Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What would Jesus say about MMA? An introduction

On November 12, 1993 a new sport burst on to the American scene, which was bathed in blood, testosterone, and physical violence. With its fights to the finish, its no-holds barred rules, its bloodied and battered contestants, and its showcase of shocking real life brutality, it not only gained a rabid following among martial artists and fight fans, it also rapidly acquired a reputation for violence and inhumane brutality, viewed by some as nothing less than “human cockfighting.” It was not just the bloody slugfests which played out on the canvass inside the steel cage otherwise known as the “Octagon” that shaped perceptions of it being nothing more than primitive violence, it was many of the fighters themselves which contributed to this perception. Large thickly muscled men, covered in tattoos, sporting menacing glares, and taking on names such the “Axe Murderer,” “the Dean of Mean,” and “The Baby Faced Assassin” underscored its image of violence. Of course, the sport is called Mixed Martial Arts (otherwise and hereafter referred to as MMA) and it is wildly popular, financially lucrative, and what is more, its here to stay, having carved out a powerful marketing niche among young males between 18 to 35 years of age.

Not surprisingly, given its violent nature, accompanying its rise in popularity is a chorus of critics. These critics raise ethical questions about the sport, arguing that it glamorizes violence, it subjects participants to extreme and unnecessary physical risks, and it leads to a number of undesirable unintended consequences, not the least of which is a growing class of violent criminals who are becoming more sophisticated in their attacks on law-enforcement personnel. Given the apparently violent nature of the sport and the host of ethical questions which it generates, it might be surprising to some that a number of MMA fighters (Quinton Jackson, Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, etc.) and now an MMA apparel company (you probaly wouldn't believe it unless you saw it for yourself, enjoy! http://www.nosubmit.com/) self-consciously and explicitly identify themselves as both Christian and proponents of the MMA industry. Immediately, such a congenial alliance between apparently disparate and unexpected parties prompts an intriguing question: what would Jesus say about MMA?

In a series of articles I plan to address this question from a number of angles including Jesus’ explicit prohibitions against taking vengeance on others, against unrestrained anger, as well as his undeniable calls for promoting peace and loving one’s neighbor. The question which we will particularly aim to answer is whether one can participate in a sport which intentionally seeks to inflict physical damage on an opponent and still maintain a valid claim to be a follower of Christ.

In the course of these articles, I don’t want to simply be answering my own questions about the ethics of MMA, I want to hear from you, and try to address questions which you may have as well. So please, come back and join me in discussing what Jesus would say about MMA.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

UFC 96

I don't think there is a lot to say here about this UFC. This card is pretty much a one horse show, with Jackson v Jardine at the top, the rest of the matches are not that big of a deal. That being the case, I will only comment on two matchups.

Jackson v Jardine
This fight will not go well for Jardine. Jackson has too much speed, too much strength, and too much power. I call this fight for Jackson either via knockout or TKO probably in the 2nd round. Jardine is a good fighter at 205, but will never make it to the top of the heap in the UFC. That is no disrespect to his skills, its just to say that his natural abilities are just not top 3 level, and they won't ever be. Jackson, on the other hand, has tremendous athletic ability and has made some good adjustments to his training since joining up with the boys from Wolfslair. Once Jackson puts Jardine aside, the table should be set for the Jackson-Rashad Evans title fight, and I don't have to tell even the casual MMA fan that that will be a huge fight.

Gonzaga v Carwin
I really like this matchup for a lot of reasons. Carwin is an enormous guy with great athletic ability, excellent wrestling, and improved striking. Gonzo has great jujitsu and improved striking, as well as a ton of big-time MMA experience. I have a hunch that Gonzo wins this via submission. Carwin is a great wrestler, but I don't have confidence that he wins if this thing goes to the ground. The wild card in this fight is the stand up game. Will Carwin be able to use his greater size to tie Gonzo up, control the distance between them, and hold him against the cage and dirty box him, or will Gonzo keep Carwin at bay with leg kicks and superior foot work? At the end of the day I say Gonzo has too much experience against better opponents to lose this, but Carwin does have a chance for an upset. Look for a great fight and I think the winner of this match can make a strong argument that they deserve a shot at the belt.

Enjoy the fights!