Opinion: The Rule of Thirds Applied to MMA

By Edward Carbajal Nov 7, 2017

Omne trium perfectum.

In Latin, it means everything that comes in threes is perfect, or every set of three is complete. The law of thirds or the “Rule of Thirds” is one of the most basic strategies for composition used in photography, films and storytelling, especially in combat sports. Trilogy fights have happened often, and in mixed martial arts, many fights only go three rounds. The rule of thirds applied to MMA in more ways than one during the weekend that was.

The Professional Fighters League’s charity event in Washington, D.C., Bellator 186 and UFC 217 happened across three days and gave fight fans a full menu from the top three promotions, along with the means to catch every event live. The “threes” theme would be something that carried MMA into what could be considered one of the best weekends in the sport for 2017.

The first show was the PFL Fight Night charity event on Thursday at the Washington Hilton. It was streamed for free to almost anywhere fights are streamed, and even though the card featured only four bouts, all four went into the third round. Two resulted in decision wins for former World Series of Fighting champion Lance Palmer and Blagoy Ivanov; the third came in the form of Timur Valiev’s submission of Josenaldo Silva at 2:12 of the third round.

One day later, Bellator MMA took to the stage with Bellator 186 on the campus of Penn State University. The event gave rise to a long list of finishes, including a highlight-reel knockout, as Tywan Claxton put down Jonny Bonilla-Bowman with a spectacular flying knee in the first round. Bellator 186 also saw the promotion crown its first women’s flyweight champion, as Ilima-Lei Macfarlane submitted Emily Ducote with a triangle armbar in the fifth round of their co-headliner; and Ryan Bader successfully defended his light heavyweight title for the first time by stopping Linton Vassell with punches in the second round of their main event.

Meanwhile, “and new” rang out three times in one night at UFC 217 on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. Three Ultimate Fighting Championship title fights were on tap, and titles changed hands in all three. Perhaps most surprising was the previously unbeaten Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s technical knockout loss to Ross Namajunas that saw the Polish star surrender the women’s strawweight championship. The end came 3:03 into the first round -- a fact to which Namajunas pointed in her post-fight interview.

“It’s kind of a weird coincidence,” Namajunas said. “It happened at three minutes and three seconds, which is our gym name and our area code in Denver.”

To add more significance to the “threes” narrative, Georges St. Pierre returned to the cage for the first time since 2013 and choked Michael Bisping unconscious to win the middleweight title. Bisping went limp in the third round.

Fans may not have noticed it once the three days of fighting were over, and many were reeling from the fact that three champions lost at UFC 217. However, Namajunas could be onto something here. Maybe the law of thirds applies to MMA more than we thought.


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