Tonight in Anaheim, with the UFC debuting on Fox to millions of new viewers, with all the eyes of the sport upon him, Junior dos Santos said, "This is MMA." With reflexive anticipation of Cain Velasquez's left hook, he ducked down and launched an overhand right - the most famous move in the sport, popularized by vintage Chuck Liddell - landing flush on his opponent's temple. With Velasquez's equilibrium scrambled, dos Santos followed his severely dazed opponent to the mat and unleashed a series of devastating blows that forced referee John McCarthy to step in and save the champion.
It took just over one minute for "Cigano" to make his statement. Hailing from the best fight camp in all the sport, his eloquence should never have been in question. This, after all, is the most persistently violent sport in all of North America. And, though some may be hesitant to admit so, we all watch it for the violence. Perhaps that isn't one's primary motive, but it must be part of the appeal of the sport. The oft-drawn, trite parallel between mixed martial artists and Roman gladiators is actually quite valid; to some degree, we watch to see one man draw blood from another.
It's a primal urge, something we lack in our daily lives. One of the most thrilling scenes in all of film comes from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the primate realizes he can reclaim his territory via violence - he uses a weapon, and sets himself down the path to humanity. It's a stunning look at what sets us apart from the lesser species. It's a statement to our superiority. And so we have these combative athletes who, bound by the laws of civilization, turn their bodies into weapons, embodying physical dominance. It's what made boxing a fixture of this culture for more than a century. And now it is what brings MMA to the widest audience possible.
Boxing, of which I am a fan, has become heavy, laden with egos, pretentions, and flawed ethics that seem to seep into the raw sport far too often. There are no ethics in Junior dos Santos leaping atop his downed foe, raining down blow upon blow, expressing poetry by motion, and claiming to another man, "I am your superior." If nothing else can be said of MMA, then let it be known that this is the most honest of all sport, and tonight, "Cigano" gave all the nation a lesson in truth.