July 29, 2005

Ultimate Fighting

Via Justin Logan, a somewhat old and thoroughly excellent Slate article about the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I didn't know that far fewer people have died in UFC (zero) than in boxing (many), but it makes sense; most of the fights I've seen are vaguely disappointing for those (as I was) expecting lots of carnage. Much more, as Plotz says, like sex. Riveting, nonetheless—and much less barbaric than the romanticized and mostly consequence-less violence you see in the movies. But here's something I wonder about:
If anything, ultimate fighting is safer and less cruel than America's blood sport [i.e. boxing]. For example, critics pilloried ultimate fighting because competitors fought with bare knuckles: To a nation accustomed to boxing gloves, this seemed revolting, an invitation to brain damage. But it's just the reverse: The purpose of boxing gloves is not to cushion the head but to shield the knuckles. Without gloves, a boxer would break his hands after a couple of punches to the skull. That's why ultimate fighters won't throw multiple skull punches. As a result, they avoid the concussive head wounds that kill boxers--and the long-term neurological damage that cripples them.
Okay, but most hockey fights involve multiple punches to the head, without gloves. Not all fights, of course—most get by with a few poorly-aimed swings and end in a lot of hugging and jersey-grabbing—but on average a fighter that fights multiple times might land a good five or six head punches in a game. Yet very few broken hands! Is that because the helmet cushions the blow? I guess helmets are kind of softer than a skull. And face punches probably help too.
-- Brad Plumer 2:43 PM || ||