The "Choking" Phenomenon in the Sports World: The Case for MMA

This post is not about any Japanese porn star's encounter with Peter North.

Nor is it a post about the "oral" accounts of young boys in Anchorage, Alaska upon meeting their favorite uncle Oilcheck in a van.

Hey this won't be about ricky dooby and my experiences in the money pool.

Think about these things for the moment:

Roberto Duran against Sugar Ray Leonard;

Jana Novotna up 4-1 and serving 40-30 at the 1993 Wimbledon Finals Against Stefi Graf;

Greg Norman on the ninth hole, on the 1996 Master's Golf Tournament and on the final day against Englishman Nick Faldo;

Lebron James, 2011 NBA Finals, among others;

This phenomenon even reached the pinnacle in Mixed Martial Arts. Think Chael Sonnen-Anderson Silva; Urijah Faber in championship fights; Kenny Florian in all those opportunities; Nate Marquardt on important fights; Donald Cerrone on career-defining fights; Michael Bisping on contendership fights; and recently Uriah Hall on the biggest stage of his career and the biggest fight he has fought in front of millions of viewers and everything at stake.

All these occurrences have one thing in common ---- sports psychologist termed them "CHOKING."

But how far do we know about the word? Does choking mean plainly QUITTING? What do the choking instances tell us about these "prime" athletes and their minds? Why do talented people sometimes fail at the biggest stage?

Psychologists simplified it by explaining that the human person has two systems of learning: (1) explicit and (2) implicit. Explicit is the mechanical way of learning while implicit is simply learning by the unconscious. The simple explanation is when people "choke" they temporarily lost all their implicit learning and revert to the mechanical way of doing things thereby failing when the stakes are high. While the explanation makes sense, I believe it's too simplistic.

In another study, by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) suggests that when there are high financial incentives to succeed, people can become so afraid of losing their potentially lucrative reward that their performance suffers. Think Rashad against Lil Nog. Can this explanation suffice to explain why when "contender matches are set up, people turned to become boring fighters and deliver boring fights?

There is no wrong answer to this one so I will leave it to you Maniacs to give your perspectives and views on why do you think people choke when the pressure and stakes are high? Why do some people breeze through pressure and actually succeed while at them? Does it have something to do with their mental game? Or is that word "mental game" an overrated concept?

Let the discussions among the Maniacs ensue.

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