Welcome to MMA Squared. Hopefully while you are reading this I am far from the internet, recharging my humanness, maybe petting a goat.
I’ve always had this idea that MMA suffers from a lack of a season, especially the climax of a Super Bowl or World Series. To fill that void I’ve been illustrating a book called The Year in Fighting: 2019. It will tell as many stories as possible about what happened in the cage, long after twitter beefs, press conferences and hype machines have all worn down. My goal is to turn this into a perpetual, yearly book that is a collectible item.
This week I’ll be sharing with you a four part look behind the scenes.
First we have Paige Van Zant vs Rachael Ostovich. The leadup to this fight was a classic UFC dumpster fire littered with two domestic violence storylines and social media hyper focus on the attractiveness of the women. Because of these this context, I chose to crop their faces out of the picture, focusing on the fight itself. The finish was an opportunistic turn of forture for PVZ, who was getting pieced up on the feet.
2019 has seen a number of new fighters step into the spotlight, but none more so than Johnny Walker. His three UFC fights have yet to total five minutes of cage time, but in the rare moments when he is fighting it’s like watching Wile E. Coyote sprint, leap and grin around the octagon. Thinking about that animation director, Chuck Jones, I did a little smear frame drawing of Walker’s hook kick on Justin Ledet.
The story of Cain Velasquez may have come to a close in 2019. It was a brutally short night versus Francis Ngannou, painfully reminiscent of the Big FOX debut.
And finally, Paul Felder put on a great performance against James Vick. The two lightweights have been desperately trying to break into the elite levels of the toughest division in the UFC. Felder was able to perfectly time a couple of spinning elbows, pictured here, which may indicate that his skills have been refined to the knife’s edge we anticipated back when he knocked out Danny Castillo. Felder essentially got tossed into the meat grinder instead of being brought along slowly, and persevered through those losses while carving out a place in the commentary booth.