Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ingredients for an instant classic


We as fans of combat sports are luckier than ever in the generation we're currently living in. Just about every weekend it seems we are treated to some form of combat, whether it is mixed martial arts or boxing and many times both. On top of that, many of these fights, especially a/o late, have been offered to us for free on television. Just last night for example you had the World Series of Fighting showing four fights on NBC Sports network and HBO serving up three fights of a boxing card on their channel.

Yet, with all these fights going on, only a few turn out to be truly entertaining. Then, every so often, one stands out above the rest and is immediately considered an all-timer or one for the ages. That happened this past Friday night when Mark Hunt 'The Super Samoan' and Antonio 'Big Foot' Silva (Pictured above respectively) stepped in the cage in Australia and unleashed on one another. After five rounds of a furious back and forth main event, the fans in the arena and even the broadcast team of Jon Anik and Kenny Florian were deafening in their enthusiasm.

I myself was at home on the edge of my recliner glued to the action as I listened to Kenny Florian rave about how this was one of the greatest fights in UFC history. Considering all the fights that have taken place inside the octagon over 20 years, that is rarified air. It made begin to compare it to other great fights I've seen over the years, including this year, and I immediately began to ask myself, "What are the ingredients for an instant classic?"

I've often talked about how the word 'great' is tossed around way too loosely in its usage. However, sometimes it is quite just in its use and this fight was one of them; but why was that? Here's my recipe for a fight to end up being part of that exclusive club of all-time classics.

Ingredients:

Matchmaking - The pairing of two fighters doesn't necessarily mean instant action, a lot goes into it; but at least the pairing of two opponents that are pretty much on a level playing field will at least offer the solace that one opponent won't necessarily run through the other. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva is universally regarded as one of the best in the business for this and many other reasons.

Style - There's a phrase in boxing that says, "Styles make fights." Nowhere is that more prevalent than in MMA where so many different styles come into play. It is important to know how two fighters will mesh with each other to not only provide action, but to bring the best out in one another. Unfortunately, things don't always work out and even the best made plans don't live up to the hype; example, Demian Maia vs. Jake Shields a couple of months ago. Two jiu-jitsu aces going at it, I for one was salivating at seeing the action on the ground. What happened is their skills neutralized each other so much, we ended up having a relative snooze fest.

Home field - When one of the fighters is literally fighting on his home turf, it makes for an interesting dynamic; especially when it is a foreign country involved. Hunt, who is from nearby New Zealand, is recognized as a living legend in Australia. Thus, the Aussies were going crazy with every punch he threw. Another reason this ingredient is important is because it can be an equalizer for an underdog going into a fight, which Hunt was on Friday.

Heart - It is hard to imagine that anyone who steps into a cage or a ring doesn't have any heart; that is not in question. However, it is safe to say that some fighters just have more heart than others. That shouldn't be so hard to understand, especially once you remember that with people in general, some just have bigger hearts than others emotionally. When you get two fighters who have huge hearts, the sky's the limit. Anyone who saw Hunt and Silva barely standing at the end, totally spent, with nothing left to give, yet trying, will not question their heart.

Will - Finally, all the above ingredients, including heart, are for naught if the will to lay it on the line and give it all you got isn't there. The determination to not be stopped regardless of the punishment and to push forward even when your body says no, but your mind says yes. That is a rare quality that is difficult to understand unless you've ever been pushed to the limits both physically and mentally. When that happens, it is something special to behold.

It is fair to say that Friday nights fight between Mark Hunt and Antonio Silva had all these ingredients. Thus, as you can imagine, the fight was an instant classic. Just like the best tasting cake or dish you've ever had, this fight compares favorably to Liddell/Silva, Couture/Nogueira, Shogun/Henderson, Chandler/Alvarez I and any others that are in that special club of excellence. In the words of Big Daddy Kane, "'Nuff respect due."

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