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Popular Science article on Game Theory and MMA

5

I've just stumbled into it, but it looks like a lot of Greg Jackson camp stuff. First few paras: Greg Jackson, the single most successful trainer in the multi-billion-dollar sport of professional mixed martial arts fighting, works out of a musty old gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico, not far from the base of the Sandia Mountains. On a recent morning, the 38-year-old Jackson, who has the cauliflowered ears and bulbous nose of a career fighter, watched two of his students square off inside the chain-link walls of a blood-splattered ring called the Octagon. One of them was Jon Jones, the light heavyweight champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the premier MMA league. In four weeks, Jones would be defending his title against Rashad Evans, an expert fighter and his former training partner. To prepare him, Jackson had set up a sparring session with Shawn "The Savage" Jordan, a heavyset fighter from Baton Rouge. Jones and Jordan met in the middle of the ring. Jordan threw first. Jones backpedaled and protected his face with his forearms. "Look for that space, Jones!" Jackson hollered. "You. Do. Not let him close those angles on you." Jordan threw a flurry of blows. To me, the exchange appeared disorganized, nonsensical—a blur of flesh, sinew and the red flash of Jordan’s mouth guard. To Jackson, it was a logical sequence, one with only one possible effective response. "Jones," he said, "move inside." The fighter seemed to hesitate. If he moved within range of Jordan’s fists, he risked catching a glove square in the face. "Go on," Jackson said. Jones ducked under one fist and whipped his right leg out in a short arc. The kick missed. Jordan threw again. This time Jones dropped down, flicked his head to the side, and, leaping off one foot, launched a flying jab followed by a knee to Jordan’s midsection, which landed with a wet whoompf. Jordan groaned and crumpled onto the mat. "Goddamn, Jones!" Jackson yelled. "Exactly correct." Producing a notepad from his back pocket, Jackson sketched a spiderweb of circles and lines. It was a game tree, he explained—a graph game theorists use to analyze a sequence of decisions. In a traditional game tree, each circle, or node, represents the point at which a decision can be made. Each line, or edge, represents the decision itself. Game trees eventually end in a terminal node—either a tie or a win for one of the players. This game tree, Jackson told me, showed the exchange between Jones and Jordan from Jones’s perspective.

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