Opinion: AP/ESPN report that claims boxing is safer on the brain than MMA is stupid

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

This author read one of the worst-written, spin-filled pieces he's ever seen regarding the instances of brain trauma in regard to mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing. And he's mad.

Disclaimer: The opinions stated below reflect solely that of the author and not necessarily that of MMAmania, SBNation or VOXmedia.

I'm almost 35 years old. I can't recall ever writing a paper, article or anything longer than 140 characters about my thoughts on the accuracy and/or quality of an article.

Until now.

The recent Associated Press piece on ESPN is one of the worst-written articles involving sport I've ever had the displeasure of reading. It is full of spin, half-truths and flat out stupidity that I actually wanted to sit down and write a 1,000 words debunking the dumb that I recently read.

I'm just glad that almost one month has passed since the piece ran and it didn't blow up in mixed martial arts (MMA) or mainstream media. Something that dumb gaining traction would've really hurt what little faith I had in either humanity or sports fans.

This particular subject actually resurfaced earlier this afternoon at MMAFighting.com when former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight title challenger, Gray Maynard, spoke about his recent spate of knockout losses:

"But then people who were close to me, Dana [White], the Fertittas, they wanted me to get checked out.... They wanted me to get checked out, so I flew out to South Dakota where they perform impact brain tests.... It all came back great. But, I still took off some time just to make sure. You hear all kinds of horror stories with boxers."

It's a great thing that athletes -- not just in MMA, but sports everywhere -- are more aware of and taking pre-emptive measures against ending up with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is also known as pugilistic dementia. Concussion rules in contact and collision sports like football are clear and blatant steps to help the athletes minimize head trauma and heal better are great modern advances.

And it's fantastic to hear that the people in charge of UFC -- not just a fighter's close relations -- are pushing for this kind of practice.

But, that's not the point at hand. It's good to see a positive come out of concussion research, but nothing is to be gained when outlets sensationalize bullshit for the purpose of creating a fervor over something that is inaccurate.

Let's get down to brass tacks.

An American Journal of Sports Medicine study found that one-third of professional MMA matches end in knockout or technical knockout, indicating a higher incidence of brain trauma than boxing.

This is such a stupid quote that all I can think of is the Jackie Chan meme of my brain being full of fuck. The implication that every technical knockout comes because blows to the head is so dumb that I hardly know where to begin. The further implication that only how the fight ends is the cause of brain trauma is an alarming level of cognitive thinking.

First of all, let's question the methodology.

University of Toronto researchers examined records and videos from 844 Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts from 2006 to 2012 for the study published this month. They found that 108 matches -- or nearly 13 percent -- ended in knockouts. Another 179 matches -- or 21 percent -- ended in technical knockouts.

That's certainly interesting, because someone else did similar research back in Sept. 2012 and had nearly double the amount of fights in one less year of data.

Using data provided by FightMetric, we looked at how every UFC fight ended from 2007 through the first half of 2012, a total of 1438 total fights, excluding three flyweight contests.

So either University of Toronto excluded 600 some-odd fights or Reed Kuhn -- the author of that graph -- made up 600 fights. I'm not going to count every single fight because this is not a research article, but we can make a simple educated guess. Let's take one of the middle years, 2010. There were 24 UFC cards with an average 11 fights per card. That's 264 total MMA fights.

The span between 2006 through 2012 is seven years. Rough math: 264 x 7 = 1,848. In other words, it seems like Kuhn's got a higher likelihood of being accurate and U of T is way off the mark.

That isn't an accurate count, but that's a pretty good guess if you ask me. So the report itself -- which, I want to stress is NOT responsible for that quote (ESPN/AP are) -- is already made questionable to me. Why is U of T only looking at half of the fights ... is it picking and choosing?

Therefore, there are questions about the report to begin with. Let's move on, but before we do, I want to repeat that quote:

An American Journal of Sports Medicine study found that one-third of professional MMA matches end in knockout or technical knockout, indicating a higher incidence of brain trauma than boxing.

I get mad just looking at that.

That's because it's such a poorly worded line, so full of bullshit implications that I want to kick a puppy. Not every technical knockout is because of blows to the head! That's one of the main points behind MMA generally being safer overall to brain health than boxing. Indeed, with the whole body a target and grappling in play, you're not taking repeated blows to the head with such frequency.

Boxing, meanwhile, is basically 100's of head traumas throughout the entire bout. MMA is very often not.

Technical knockouts involve everything from people breaking their legs (Anderson Silva), quitting on their stools (B.J. Penn), leg kicks (Pat Barry) and so on and so forth. Obviously, most technical knockouts are because of a strike to the head ... that's the nature of the beast.

But, a technical knockout does not indicate ANY incidence of brain trauma, much less a higher one than boxing. Probable with a clearly significant number of exceptions is not the same as every, which this statement is making.

Second, finishing rate also has nothing to do with head trauma. In fact, things like standing eight counts (more on that later) contribute much more to brain trauma than a technical knockout via head punches. Why? You're a boxer. You just got hit hard enough to knock you on your butt. Good odds that this came from a shot to the head.

Now for the sake of argument, it might've come from a body blow -- not every eight count is from a punch to the head, but since we've already established that most technical knockouts in MMA are from a blow to the head, we'll state that most knockdowns in boxing are also because of a blow to the head.

So you just got concussed. You're given an opportunity to clear your head a bit ... and go out and get another concussion, which given the way punching works in boxing, you probably will.

Let's look at some of those statistics.

If you Google, "How many punches are thrown in a boxing match?" one of the articles that comes up is this article pointing out some "impressive" boxing stats for 2013. The first slideshow takes us to a gentleman named Nathan Cleverly who landed 319 total strikes in that fight. The RECORD in UFC is Nate Diaz's 238 over Donald Cerrone. So a cool little fact in boxing surpasses a UFC record by nearly 40 percent. The record in boxing as stated by CompuBox is 620 by Troy Dorsey; however, Google tells me otherwise -- apparently Cecilo Espino holding it with 637 punches landed.

Either way, let that sink in.

Hundreds of blows, nearly all to the head spaced over 36 (formerly 45) minutes compared to dozens or scores over 25 or 15. And somehow the former is less conducive to brain trauma than the latter because the finishing rate due to (technical) knockout is higher in MMA than boxing.

That Jackie Chan meme is flashing through my head again.

Speaking of, let's look at another bit of stupidity from that AP/ESPN article.

"The researchers proposed introducing rules like in boxing where a fighter gets a 10-second count and evaluated after a knockdown. "

HOLY SHIT! They want to see MORE concussions, not less! Multiple concussions in one fight!

This referenced report is auch a trolling, piece of garbage article, the likes should never have been published by the AP or ESPN. And it makes one wonder why something like this would come up in the first place.

Then I realized something.

ESPN has a vested interest. ESPN has contracts with boxing promotions and has "Friday Night Fights". ESPN's competition, FOX Sports 1, has contracts with UFC.

How about that ... for starters.

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