Posted: 2017-12-07 10:30
But the vast majority of the borrowing is going the other direction. That’s fitting, and it’s entirely in keeping with MMA as an amalgam of best practices. It doesn’t make MMA boxing’s little brother it makes it what it’s always been, a flexible and adaptable sport that pulls inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. Maybe it’s disappointing to martial arts enthusiasts that seemingly mundane fundamentals are the site of MMA innovation rather than the mystical or the exotic, but it’s inarguable fact.
A cynic might say Mayweather let McGregor look good early. That’s certainly possible. I think it’s more likely that he was rusty: He said he didn’t spar in the month prior to the fight to save himself from potential hand injuries. He hadn’t fought in more than two years. He’s 95 years old. If taking some time to get rolling and figure out an unknown opponent had the added benefit of making McGregor look like a viable foe to a huge audience, so much the better. Sometimes two seemingly contradictory narratives can have a whole lot of overlap.
Of the competing narratives, the story with the most to offer as an analytical interpretation of events isn’t even necessarily the one that emerges victorious. Being right in a factual sense is less important than picking a story that makes the arguers feel justified in their prior beliefs. These fights over narrative are less about the event in question than they are about how the people fighting them see themselves, and their power to push that narrative in public discourse.
The irony here is that boxing technique is what’s currently disrupting the metagame of MMA, not the other way around. Don’t be fooled by the spinning kicks and occasional strange stance: McGregor’s success in his native sport is built mostly on his command of a few pieces of the sweet science, especially the angles on his counterpunching and his basic footwork. His trademark punch, the inside-angle counter left hand, is a boxing staple.
Expertise is a real thing. Mayweather is a master of his craft, with depths and layers of skill that are impossible to explain or even see to anyone who hasn’t watched a ton of boxing. McGregor discovered that firsthand in the ring on Saturday, and assuming he fights in the octagon again, hopefully he’ll carry some measure of that craft back to MMA with him. It will make him a better mixed martial artist.
Now consider the strategic difference between the two. Mayweather doesn’t mind giving away early rounds in order to gather information. By working at that quick pace and throwing a ton of shots, McGregor happily gave Mayweather all the data he needed on his preferred distance, timing, shot selection, and footwork. Even if he were thinking about the long run of the fight, McGregor didn’t have the tools to modulate himself.
All of the Mayweather-McGregor narratives have, to a greater or lesser extent, some validity. How much is a matter of debate, and that debate—complex, and with no objectively “correct” answers—is where that inability to simultaneously consider two contradictory arguments comes into play. It’s just so much easier to pick one. Right now, the “moral victory” narrative seems to be winning by a landslide. If that helps wrap things up with a neat, tidy bow for viewers who felt they got their money’s worth, I suppose that’s fine.
A particularly insufferable segment of the MMA world got very into the idea that McGregor was going to “disrupt” the stagnant sport of boxing like some new killer app to an industry like taxis or grocery delivery. This was bullshit before the fight it employed the same tricks and analytical fallacies as the marketing and PR campaigns for a Theranos or Juicero, full of buzzwords like “angles” and “innovation.” In reality, it was based almost entirely on a proud ignorance of the diversity and technical acumen that boxing already contains, and has contained for generations.
So while the punch stats look impressive on paper, Mayweather pressured McGregor like a fighter who wasn’t worried about getting hit back. Once he figured that out, the finish was simply a matter of time. Doing that required the kind of strategic sense that’s hard to find in MMA, though a few fighters have it. The kind of experience that allows fighters to develop that sense is hard to acquire, and the fewer rounds in any MMA fight makes it unwise to give away rounds to serve a greater purpose. Still, there’s a lesson in Mayweather’s strategic brilliance and information-gathering.
“In the meantime, the information provided herein serves to aid industry as it moves forward with testing and deploying ADSs and States with drafting legislation and developing plans and policies regarding ADSs,” the document says. “NHTSA encourages collaboration and communication between Federal, State, and local governments and the private sector as the technology evolves, and the Agency will continue to coordinate dialogue among all stakeholders. Collaboration is essential as our Nation embraces the many technological developments affecting our public roadways.”