Violent Expectations and Charles Oliveira

Having your entire body go numb during an MMA fight sounds almost as enticing as agreeing to a jiu jitsu match with Rousimar Palhares. Neither are a good idea, and yet both happen on a semi regular basis.

Overall body-numbness was brought most recently to light by the ill-fated Charles Oliveira this past Sunday at UFC Fight Night Saskatoon. During his first ever main event, Oliveira shot for a takedown against the tough Max Holloway only to find himself clutching in pain at his neck.

My first thought was collarbone; grisly images of bone protruding from skin ran through my mind, and I could only imagine the immense pain that Oliveira was fighting against.

However, there was no blood. Nor any broken bones. In fact, there wasn’t really much of anything. It turns out he had a pre-existing neck injury, one severe enough to make him quit against Holloway about 90 seconds into their fight.

But I didn’t know that, and at the time, all I could do was be angry at Charles Oliveira. It was at this point I realized just how deep my sense of “violent entitlement” ran.

Violent Expectations and Charles Oliveira

This is a phenomenon that is fairly limited to mixed martial arts. No other sport elicits a sense of being gypped more so than an MMA fight being called due to injury.

There are many examples (Demian Maia vs Dong Hyun Kim, Joe Riggs vs Ben Saunders, etc), but some are more notable than others.

Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley springs immediately to mind. Few other fighters bring the promise of pure violence better than Condit, and his match against Woodley promised to deliver on the goods.

And yet, only minutes into the second round, Condit was forced to quit; a Woodley takedown had torn Condit’s ACL and would require surgery. A devastating injury, yet invisible to the fan’s eyes.

This weekend brought about the same complex blend of emotions that I felt after seeing Condit’s bum knee award him a TKO loss back in 2013.

Mixed martial arts fans are a discerning bunch; they like their violence explosive, but not overtly ostentatious for fear of further condemnation from the outside world. There are certain fights which, although universally revered, would get the FOX deal cancelled due to the sheer number of calls to the station it would generate. Velasquez vs Bigfoot Silva is the perfect example.

After battering Bigfoot throughout the entire opening round with heavy elbows from the top, Cain left Silva bleeding on the mat while the camera quickly panned away to some B-list celebrity in the crowd flashing an inappropriate fist pose.

Fights like that remind us of the sheer violence these athletes are capable of imposing on each other at any given time. That’s part of the reason this past Sunday’s main event was so disappointing.

Holloway and Oliveira are two of the youngest and most talented fighters in the UFC, and their clash could have been potentially one of the greatest featherweight match ups in divisional history.

We don’t get to see it now, all thanks to Oliveira and his damn neck.

Now I just feel like something was taken from me. I imagine this is what it feels like to see your Christmas presents before the big day, only to get them taken away and dropped off at the Salvation Army before you even got to play with them; you know somebody else is going to enjoy the hell out of them, but that somebody won’t be you.

We ask a lot of the men and women who step into the cage on fight night. Be violent, but not overly so, and don’t you dare get hurt in the process.

And that’s where I’m conflicted. Despite the fact I’ve never torn a part of my throat open before, I commiserate with Oliveira.

He wanted this fight just as badly as we all wanted to watch it. It’s just unfortunate his pile of trash neck had something to say about the matter.


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