Kenny Rice: “Moments Define Athletic Careers and Did For Cyborg, Bravo, and Palhares”

RKheadshotFirst impressions last, especially with our athletic stars. They do something you’ve never seen before, or something in such a way that made the routine seem unique. That’s how stars become indelibly etched in our memory. Some are among the greatest we’ll ever see, others have that moment we’ll not soon forget.

Moments are meant to be cherished. Most athletes get them a handful of times in a career, where they mean enough to define a path. It can be argued, that no event creates more moments than the NCAA Tournament. Shabazz Napier solidified his All-America status, carrying 7th seeded Connecticut to the Final Four. Aaron Harrison nailed a heroic 3-pointer to put 8th seed Kentucky into the national semi-finals, showing after a roller-coaster season, why he was considered one of the top freshmen in the country. Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin stepped up repeatedly as stars, and are sending their teams to the Final Four.

There will be more of these moments this weekend in Dallas. The shot, the block, that big play turning point. Of course, every moment can’t always define a career, but it can change the course just enough.

In MMA, there were three significant moments for three noted fighters over the weekend. One that might change momentum, another that reaffirmed, and one that repaired some of his own damage.

CRIS CYBORG has had her share of moments already, and there have been some of great ones, but her Lion Fight loss to Jorina Baars came at a most inopportune time. Following statements by Cyborg about dropping weight classes, there has growing interest for Cyborg to meet UFC queen Ronda Rousey, enough to force Dana White into commenting at least. The defeat takes all wind out of the sail. Doesn’t matter that it was Muay Thai, not MMA, or that her opponent has held world belts and is unbeaten. For the UFC craving crowd, it was simple–a loss. It made Cyborg seem human, and that has always been what drives interest. Few know anything about Baars outside of the Muay Thai devotees, but they do know Cat Zingano and Alexis Davis are two women waiting their turn and they are already in the UFC. If anything, it gives White and the UFC more leverage. They’ve already made it clear who needs whom the most. This loss doesn’t define her. Cyborg is still one of the most dangerous female fighters on the planet, but there it is, ONE of the most instead of, THE most, as many had considered before.

EDDIE BRAVO already had that defining moment in 2003, when he shocked everyone by submitting one of the greats from a legendary family, Royler Gracie. It instantly brought recognition to Bravo as a jiujitsu genius, and had fighters and celebrities in the gravitational pull of his 10th Planet, where they learned from the man who quickly established his own legacy with his unique take on the sport. Eleven years after that stunning performance in Abu Dhabi, Bravo and Gracie finally had the rematch at Metamoris III, going twenty tense minutes without a submission. A draw, but not a loss, and one that did nothing to tarnish the glow around Bravo as a true master and innovator of the ground game. While Gracie might not have gotten vindication, he did equally well in showing he is still razor sharp, even as the years have past. It is certainly worthy of Bravo-Gracie III and hopefully it comes without waiting another decade.

ROUSIMAR PALHARES despite taking away Steve Carl’s WSOF welterweight title just over a minute into their fight with a heel hook, Palhares might not have totally reworked his image. There were, and are those, who feel Palhares could’ve released sooner. If that seems unfair, it will be this way every time the gifted grappler Palhares goes to the mat. He made the most of the second chance graciously extended him by the WSOF. He had his moment- one of the most dubious in recent years on a major fight stage. It led to being thrown out of the UFC for unsportsmanlike conduct, after clearly intentionally hurting Mike Pierce long after he tapped and the referee had jumped in. Pierce sustained ligament damage. It was final blow with the UFC after an already checkered history that included another unnecessarily long submission against  Tomasz Drwal at UFC 111, and a positive test for elevated testosterone in between. The most important moment in his WSOF debut is Palhares proved he is still great on the ground, and might have (the jury will remain out) gained a modicum of self control.

A lot can change in a moment for an athlete, and it is always compelling to watch.


Got something you’re burning on? Tell the man himself on Kenny Rice’s Twitter or Facebook page.
Watch Kennyalong with Bas Rutten, LIVE every Friday at 9 ET|6 PT on “Inside MMA.”
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