Monday, August 10, 2009

Levels of Kung Fu Mastery (UFC 101/WEC 42 observations)

Who am I?

UFC 101 and WEC 42 over the weekend had some stunning moments, especially in their main events.

From Anderson Silva's backpedaling one-punch knockout of Forrest Griffin to BJ Penn's thorough domination of Kenny Florian on land, air and sea to Brian Bowles' barreling through Miguel Torres to capture the WEC bantamweight belt, these two events produced highlights that will never be forgotten.

With the main fights having been a minefield for matchups between fighters between different styles and levels of MMA mastery, watching UFC 101 and WEC 42 was like watching a great kung fu movie.

I did my best to categorize and describe what I see as the four levels of kung fu mastery.

1. Demigod : Has mastered almost every single skill in fighting. Toys with opponents, makes them pay for their mistakes. Capable of doing so with hands and footwork alone. Often untouchable and subliminally creative.

Footwork like Michael Jackson - fight becomes a dance. Throws combinations like a Street Fighter character. Watching a demigod fight is like watching Pai Mei school Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill 2. Hits with chi power and timing possible to have only through years of smart training and knowledge of self.

UFC 101/WEC 42 archetype : Anderson Silva

2. Legend : Has perfected most of the most important aspects of fighting (footwork, punching, grappling, takedown defense). High-level mastery of essential skills overrides shortcomings against fighter of lesser caliber. Dominates a lesser fighter's will. Possesses the finer skills that a master may not have (e.g. difference between jiu-jitsu of BJ Penn and Kenny Florian).

UFC 101/WEC 42 archetype : BJ Penn

3. Master : Understands the rhythm and spacing of fighting. Good at most aspects of MMA, and great at a few. Generally able to avoid direct hits from the junkyard dog but not the legend or demigod. Seemingly minor imperfections make him susceptible to upsets by bloodthirsty underdogs (e.g. Miguel Torres' lack of one-punch knockout power costing him against Brian Bowles).

UFC 101/WEC 42 archetype : Miguel Torres, Kenny Florian

4. Junkyard Dog : The scrapper. Possesses a rudimentary, but effective, skill set that's his meat and potatoes. Gets hit a lot in order to dish out punishment. Superbly conditioned and truly a live underdog. Describes most mixed martial artists fighting at the major league level.

UFC 101/WEC 42 archetype : Forrest Griffin, Brian Bowles

Although it's more likely that a higher level fighter would defeat a lower level fighter than vice versa, there are so many variables that happen all at once that an upset is possible at any given moment.

So whether you watch MMA to see poetry in motion, be inspired by human triumphs, or both, there's much beauty in a sport that seems so violent and bloody on the surface.

"Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson

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