Monday, February 22, 2016

Reaction to Grace-Shamrock at Bellator 149

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
I watched Bellator 149 Friday night, while on a business trip to the west coast. Like some of you, I wanted to see Royce Gracie fight Ken Shamrock one more time.

My first live UFC was UFC 4, which happened in December 1994, several months after I started studying kung fu. Many of the guys in the school had seen the three previous UFC contests. UFC 3 took place in September 1994, and the next day the guys who watched it tried out their takedowns and ground-and-pound techniques on those of us who had no idea what had happened!

As a 44-year-old martial artist, I was probably able to relate to Gracie and Shamrock better than most of the regular UFC and Bellator audience. After watching the earlier Bellator fights Friday night, I couldn't imagine the stamina needed to fight 3 five minute mixed martial arts rounds at age 49 (Gracie) or 52 (Shamrock). At the Air Force Academy I took mandatory boxing training my freshman year, and was drafted for the squadron boxing team my sophomore year. Collegiate boxing involves three rounds of two minutes each. I remember being exhausted at age 18 and 19, so I was amazed to see two fighters, 30 years older, potentially fighting much longer rounds.

Of course, the fight ended with 2:38 left in the first round. Vice Fightland has a good synopsis, but suffice it to say the referee missed a Gracie knee to Shamrock's groin, and then ended the fight while Gracie pounded Shamrock, now pinned on the ground.

I was impressed by the class shown by both fighters, once Shamrock accepted that Gracie hadn't called the fight. I Tweeted to that effect, and was thrilled to see Ken Shamrock reTweet what I posted shortly afterward!

I was also interested in seeing how Gracie used kicks to control the distance between himself and Shamrock. Kicking isn't what comes to mind when most people think about Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, but it reminded me that Gracie and his clan are some of the most complete fighters you will see in martial combat events.

I was impressed by the warrior attitudes of both fighters. It takes amazing willpower to get in that ring, at whatever age and experience.

On a related note, if you want to see a fight where Royce really pushed himself to the limit, I recommend Royce Gracie vs Kimo Leopoldo from UFC 3. It puts the current rules involving weight classes, prohibited strikes, and the like in perspective.

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