Thanksgiving is the time of year to do three things: Give thanks, catch up with family, and eat until you hate both yourself and every single decision you ever made that even tangentially led you to this point. The latter two are journeys you must undertake alone, but I might be able to give you ideas for the former.
The world of mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2015 has been quite the adventure. Not always a pleasant one, but an adventure nonetheless. We've had Nick Diaz vs. NSAC, spinning sh*t, amazing slugfests, and the rise of a new queen.
When it comes down to what I'm truly thankful for, however, nothing quite stands out like UFC 189's epic title fight between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald, which featured the sort of technical brilliance and utter savagery you so rarely find in combination.
The Welterweight title fight, a rematch about two years in the making, served as the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 11, 2015. Simply put, it had it all: Momentum swings, extreme damage, adaptation before and during the fight, inhuman tenacity, and amazing savvy from both sides.
For the longest time, I thought very little of MacDonald -- his tepid wins over Jake Ellenberger and Tyron Woodley showed a disappointing lack of killer instinct. And, in the first Lawler fight, "Ruthless" effectively shut down MacDonald's striking offense by taking away his jab, leaving the Canadian to simply grind. His brutal knockout of Tarec Saffiedine swayed me somewhat, but it wasn't until this fight that he gained my respect.
MacDonald didn't go out there to win a decision. On the contrary, when he couldn't take down Lawler, he traded strikes with one of the most devastating men in the sport, landing brutal punches and elbows while absorbing Lawler's own hellacious blows. In fact, in the fourth round, he came closer to knocking out Lawler than anyone has since Nick Diaz's one-hitter quitter 11 year ago.
But, Lawler survived. At the end of the round, he and MacDonald gave us an all-time classic moment when the two men -- faces battered beyond all recognition -- stared each other down in silence until they were yanked away by their corners.
Then Lawler came back, because he is a "Ruthless" champion. He drove a piledriver left hand into MacDonald's ravaged nose and -- after more punishment than any human should be able to endure -- the Canadian's body finally gave out. He crumpled, beaten at the end of a lifetime performance.
In fact, MacDonald -- despite the loss and physical destruction -- called it, "the greatest moment" of his life.
No matter how much we dress it up, this sport is, at its core, violent. It's ugly more often than not, but these two men created something beautiful and lasting out of it.
And for that I am thankful ... and not just today, but everyday.