubescent megalomania that is UFC prez, Dana White. Ok, this isn’t a great reason for Gustaffson winning, but let me just get this out of my system. It’s out. I’m not gonna dwell on it cos the UFC, White, and capitalism in general assigns value only on profit and couldn’t care less about humanity. They’re scum and they often don’t care if their star fighters are scum. Rant over. Onward.

(2) Jones is a nervous shell of a person, incapable of being a genuine human being and surviving on pure id. That shit eventually crumbles. Maybe not this fight. But eventually It will. It has crumbled all around him except in the cage where his outrageous physical gifts, talent, grit, and hard work keep the shell intact. But no fighter can just be a fighter, for it is nothing more than an identity. They have to be human beings whether they like it or not.

(3) His opponent seems chill, eager to fight, and focused on only what he can control. Whatever little information I’ve been able to glean from UFC Embedded videos, pre-fight press conferences and the like, Gustaffson seems chill and ready to rock. Even when the UFC pulled the outrageous stunt of moving the entire card on a week’s notice from Vegas to LA because the Nevada State Athletic Commission wouldn’t license Jones after he tested positive for steroids yet again (yeah, the dude’s a cheater in addition to being a fake-ass sociopath), Gustaffson seemed to just focus on getting what he wanted, a fight with Jones, and not on shit he couldn’t control. A fighter with that kind of a mindset is a dangerous fighter.

(4) I just want it to happen, both Gustaffson and Nunes to win, which is why I’m kinda spell casting here. I don’t really give a crap about Gustaffson as a fighter, I just want him to defeat Jones. Fuck, I want Jones to lose so bad so he can be less of a sociopath that I’m actually rooting for the white guy here. With Nunes, I actually want her to win. I think she’s a phenomenal and completely under-appreciated pioneer in the sport whom history will treat very kindly. I saw the same mental and energy differences with Nunes-Cyborg as I saw with Jones-Gustaffson, albeit with less intensity. Nunes seemed calm, ready to go, embracing the underdog status, while Cyborg seemed just a tad more under pressure.

But who the fuck knows, amiright?

Regardless, a change in my crystal ball record awaits in another few hours

I’ll follow this with post-fight post…all for myself and the larger universe…therapeutic blogging and dreamy shadow boxing.

PS: Ok, gotta get this out of my system too – Fuck the misogyny and racism in MMA…it makes the sport shittier by allowing scum like Dana White to rise to the top.

PPS: Up is probably on of the best animated movies out there on positive masculinity. I realized that as we saw it, as a family, for the fourth time last night.

My retirement hobby might just be the hunt…

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I know I must commit to the noble grind of life.

I know that until my daughter is ready to fly and my soulmate has gotten sick of me, I must find my peace in this noble grind.

I do so because I know it is my salvation.

But when my golden years set in…

Indeed as the noble grind loses its necessity…

Well then, salvation alone might not cut it.

Love is all, but might still not be enough.

Then every fibre of my being might start quivering for my participation in divine feminine balance.

And the hunt might commence and never end.

One morning, I decided to kill a rapist when I was a very young man…

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A lifetime ago and a universe apart, someone very dear to me, a soul far superior to me, trusted me enough to tell me her story.

So the next morning, completely of my own volition and unbeknownst to this great soul, I proceeded to kill the rapist.

Planned for it through the night and everything.

All went as I envisioned it would.

He fell at my feet.

Admitted to it and practically begged me to liberate him.

I walked away.

Was I scared? Honorable? Disgusted? Or all that and much more?

All I know is this.

I’m 99% sweetheart and 1% psycho.

And, to this day, I don’t know which part of me regrets letting him go more.

I train for the great battle ahead…

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I might say that I train so I may, some day, fulfill some unrequited teenage dream of combat sports glory.

I may couch it in the language of self realization.

I may even realize, through sheer luck and happenstance, some far fetched fighting dream of little consequence.

But truly, I train for the battle ahead and the battle of our daily lives.

The ultimate battle for the soul of humanity and perhaps even this earth itself.

The battle against patriarchy.

The battle against sexism.

The battle against toxic masculinity.

I repeat.

The soil of humanity must be watered with the blood of misogynists.