Boxing vs MMA... Let's Get Real!

boxing vs mma19.11.07 - By Wray Edwards: Boxing is a formal sport which has very specific limitations that are critical to the rhythm and flow of combat. Such limitations as not hitting a person who is down or rabbit punches also reflect emphasis on sportsmanship. It is a symphony of movements (rounds) which require an attention span tuned to protracted dynamics. Its origin is classical just as are the works of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and other artists who wrote for those who could pay attention for more than fifteen minutes. The weapon and target limitations are intended to narrow and refine the fighting art. “Shootfighting” is, potentially, a thirty minute form, but due to its nearly unlimited nature, match-ending injuries or submissions are common..

Nowadays musical songs and raps are aimed at three or four minute quick results for those who haven't time to cruise a longer form of entertainment. The quick brutality of MMA styles produces cheap thrills for those who just can't wait. A recent MMA event which had a great deal of "ground game" (horizontal mambo) had the commentators wishing that the ref would get the "fighters/wrestlers" back on their feet as they were getting bored. They made the wimpy excuse that, "MMA is a work in progress." Then it happened…

Unfortunately, the guy on top blasted a four inch, bloody gash over the other guy's left eye with his elbow. It wasn't pretty or was just brutal, and it prematurely ended the contest. The crowd seemed pleased, and the bump-and-grind dancers on the runway could have used poles to celebrate more effectively. IMO MMA represents a contemporary trend which emphasizes a Kimbo Slice mentality.

Muay Thai (or the Sanshou - Wushu -form) where throw-downs are allowed for points, keep things moving and give a nod to the far east which is acceptable. As these forms have moved west or been refined in the far east, they have limited or removed such moves as choking, elbow smashes and joint threats. The American form, as presented by American promoters, seems a hodgepodge of half-understood techniques drawn from Oriental martial arts combined with back-alley street brawling. When these forms are under the control of an eastern master, they retain most of the very technical and demanding move styles.

When American promoters, who haven’t a clue what core development or counter-rotating kick posture techniques look like, hit the bricks to find some “fearsome” fighter, they cruise the ranks of failed or past-it boxers and WWE-Pride-UFC-IFL types. What we get is a mish-mash of what looks like a phalanx of biker-bar bruisers, gullible bubbas and muscle-bound toughs who rarely look professional and probably can’t spell the word.

The ever-growing throngs of fans who frequent these events, usually report their appreciation of the fights in terms which dwell almost exclusively on the brutal, no quarter, no-holds-barred atmosphere of the pairings. The current trend seems degenerative, and, sadly, appears to presage a shift away from a sweet science in favor of backstreet mayhem.

The transition is comparable to leaving a Grand Prix race and going to a demolition derby. If you think about the similarities, Grand Prix is a highly refined, technical contest which takes hours to complete and yet, is still a blood sport. A demolition derby dispenses with the course management and dwells on the crashes. Current MMA trends seek the brutal beat-down with as little give-and-take as possible.

By now you have probably guessed that I have little use for American MMA. “Correctamundo” as Ed McMahon used to say. What do I like? Greco-Roman wrestling, Muay Thai, Sanshou, Wushu, Shin Do Kumaté and Professional Marquess of Queensbury (Sir John Sholto Douglas) Boxing just to name a few. Each of these disciplines are subject to mutations and upgrades which suit their transition to or from military or police applications versus sports entertainment presentations.

Of course lethal strikes, which are taught and required for personal survival in military or police combat, are not appropriate in a sports venue…at least not yet. There is no guarantee that social or underground appetites for an ultimate gladiator style killing sport will not eventually turn things lethal. In the Middle East, where they do not have much in the way of sports, except for “Football” - which is so boring that the fans often attack each other to satisfy their need for conclusive action - the dominant “sport” is tribal or sectarian warfare.

In disputes over vague differences in scriptural or moral interpretations, millions have died over the last five thousand years. The fervor with which the killing takes place bespeaks a passion nurtured over the centuries. The addition of heavenly rewards for dying in these conflicts adds the ultimate purse for going out on one’s shield. How would we here in the west feel if a Mullah walked out on the field as the Packers and Cowboys were going at it and tried to change the game?

Yet we have stepped out on their field to interrupt their “game”. But I digress. The point is that in the west, humans seek limited chaos which tests their survival skills either directly, or indirectly, by identifying with their surrogates who risk all on the track and field or in the ring. We watch the news for storms, car chases, volcanoes, rescues, murder trials or whatever the hell Brad and Angie are going through. Humans love adversity. They enjoy “…the sting of battle” (Patton). We are wired for challenges.

Depending on our relative skills, we take up various challenges which test our competencies and will to survive. American football players accept the artificial violence which is allowed on the gridiron. NASCAR drivers deign to turn left at two hundred miles per hour in order to advertise their sponsor’s product. Boxers contract with each other to trade blunt-force trauma for a living. Standup comedians make light of the serious human conditions which helps us to laugh, ultimately, in the face of death.

There are, however, certain limitations which make each entertainment stop short of actions which may damage the vehicle. MMA practices often go too far. Currently they go to the point that they become self-destructive.

It is sad to see a fairly talented fighter get lacerated before he can even settle into his fight plan and give the other guy a run for his money. The threat moves allowed are often destined to short-circuit any chance for the fans to see a decent stretch of action. In Boxing, a first round KO is often an indicator of bad matchmaking and true fight fans would that more action had obtained. The combatants are supposed to be matched as closely as possible so that they have to go at it for a while before the slight dominance of one or the other proves a winner.

With MMA, however, even though they try to match the fighters in order to provide some duration of the contest, they shoot themselves in the foot by allowing striking or grappling forms which are prone to cause a premature ending of the event. It’s as if one of the rules of Baseball allowed that if one of either team’s batters hit a home run it would be game over. But that is exactly what a face-ripping elbow smash does to an MMA contest.

Better yet, let’s allow Football players to do crack-back clips, Baseball players to pitch at the batter’s head, Grand Prix drivers to pitt-spin the guy in front of them, sprinters to trip others, javelin throwers to face each other directly, Tennis players to wing their racquets at their opponents and Basketball players to goal-tend. These would all be examples of allowing moves which, while effective, would damage the structure of the game to the point that it would fall apart.

IMO MMA has done this. Though it is popular, such licenses given to the fighters make them unsafe, and the contests inconsistent at best, and disgusting or just plain boring at worst. See you at the fights.

Article posted on 19.11.2007

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