Writing about mixed martial arts, it's sometimes easy to come off like a hagiographer.
This little engine that could, surviving, thriving, making it to the top of mountain and all that.
There are days -- unfortunately more and more frequent -- when feel-good memories seem so distant. The impact of a rolling and rife drug culture. Power plays at the top. Lawsuits. Money matters. Twitter gaffes. Politics, union battles, media squabbles and, recently, high-pitched nonsense over television ratings. All part of the makeup of today’s not-so-innocent mixed martial arts. Life in the big city, I guess.
But you know what's never changed, what drew me in like, I imagine, many of you?
The ballast that steadied MMA through the rough patches. The fuel that helped cast aside a perception that almost killed it. The reason so many people are willing to spend so much money each month to watch mixed martial artists from across the globe do their thing.
Such are the wars of attrition, stunning moments, incredible acts of courage and fortitude.
They’re too many to count. Well, whatever the number is, go ahead and another add another because on Tuesday, Chan Sung Jung and Dustin Poirier offered a wonderful account of all the sport can offer.
From the opening bell, intrigue. Jung started strong, working over Poirier, the 23-year-old once-beaten favorite, from top position. "The Diamond" glimmered with a technical, beautiful reversal. They stood and traded shots at the end of the first.
You sensed it then, right? That this one was going somewhere special.
Round 2 confirmed what we thought we knew, as Poirier somehow surveyed an onslaught of submissions.
The third forced a deep breath -- perhaps Poirier had a late-round comeback in him?
Jung slammed the door on Poirier in Round 4, finishing an excellent fight with an awesome flowing sequence that showcased MMA’s dynamism: uppercut, left hook, flying knee, D’Arce choke.
There was just enough brilliance in there for the 25-year-old Korean to receive $80,000 in submission- and fight-of-the-night bonuses. And apparently he’ll skip to the front of the line, earning a UFC featherweight title shot against either Jose Aldo or Erik Koch.
There is -- or was -- an inherent parity to MMA. Dominance, such as the kind displayed by Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre, has been fleeting and rare. Eras have lasted mere months. Though the sport may be entering a time when great champions stand tall above the rest, you can’t count out a guy like Jung. He’s aggressive. Undeterred. Unafraid. And, it turns out, damn skilled. There will always be room for a fighter of his disposition in the UFC, as there should be.
I don’t mean for this to come off like Jung-Poirier was the best fight I’ve ever seen. But it might be the best fight I’ve seen on a Tuesday night, and as prolific as MMA is in 2012, with all the troubles it seems to bring upon itself lately, that’s something to seriously sit back and consider.
For all the out-of-competition drama that follows MMA (sports in general, really) and therefore occupies headlines, isn’t it fun when all that’s forgotten? Even if it’s for a few minutes?
The headliner on a card many might have been tempted to ignore, it turned out, produced a smell-the-roses moment. Just remember that the next time someone or something associated with MMA makes you want to slam your head against a wall.
Oh, and if this read like a portrait of saints, so be it. After what Jung and Poirier managed to pull off, it probably should.