Thanksgiving isn’t just about permanently alienating members of your extended family with lengthy, expletive-laden political rants. It’s also about looking back at the last 11 months and highlighting the people and moments that kept us going. Now, let’s take a gander at what 2017’s given us ...
Oh, okay, this year has been kind of terrible on every conceivable front, but at least mixed martial arts (MMA) has given us some moments for the ages. Stunning upsets, ludicrous submissions, knees for days, and more highlighted an absolutely wild year in the cage, offering everything a fight fan could want.
Besides a Conor McGregor title defense, of course.
Perhaps the greatest gift the “Just Bleed God” gave us, though, was Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson — 9:48 of absolutely bonkers back-and-forth slugging that had just enough technical moments to make the raw savagery that much more appealing.
Some background: I was in Alaska at the time, fishing for salmon with my dad, sister and best friend from college, among others. That Friday was our last day of fishing -- we were supposed to fly out the next day. With most of us packed, we gathered on the second floor of the main cabin and busted out the alcohol, playing cards, and finely-honed BS stories.
I, sadly, had not packed nearly enough booze, so I had to savor the last bits while watching fights on an ancient television with a temperamental satellite connection. One of the guides — a former wrestler who’d rolled with Frankie Edgar in the past — was the only one in there who really cared about MMA, but I’d asked everyone else if there was anything they’d rather watch and got no objections. I’d been hyping Gaethje to said guide all week and had my fingers crossed that he’d deliver.
Not that I was too worried about looking dumb in front of him considering I’d already lost the biggest fish of the trip.
The fight started fairly methodically, with Gaethje marching forward and chipping away at Johnson’s heavy lead leg while the pair winged big punches at each other, but the moment Johnson buckled Gaethje with a savage right uppercut got the entire room into it. From that point on, everyone from my engineering grad friend to the middle-aged mother of two, were hypnotized by the sheer violence involved.
When Johnson caught him with about as perfect a left hand as you can through, my father — who enjoys combat sports but maintains only a passing interest — asked me, “How is the white guy not dead?”
Frankly, I’m still not entirely sure.
Everyone erupted when Gaethje rumbled back to beat Johnson into submission against the fence. It’s been a year with more downs than ups, but I have to be thankful for a fight that managed to enthrall people of all backgrounds through raw brutality.
So what are you all thankful for?