MMA Opinion: Not the Face

MMA Gloves
cdn.pixabay.com AV_Photographer
Did you grow up in an area with that classic combat sport that tested the mettle of young people to their core? Was it named the same thing where you lived: Two for Flinching? The sport where kids raised in questionable environments, kids with a confused sense of comradery, or just plain ol' mean kids would approach a friend (strange label to employ), pretend to punch them and stop just shy of contact (most of the time)? Of course, the test for success or failure being measured as faux punch thrower observes that innate reaction of fast-twitch nerve firing reflexes called a flinch. If a flinch is seen, it is a fail. And by the way, how is it not a conflict of interest here that the judge of the flinch also gets to throw the punch if he sees it? We thought MMA judging needed work! The cost for failure is two Mike Tyson-level punches to the shoulder. How did you do at this competition?

As strange as it may seem, one gauge of success in combat sports is quantified in terms of the willingness to get punched in the face. Not in the broader sense as in willingness to engage in combat sports, but the actual act of being hit in the actual face - actually. You will hear it verbalized like this: He/she does not like getting punched in the face. One former UFC champ (Daniel Cormier) in making analysis of a fight spoke to how to get a fighter (Derrek Lewis) he had faced to raise their guard (get those hands up by the head) in order to open up takedowns. Specifically noting that this was possible and effective because one fighter in that contest didn't like to get hit in the face. Of course if your region and youth had Two for Flinching, it may have also had that rhetorical masterpiece to use upon hearing this news that some people do not like getting punched in the face i.e. No duh! Or, No doi, depending on your region's dialect. Who actually likes getting punched in the face?!

Well, there are people in MMA history that seem to. If you have ever seen a Chris Leben fight, something strange would happen when he got punched in the face. He described it himself as a button on his nose. Sure enough, it looked like a switch flipped when it happened – instant marauder; just add face punch. There are stories made of the stuff of legend that might surprise you in their having occurred only a few years ago about martial arts teachers lining up students and simply punching them in the face as they tried to stand and take it. No, not in temples centuries ago, but in Sacramento, California U.S.A. barely a decade ago. Master Thong who was the Muay Thai trainer at Uriah Faber's Team Alpha Male is part of this lore.

There is even more nuance to this discussion that may surprise the casual fan as it is not always the apparent tough guy or gal who acts fearless when threatened with a strike to the face. Apparently Master Thong can train it, but like all things, there are some who excel at it and others who do not at it. All said, it is a strange thing to have as an asset in a sport, viz. to not mind a punch to the face. It is probably normal to think, 'not in the face!' when there is an actual threat. But, as we have learned, normal is not likely an adjective used for fighters. Still, it is probably not something Compustrike or Fightmetric stats can measure. However, any longtime fan of MMA who follows their favorite fighters closely enough, would probably upon reflection be able to list a few fighters who would either medal or not even make the team in a Two for Flinching competition. Curious, did Volkswagen Beetles cause PTSD or contusions in your neighborhood too or was that specific to Northern California as well?

Introducing Martial Arts School Listings on Black Belt Mag!
Sign Up Now To Be One Of The First School Listed In Our Database.
Don't miss a single issue of the worlds largest magazine of martial arts.