Friday, July 9, 2010

James Toney vs. Randy Couture and the classic boxer vs. wrestler matchup

The story of martial arts and combat sports in America is one told as a war of styles--who's style is better? The story of mixed martial arts in America is no different. Although the concept of a 'mixed' style is still somewhat relatively new here in the US, the conflicts between the different styles tells a story that has collected dust for some time now.

The early 20th century brought forth a renaissance era in combat sports. As people immigrated from all corners of the world, they brought their languages, their music, their art, and they brought their styles of combat--boxing, wrestling, traditional Asian martial arts. They lit the pilot flame under a melting pot that often hesitated to melt--races, languages, and even fighting styles clashed.

What resulted was a pitting of styles in classic matches, typically catch wrestling versus boxing matches. Essentially, these matches set the stage for an ongoing and often controversial matching of styles--the classic striker versus grappler battle.

Americans still seek to test the legitimacy of striking and grappling through matches that they hope will finally determine which is better.

Such is the case with UFC 118's James Toney vs. Randy Couture match. One striker (boxer), James Toney will face a grappler (wrestler-turned-mixed martial artist) Randy Couture in yet another classic battle of styles.

"Sideshow, Slideshow" whatever we call it (see Toney's interview with Ariel Helwani), this UFC main event is reminiscent of the novel boxer versus wrestler matches of the pre-World War 2 era.

But, there's one bout that took place just over thirty years ago that most Tapout wearers probably won't remember--Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki.

It was a battle to finally prove the best style. Muhammad Ali, the boxing heavyweight champion of the world against Antonion Inoki, a professional wrestler, well-learned in catch, specifically hook and shoot.

Fight historians still debate the legitimacy of this match. It is said to have been an exhibition, however Ali suffered serious leg injuries during this fight, so bad that he had to be hospitalized.

Watching, you'll noticed that Inoki slides to his butt and commences to kick Ali from the canvas. This is because the rules were modified so that Inoki was only allowed to kick while on his knees. Apparently, Ali's camp was weary of a true 'catch' or no-holds-barred rules bout.

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