Monday, November 28, 2011

What Is Power?

 No, it isn't a Jeopardy question to the answer "What 1 percent of the people have in the United States that 99 percent do not".

In MMA, the word "power" is usually synonymous with the amount of force a fighter puts into his strikes. Any strike that renders a man unconscious can be objectively classified as "powerful."

Or can it? That's what I want to delve into a little bit. After all, there are many different kinds of knockouts. There are what I (and many others) call the "killshots" or, as I knew them growing up, "one hitter quitters". These are single strikes that often come from a fighter swinging with all of his might and always end with precious brain cells being lost. Good examples of this include Rafael Dos Anjos vs. George Sotiropoulos (Rafa swung all the way from Rio), Jeremy Stephens vs. Marcus Davis (a missile), and Takanori Gomi vs. Tyson Griffin (Gomi hits HARD. And does little else).

All three of these examples were poor punches in a technical sense, but obviously, technique doesn't matter when you swing (and connect) harder than Gary Sheffield. An interesting question: what if every MMA fight had at least one fighter who swung as hard as someone like Ryan Bader? First of all, we'd be seeing alot more blown out elbows, separated shoulders and gassed out arms. Would technique and quickness trump the "holy Moses, if any one of these lands, it's sleepy time for someone!" vibes every time? No. But it certainly would, more often than not.

Another form of knockout is what is known as getting plunked "on the button." These punches may not be the hardest, but they're so accurate (usually landing right on the base of the jawline) that they can separate many a man from his faculties. Go watch Andrei Arlovski clip Paul Buentello sometime; it's hilarious how the crowd breaks out into a "Bullshit!" chant even though they haven't even seen the replay yet. But, drunken crowd foolishness aside, it's a beautiful example of sneaking a punch into the smallest of openings, with the result seeing Buentello fall slowly forward like Chris Farley falling onto the coffee table in Tommy Boy.

And lastly, we come to the "What the hell just happened?" knockout. This is a deviation from the two other forms of KO I described; it doesn't look like the hardest punch, and it doesn't land in that sweet spot that causes fighters to go down in a heap. In other words, what the hell just happened? 

What happened is that whoever threw the punch has a wealth of unadulterated power in his hands. Look no further than Shane Carwin. The punch that put Gabe Gonzaga's lights out traveled no farther than 15 inches. He might be a bit robotic, and he's only dangerous in the opening minutes of a fight because he carries around enough excess muscle to make Tony Little blush, but if he hits you, you're done. Or, if you're extremely lucky, you're stumbling around the Octagon like Diego Sanchez at the '09 World MMA Awards.

Power is some combination of body type, technique, Dan Henderson, and the overall percentage of force you put into any given punch. And not necessarily in that order.

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