Should you find yourself ever the target of a certain Mixed Martial Arts promotion’s president’s bad side, you may be told you gave a terrible performance in a fight. In fact, you could be what some consider the GOAT Anderson Silva, fight a fight where you were literally never even close to getting hurt and instead of being applauded, you might have to worry about your job... or, your standing as an independent contractor.
This begs (or at least mildly asks) the question: What is considered a perfect fight in MMA? Over MMA’s storied history, there are enough types of fights that they might deserve categories instead of being measured individually. For example, the so-called (and hated by this writer) chess match like Thompson vs. Woodley 2. Or the Rock’em Sock’em Brawl where the audience has to watch through their fingers for fear of seeing someone lose an ear or something such as Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez (literally a YouTube video titled Best Brawl in UFC History).
Is a good fight one where two very evenly matched opponents tactically score against each other so that the fan would be satisfied with a tie? Or what about those flash one-in-a-million knockouts like the legendary vanquishing of Ben Askren by Jorge Masvidal, which no matter what fluke quotient was involved, Jorge insists he knew that coming?
Part of the fun of being a fan of MMA is discussing things for which there are not absolutes. How do you determine a greatest knockout, or greatest submission, or greatest fighter of all time? Is it even fair to try and postulate on such things given the subjective nature of the discussion? It is near impossible in most areas to define good, better, or best. Now try and take that to the superlative degree and then define a perfect fight.
It is always intriguing to hear a fighter be critical of their own performance, but even more so after a win. You will hear often “I am my own worst critic.” So, a fighter saying they themselves have never fought a perfect fight might mean they are not capable of objectivity. So, if fans opinions are... well... just that: opinions. And if fighters cannot find a target called perfect, how could it be expected there would ever be any sort of normative stand for a perfect fight.
We have not even ventured into the Martial Arts philosophy. No doubt somewhere there is a master on a mountain that might posit that the prefect fight is the one that never happened. You know, because violence is bad and we learn to fight so we don’t have to and such. But who are we kidding. MMA fans are not paying to see non-fights. So the question remains: What are they paying for and when would they know if it was perfect? Did the fans that saw Conor McGregor’s thirteen second masterpiece flattening of legend Jose Aldo see a perfect fight?
After her statement-making TKO victory over Joanna Jędrzejczyk, did we see a perfect fight in the much-anticipated rematch where Rose Namajunas looked as flawless and technical as any striker in combat sports – ever? Rose literally said in her post-fight interview, sitting next to the belt that said she was the best in the world, that she was not perfect. Which made her win seem even more perfect. This all seems odd considering how her fight against Carla Esparza would look later, but that is a digression for another time.
What is the perfect MMA fight? It is probably one of those things no one really knows. And it might just be one of those things we will know when we see it. Here’s to keeping our eyes out for it.