Watching a good boxing context is far more entertaining than watching a good MMA context. In fact, I would argue, the most entertaining MMA contests are the contests where the fighters stay on their feet and bang away making as close an imitation as if possible to a boxing match.
I was watching Andre Ward vs. Carl Froch in the final of their Super Six super middle weight contest that started 2 years ago on Showtime. I watched the build up to the fight, the interviews, the trash talking. I like both fighters. I think Froch is a tough cat. And he can fight but more in the pedigree of a fighter who rose from street brawls. I think Andre Ward is a brilliant fighter. And also a tough cat. So I knew this was going to make for a good fight.
It was a good fight. It was a great fight. Andre Ward was too good, too quick, by Froch’s own account too slick for his opponent. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable fight to watch for 12 rounds. 12 rounds! In boxing, you really truly leave everything in the ring. You bring it and leave it the ring. And there is no question in the eye and mind of the fan watching the game who is better or who got lucky. Unless it was the Thriller In Manilla! Back then they fought 15 rounds. And those two fighters left everything in the ring. Had it gone the full 15, there is no saying how much more they would have left in the ring. Neither was ever the same after that.
Then on the same channel, they started showing Strike Force MMA fights. On any other day, without a prior aperitif of a great boxing match, I would have stayed up, eagerly anticipating the MMA fight, and enjoyed it some. But on the tail end of a Ward v. Froch fight and similar, an MMA is so pedestrian, at the end you forget who was fighting, you forget who they are. Is just me?
I am not to saying that the MMA fight is not entertaining. Just less so. There are a number of reasons for this. First, MMA allows grappling. You have to be an MMA or wrestling geek to enjoy grown men rolling around on the floor for advantage and yet call that a fight. Second, the MMA gloves are nominal pads at best. That means you are for all intents and purposes fighting bare fisted and constantly at the risk of taking a lucky punch and because they don’t want this to happen, they tend to stay away from each other.
I think the reason MMA is so popular is because it goes against the grain of orderliness and there is an element of unpredictability and a certain savagery that appeals to the masses. But it is these same attributes that limit MMA. I don’t bet but I would be awfully curious how the bookmakers manager the capricious nature of the MMA fights (I also believe that the fighting arts are in many ways sustained by their amenability to betting).