Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Crackdown on the smackdown

Two men, overcome by a rush of adrenalin and testosterone begin duking it out. The fight, triggered by something mundane is overtaken by primal instinct. One man is shoved against a chain-link fence, his body straining against the pain. His opponent knees him in the stomach once, twice, three times. He feels nauseated but manages to throw a punch straight to his opponent’s head, hard enough to send him crashing to the ground.

But, this isn’t a street fight that has broken out in front of a bar, outside of a club or in the deserted streets of a rundown part of town. These men are voluntarily standing in the middle of a ring where the street lights are replaced with intense spotlights and the echoes ringing through the empty air are traded for the cries of cheering fans.

This is the world of Mixed Martial Arts — street fighting in a ring; bare-knuckle fighting with no-holds-barred. The phenomenon of ultimate fighting began in Japan and hit North America in the 1990s. It’s man versus man in this world and the only way to escape is to submit.

MMA combines an array of fighting techniques from a variety of disciplines that include boxing, wrestling, kick-boxing, jiu-jitsu, judo and karate. In a ring with two contestants who have trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat styles, it’s tap-out or pass-out.

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