LAS VEGAS -- The sport of mixed martial arts is beautiful and worthwhile because of its possibilities. Unlike other, more limited, combat sports, you can punch, kick, knee, elbow, throw, and fight on the ground in MMA.
The freedom in MMA more closely resembles real self-defense situations, which is what makes its study useful to any and every one. In real life, anything can happen.
In MMA, almost anything can happen. That's exciting as well as realistic.
Saturday night, Conor McGregor shocked and thrilled an MGM Grand Garden Arena packed with his fans by knocking defending featherweight champion Jose Aldo out with one punch. In just 13 seconds.
Fighters train so obsessively and constantly because they know that fights can come down to fractions of inches and seconds. Wins and losses are always the result of intentional preparation either flowing or clashing with happenstance.
Jose Aldo stormed after McGregor at the start of their UFC 194 main event. He did so with punches, and in a straight line, as McGregor likely expected him to do.
Ready for that, McGregor stepped backwards, away from the shot, and reflexively countered with a straight cross. The punch connected, and that was all McGregor needed.
It hit Aldo on the button, and turned him off. Still, the second punch Aldo had already begun throwing â a left hook â before he was knocked out, landed on McGregor's chin, afterwards.
Conor didn't see the hook coming and was in no position to avoid it, having backed straight up, and without both feet solidly beneath him. If Conor's cross had missed Aldo, he very well could have himself been knocked out by Jose's hook.
McGregor's cross didn't miss, of course. And, that is not a matter of "luck."
He threw a punch at his opponent and the punch landed. That's intentional action succeeding.
Still, it is astounding to consider what just happened, and how we very easily could have had a completely different result, if even a breath were changed. There's a beauty in the unpredictability of MMA, because the endless possible outcomes are the result of the freedom with which the combatants are allowed to do battle.
There's something to celebrate in every stunning victory. OF course, there's also cruelty in them.
Even McGregor felt bad that his opponent â having trained a lifetime for this showdown - only ended up getting a few seconds to do work. "I feel for Jose," he said, post-fight.
"He was a phenomenal champion. He deserved to go a little longer."
He did. But fighting isn't fair.
McGregor also deserves every ounce of gold he's got wrapped around his waist, tonight. Fights aren't resume contests.
They are chaos, and whoever is left standing, by whatever means, is who deserves to have their hand raised on that particular day. There is no debate about who the champion is, because everyone agreed that whatever happened in this crazy situation we call an MMA fight would decide the "best."
The possibilities of what could have been are still fascinating to ponder. That mental exercising should be left for observers and the new champion, however.
As the loser, it will be Aldo's job not to obsess over how he barely missed McGregor, and about what could have been. As the victor, McGregor will want to do the opposite, at some point, and pick apart his winning performance to search for minor improvements that could be made.
Winning is never final, and no victory is flawless, no matter how quickly it comes. Champions always find something to improve on when they win, but use short memories to get over losses.