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Lessons from the Octagon, 001

Just finished re-watching the second Franklin-Silva fight (UFC 77). Wow...

Now, it's no secret that I am a huge Rich Franklin fan. I make no apologies for that. Franklin is an admirable guy, a naturally talented fighter and also happens to share my faith in Christ. But Anderson Silva is just plain scary. UFC color commentator Joe Rogan called him a “sniper.” An apt metaphor and here's why.

If you've ever ventured into the “interesting” and occasionally thoughtful world of MMA forums, you've no doubt heard that Anderson Silva is a striking god, capable of out-punching any being on the planet. But in both of Franklin's devastating losses to the Brazilian champion, Franklin consistently landed more and better strikes and Silva consistently missed with most of his strikes. Notice I said “most.”

Even though Silva is a great striker and could probably go toe-to-toe with anyone, those strikes didn't land against Franklin and didn't create any openings. But in both his fights against Franklin, Silva dominated the clinch in almost superhuman fashion. This is where he found his biggest openings against Franklin. In the clinch, Silva's strikes became deadly accurate and powerful.

Here's where the “sniper” metaphor makes sense. Snipers aren't dangerous because they can kill you from any angle and in any context. They are dangerous because they wait patiently for an opening—calibrated precisely to their strengths and comfort level—and then they take you out without even a hint of hesitation to pull the trigger.

And snipers never miss an opening.

Whether it's the painfully quick-witted bully, the pick-pocket on the street or a manipulative salesman, snipers are everywhere. They aren't typically dangerous in toe-to-toe situations. That's just not how they roll. Instead, they wait for an opening and attack it with lightning speed. More importantly, there are spiritual snipers—the Bible calls them demons—who are the most dangerous snipers of all. If you give them an opening, they will exploit it. Which is why Paul reminds the church in Ephesus to get rid of anger (Eph. 4:27). It's a “foothold” for the enemy. The Greek word is “topos,” which literally means “opportunity, power, occasion for acting.”

It's also why Paul, Peter and even Jesus himself cautioned believers everywhere to stay alert at all times. Peter said, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

The best defense against snipers is to take away their openings. Rich Franklin failed to do that at UFC 77. It cost him the opportunity to regain his title. And that's just one of the many lessons from the world of mixed martial arts.