Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Human Cockfighting' Is All the Rage

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Human Cockfighting' Is All the Rage

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

UNCH-UP season is here.

PBetween now and Christmas there are going to be some fantastic bouts for British fight fans. There's the lopsided but compelling all-London clash between David Haye and Audley Harrison, at the MEN Arena on 13 November. Then on 11 December, Amir Khan will defend his world light-welterweight title against Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas.

But before all that, there's a whole other clutch of interesting British fights to come. Three of them are being held tomorrow, at the O2 Arena.

At the top of the bill is Michael Bisping v Yoshihiro Akiyama -- a contest Bisping must win to sustain his hopes of winning a middleweight belt. On the same bill Dan Hardy hopes to move further up the welterweight rankings with victory over Carlos Condit, while John Hathaway faces Mike Pyle in the same division.

But hang on. That Bisping v Akiyama bill, which has already sold out the O2 -- a feat that only Haye, Khan and a freak-show comeback by Ricky Hatton would currently hope to equal -- isn't a boxing match. It's UFC 120.

There are plenty of boxing fans who bridle at the idea of their ancient sport being mentioned in the same breath as the minestrone smash-and-grapple that is mixed martial arts (MMA). What boxing represents in terms of precedent, formality and historical lore, MMA seems conspicuously to lack.

Boxing is strictly handicapped violence.

Stand-up punching only. No butting, biting, gnawing, strangling, gouging, elbowing, kicking or kneeling on your opponent. (Unless you're Mike Tyson.) MMA, by contrast, is a freeform war.

To the unschooled eye, it can look like a simple brawl. Pretty much anything you could do to your opponent in a pub car park, you can do in the octagon, with the exceptions of gouging, kicking his cod in or cracking a Stella Artois bottle over his eyebrow. A pundit on American TV once memorably described it as 'human cockfighting'.

But to the thousands of punters who'll pack out the O2, UFC represents everything that boxing has got wrong. Far from a glorified dogfight, they say, it is a fighting sport that demands mastery of a vast array of different disciplines. …

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