Last week, our own Tim Burke wrote an article about the over-saturation of the MMA market thanks to the UFC and the negative impact it's had on his own enjoyment of the sport. One line from that article stuck out: "Nothing feels special any more." Without rehashing Tim's points, let me simply say, like many others did in the comments section, I agree. That special feeling is missing.
Then came Metamoris 3.
This past weekend's all grappling event, Metamoris 3 featured some exciting matches that held special resonance for the jiu jitsu fans, but could be appreciated by all fans of MMA. They were solid, fun outings that were enjoyable to watch. And then along came the main event. Eddie Bravo vs. Royler Gracie II. A rematch 11 years in the making. A match that people had very high hopes for. Did it deliver? You bet it did.
Eddie Bravo vs. Royler Gracie was everything you could want in combat sports. It was two absolute masters of their craft going at it. It was incredibly dramatic, with dynamic back and forth reversals. It was 20 minutes long and flew by like it was 5. It came down to the wire, with Bravo working hard for a tap in the closing seconds. It was filled with backstory - 11 years of backstory. It was highly personal. It was a fight that meant something to both men, not because of a title, but because of their very legacies. It was contested in front of a rabid crowd filled with fans who passionately cared about the outcome.
It was, in a word, special.
The fight harkened back to the earlier days of MMA. Though this was technically jiu jitsu vs. jiu jitsu, there is a world of difference separating Gracie's traditional Brazilian Gracie Jiu Jitsu from Bravo's unconventional 10th Planet style. The result was a fight to determine whose style was superior - the exact calling card of early UFC and the birth of MMA. Today, that's not a theme of MMA, as you have less and less pure specialists and more of an emphasis on being a well rounded fighter. That has increased the overall level of talent, but Bravo vs. Gracie showed that it has cost us something too.
At a time when the UFC is flooding the market with shows that fail to grab our attention as fans, Bravo, Gracie, and the Metamoris did something truly unique. They looked not to the future, but to the past, presenting a fight steeped in history and bringing us back to the roots of MMA, and in so doing, they brought us the best fight of the year.
As 2014 wears on, you'll see more well-rounded fighters, obviously. You'll see fights with more decisive winners. You'll see fights that are more "evolved" than this one. But will you see a better fight? I'm not counting on it.
Unless of course, Metamoris can make Metamoris 4: Eddie Bravo vs. Royce Gracie. Count me in for that.