Just because Charlie Day gets away with some 12-to-6 elbows during the final scene of #FistFight, that doesn’t mean that the movie lacks relevance to MMA. It is about two dudes fighting, after all.
As an MMA fighter, I see a lot of martial arts moves in movies. Only rarely, however, do you see boxing and jiu jitsu in a comedy. Fist Fight falls into this category, and since it's #FistFightWeek, I'll break it down.
Sure, there aren’t too many practical takeaways, but Ice Cube definitely gives a dope performance as Mr. Strickland. I couldn’t quite see his footwork, but he definitely turned at the end of his punch when he knocked out Mr. Campbell (Day) in the epic ending sequence. Day did some solid body work in the beginning of the fight as well. Really opened Cube up and forced him to drop his hands.
Stunt choreographer Sam Hargrave (he worked on Warrior and Suicide Squad) incorporates some solid boxing into a sequence that also features a lot of weapons, props, and objects, but maybe jiu jitsu isn’t his specialty. Because seriously, how is Ice Cube gonna choke the prisoner out without his hooks in? Very few people can complete that rear-naked choke, and I’ve never seen Cube in the gi.
Of all the scenes in Fist Fight (aside from the final fight, which apparently took eight days to film), an abbreviated training-session-turned-pep-talk between Day and Tracy Morgan in the boys locker room probably has the most significance as relates to MMA. It’s when Morgan tells Day to only use 80-percent of his strength.
I’ve actually been working a lot on controlling my output lately, so I could relate to the scene. For a while, I just kind of gave it all up, thinking I had to punch every opponent at 110-percent. But, now I’m learning that with four-ounce gloves, those little pit-pats are really gonna help. They’re gonna break your opponent down, and then you can try your big shots. Plus, it’s very important to save your energy.
These are the kind of tweaks I’m making, fine tuning my game before my next fight, and here is Tracy Morgan giving Charlie Day the same advice my coaches give me, although with a much funnier delivery.
Along with his improvisational boxing gameplan, Day showed some decent timing with his takedowns. I guess those training sessions with Yves Edwards paid off, because Day was able to take Cube down without the help of the cage. I usually like to use the cage to my advantage when taking an opponent down, but Charlie Day uses perfect timing, and executes a wicked double leg.
Playing nice-guy teacher Mr. Campbell, Day evolves during the course of Fist Fight, toughening up as the movie progresses. Ice Cube’s Mr. Strickland, on the other hand, is aggressive throughout, trash talking the opposition to psyche him out.
Cube basically has the fight won from the beginning of the movie, getting inside Day’s head, threatening him after issuing the initial callout. Actually, the way that Cube, and eventually Day, talks trash would totally sell a fight. I gotta take some notes from those guys, because they killed it and the entire school showed up to the biggest fight of the year.
Cube also killed it with the intimidation.
Intimidation is definitely big for me. I like to stare at my opponent. I look for any type of weakness. I look for anything. If I make eye contact with you and you decide to look somewhere else, I take that as a break. I’m not really trying to intimidate, I’m just trying to see little breaks in you; I think it’s very important. #ConorMcGregor proved how huge psychological warfare is, and Cube intimidated Charlie Day from the beginning.
Beyond this handful of examples from Fist Fight’s subliminal MMA layer, there are others:
- Charlie Day has some great boxing defense and outlasts Cube
- Day’s use of body work is phenomenal
- the sound mixing and use of slow motion accurately express what it’s like to fight on wobbly legs
- the sensationalism of the MMA media (school newspaper)
Ultimately, however, the movie is more about laughs than it is about knockouts. But, it’s no coincidence that Fist Fight has elements that are deeply ingrained in fight culture.